Campus Access Only

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of University of the Pacific. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Thomas Nelson

First Committee Member

Michael Helium

Second Committee Member

Christina Rusk

Third Committee Member

Tracy Catalde


The number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), an impairment that affects an individual’s social-communication abilities and behavior, is currently 1 in 68. An estimated 50,000 students who have ASD are reaching adulthood and exiting secondary education annually―a phenomenon known as the Autism Tsunami. There is a lack of services available to support this wave of young adults with ASD to be self-sustaining, contributing members of their communities. This is evidenced by the 37% of adults in their early 20s, who have ASD, and who have never worked or attended any postsecondary educational program. Due to the lack of appropriate accommodations in many of these programs, there is a low rate of completion for those who enroll. With an increase in positive educational outcomes in K-12 education, there are a burgeoning number of individuals holding the diagnosis of ASD able to enroll in postsecondary education at IHEs. For these students, the predicament of attending an IHE may pose unique challenges despite their ability to complete academic work. There is an ever-increasing need to support individuals with ASD while they attend IHEs, however there is a scant amount of emerging literature on this topic.

This exploratory case study was conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways in which Nathan, a student with ASD, was supported while he attended North Coast University (NCU), with the intent to inform further research, and affect the practice of service providers who work with students with ASD who are attending IHEs. The results of this study yielded an in-depth understanding of how NCU Disability Service providers, David and Richard, and Nathan’s mother, Sandy, supported him as he attended NCU, and of his lived experience of support. The Interactional Model of Disability, a model that views disability as caused by both the individual’s impairment and external environmental influences, was used as the theoretical lens in this study.

The findings of this study are as follows. Although Nathan has incredible perseverance and academic ability, without support he would not have had the same level of success. The early proactive, nonacademic approach to supporting students with ASD used by NCU was instrumental in Nathan’s success and in helping him to become more independent. Coaching an intervention used as part of the NCU approach was highly effective for Nathan. David and Richard’s dedication to positive student outcomes played a role in Nathan’s success. Support from his mom was essential, but needed to be invisible. The ubiquitous nature of the issue of disclosure of disability emerged, as well as how Nathan experiences ASD.



Included in

Education Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).