- Wrong Planet, Right Library: College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Academic Library.
Anderson, Amelia Maclay, Everhart, Nancy, Cripe, Juliann J. Woods, Lustria, Mia Liza A., Kazmer, Michelle M., Florida State University, College of Communication and Information,...
Show moreAnderson, Amelia Maclay, Everhart, Nancy, Cripe, Juliann J. Woods, Lustria, Mia Liza A., Kazmer, Michelle M., Florida State University, College of Communication and Information, School of Information
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has steadily increased in prevalence in recent years, with a current estimate of 1 in every 68 children eligible for such a diagnosis. Prevalence within the general population is reflected in the growing number of college and university students with ASD, with more students both registering for services than ever before – this does not include those who do not have a formal diagnosis or attempt to forge the academic journey without targeted support. College...
Show moreAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has steadily increased in prevalence in recent years, with a current estimate of 1 in every 68 children eligible for such a diagnosis. Prevalence within the general population is reflected in the growing number of college and university students with ASD, with more students both registering for services than ever before – this does not include those who do not have a formal diagnosis or attempt to forge the academic journey without targeted support. College attrition rates are higher for college students with ASD than for neurotypical college students due to lack of previously available supports, along with characteristics of this population including challenges during periods of transition and difficulty adapting to social and behavioral norms. Academic library usage correlates to college retention for college students as a whole; however, no studies have yet been done to explore how college students with ASD use their academic libraries and, in turn, how this might play a role in their ultimate college success. The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of college students with ASD in academic libraries. It seeks to understand their questions and concerns, as well as their experiences in utilizing the library and library resources. We know that individuals with ASD use the library, but there is little firsthand evidence to describe their experiences and barriers they face in accessing library services. By addressing these concerns, campus libraries and librarians can ultimately help to support ASD student retention. This exploratory study used a qualitative content analysis design to collect discussion board posts to the online forum Wrong Planet (wrongplanet.net). Wrong Planet, a robust forum with more than 80,000 members, was designed by individuals with ASD for individuals with ASD. Collecting these discussion posts allowed for an unobtrusive research design in which accounts from college students with ASD could be gathered and presented in their true, unedited language as they conversed with their peers in an unmediated online environment. Collecting data from this online forum was particularly important; there is evidence to support the hypothesis that individuals with ASD thrive in communicating online, as it removes some of the social barriers of face-to-face communication. Using the social model of disability studies, this study allowed for voices of students with ASD to be presented in their own words, not as mediated by parents, caregivers, or the perceptions of faculty and staff of their lived experiences. The social model also provides the framework in that librarians and libraries should be the ones to adapt services – not students with ASD adapting to suit neurotypical-centric services. Coding and analysis was both inductive and deductive and based on the research questions, emerging themes, and concepts from the Theory of Information Worlds. Findings demonstrate that when students with ASD go to the library it is often for the same purposes as neurotypical students – to study. However, students with ASD especially describe using the library as an escape from sensory overload. This study's findings reveal many contradictions that call for further research in this area. Students with ASD use the library as an auditory escape, yet many still find the library to be too loud or chaotic to suit their needs. They use the library for solitary pursuits, and yet many Wrong Planet members describe a longing for interaction. Wrong Planet members even provide one another with advice about initiating relationships with other library users, both platonically and romantically. This work fills a gap within the literature, allowing college students with ASD the opportunity to describe their experiences in the academic library as never before. While there is a growing body of knowledge about children with ASD and the library, this is potentially the first glimpse into the experiences of college students in their academic libraries. This study has particularly important implications for the role of academic libraries in ASD college student retention. We know that there is a high rate of attrition for college students with ASD, and that academic library use correlates with college student retention. The findings from this study demonstrate that college students with ASD use the library for a variety of reasons, including for solitary study, as an escape from overwhelming sensory environments, and for pursuit of interests. Academic libraries can address these needs and uses, and adapt services and supports to better serve the needs of this growing student population, thus contributing to their ultimate college retention and success.
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