One in every 59 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018. ASD has an unmistakable presence within modern society and various organizations have promoted autism awareness, redefining what many think to be a disease as simply a difference. Organizations like Autism Speaks, the Autism Society for America and Autism National Committee have worked to make autism more widely visible and accepted.
Yet, California community colleges only began tracking the number of students with ASD in 2016. When students with ASD attend community college, they join a program called Disabled Students Program Services (DSPS), an initiative at schools meant to bring equal access to programs and activities for students with disabilities.
The Special Resource Center (SRC), which is EC’s version of the DSPS program, is meant to help students with disabilities in their higher education journey. Services the SRC provides for a student includes identifying learning disabilities, diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses, developing education plans, learning assistance, educational development courses, and advocacy to ensure reasonable accommodation, according to the EC website. These are services that DSPS programs typically offer students with disabilities.
While the number of DSPS students are going down, the number of students with ASD is rising at El Camino. For the fall 2016 semester, 113 EC students identified as students with ASD. Since then, the number of students with ASD at EC has increased by almost a quarter with 140 students with ASD enrolled in the spring 2018 semester, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Management Information Systems Data Mart (CCCCO MIS Data Mart).
Given this rise in students with ASD at EC, more resources need to be allocated towards them.
At some Southern California community colleges, like Long Beach City College and Santa Monica College, DSPS programs offer students with disabilities specialized tutors.
However, at El Camino College, students with ASD are referred to regular tutoring resources offered by respective departments on campus. That means stopping by the Learning Resource Center inside the Schauerman Library in which subject tutoring is available or finding other methods to get help.
Furthermore, according to the CCCCO MIS Data Mart, DSPS funding, which funds the SRC, has almost doubled in the last five years. In 2017 to 2018 academic year, EC’s received $1,508,367 in DSPS funding. While there are most definitely other expenses that the $1 million-plus budget goes toward, making sure students with disabilities having a place at the table is of utmost importance.
That means making every method of help and access available, especially in the form of specialized tutors who are used to working with students with disabilities and know best how to help them with coursework.