Deep Dive in Five with Randy Rodriguez: Resources for Spartans with Autism

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Campus Life, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Featured

Accommodations counselor and coordinator Randy Rodriguez received the 2023-24 Staff of the Year Award for his work with the Accessible Education Center. Photo by Robert C. Bain.

Making SJSU a place where students on the autism spectrum can succeed, thrive and work toward their career goals has been Randy Rodriguez’s purpose for the past five years. Rodriguez works as an accommodations counselor and coordinator for the approximately 200 SJSU students with autism registered through the Accessible Education Center (AEC).

Rodriguez is the campus’ leading expert for best practices, intervention, outreach, advocacy and facilitated conversations related to students with autism spectrum disorder, and ensures comprehensive support for these students. He was recently recognized with the 2023-2024 Staff of the Year Award at SJSU.

In the latest installment of our Deep Dive in Five series and to mark Autism Awareness Month nationally, Rodriguez talks about the resources and opportunities that put students with autism on the path to a fulfilling college experience and graduation.

What should students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) know in order to navigate SJSU most effectively?

Randy Rodriguez (RR): We have well-established campus resources that work one-on-one with students as they learn management strategies, self-advocacy and coping skills.

Students are encouraged to register with the Accessibility Education Center (AEC) located in Clark Hall. Registration with AEC is confidential. Each student can determine how involved they want to be with AEC and what level, if any, of support they will use. 

Having a connection to AEC means they have one location on campus that they can always turn to for assistance. AEC’s staff is able to help guide students to the most appropriate resources on campus. 

What kinds of support and resources are available to students with ASD? 

RR: Students diagnosed with ASD can register with the AEC and begin the process to determine if they may qualify for accommodations, services, and/or auxiliary aids.  Accommodations are designed to provide equal access for participation in curricular and co-curricular programs, services, and/or events. Accommodations may include (and this list is not exhaustive):

  • Testing accommodations
  • Note-taking services
  • Notice to faculty to allow for small breaks
  • Preferential seating in classes 

Additionally, the AEC has an Autism Support Group (ASG) which any student with ASD who is registered with the AEC can join. In partnership with Counseling & Psychological Services, the AEC also provides an autism wellness support group that meets monthly. The wellness support group does not require an official diagnosis or registration with AEC.  

How can students on the ASD spectrum find community at San José State?

RR: When students with ASD register with AEC, they’re able to participate in the activities of the ASD Support Group. Those include weekly academic and life group sessions and weekly community outings. 

Just like any other SJSU students, students with ASD can also find connections by joining other SJSU student organizations and clubs. 

AEC has taken a proactive approach and students with ASD who self-identify early during the admission process to SJSU are invited to a summer academy, a one-day workshop designed to help incoming students transition to SJSU. AEC’s Summer Academy covers AEC support services and navigating MyAEC portal, SJSU support systems and resources, first month of instruction strategies, disability management strategies, and how to find community at SJSU. Connections made through the summer academy can continue engagement and growth with participation in any of AEC’s gatherings throughout the semester. 

What does the Autism Support Group (ASG) offer students?

RR: Through the ASG program, I have witnessed students building friendships by scheduling meetups, increasing their self advocacy by asking other members for advice and developing important life and academic skills.

AEC’s Autism Support Group provides a safe place where AEC students with autism can strive to find affinity with themselves (identity), their peers (community), and their university (academics). The Autism Support Group was created to help foster these relationships and address the unique experiences and challenges of SJSU students with autism. The ASG provides learning tools to support student success at SJSU and beyond.

What should families know as they prepare students with autism spectrum disorder for life as an SJSU student?

RR: We strive to equip students and families with as much information as early as possible to help prepare them for the transition to higher education and alleviate some of the challenges and expectations.

Transitioning from K-12 to higher education comes with a period of adjustment as students with ASD and their families learn not only a new environment, but also familiarize themselves with the changes in the law. Unlike K-12, higher education does not provide accommodations and/or support services based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Support services focus on providing students access to allow for participation. The level of support received during K-12 may no longer be reasonable and/or appropriate. This means some accommodations students received in high school may not be supported while at SJSU. 

To assist students and their families we provide detailed information about the differences between K-12 and college. The site provides a side-by-side view of the differences students and families can expect. This includes changes in the laws, documentation requirements, student responsibilities, and parental roles. 

Learn more about the Accessible Education Center at SJSU.