Attending college means classes, papers, projects, tests, exams, and presentations – but it also means being an active member of a social community, making new friends, and building new social connections and social networks.

For many students, especially students with aspergers or autism, the academic aspects of college can be exciting, but the social aspects of college can be overwhelming.  Navigating the nuances of living in a new place, often with roommates, going to classes and cafeterias, finding places to study and relax, and working on collaborative projects with peers can all be mentally and emotionally taxing.  For individuals who are confident and fluent and social situations it can be hard to recognize that almost every element of college has the potential to be interwoven with a potential social problem or pitfall for students on the autism spectrum.

For instance:

  • The professor invited questions in class – but how many are too many?
  • How do I ask that person in my math class that I want to study with them?
  • How do I tell that person in my history class that I do not want to study with them?
  • How many times can I text somebody, before they respond, before it gets weird?
  • Should I sit down right next to someone in the library, or far away?
  • Is walking into class 5 minutes late acceptable?  What about 20 minutes?
  • How do I leave a conversation without hurting someone’s feelings?
  • How do I join a club when I might not know anybody in the room?

These questions are not trivial – and while there may be many “right” ways to answer them, there are also some objectively “wrong” ways, as well – and most of the answers are part of the complex “hidden curriculum” of the social pragmatics in college.

By supporting our college students in a comprehensive living and learning community, Mansfield Hall students are able to explore these topics, and related questions, with their Director of Student Life, their Independent Life Skills Coach, our on-site Speech & Language Pathologist (SLP), their Student Life or Academic Coaches, and peers.  Formally addressing these elements of student life and social pragmatics in the Social Communication Seminar allows students to explore these topics – and find meaningful answers – in a safe and supportive environment.  

While we might not have the perfect answer for every aspect of student social life on a college campus, Mansfield Hall students know that they have the support of a community, as well as experts, in order to help them navigate the many unknowns of social life on a college campus.