Exploring the phenomenon of independence described by students with autism attending community college




Klare, Judy Lynn

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The purpose of this study was to seek to understand and describe the lived experiences of college students identified as having autism transitioning to adult status and the meaning they made of becoming independent. The essence of the shared expressed experience was sought for a new understanding of what it is like for students with autism as they move into adulthood. Information gained from this study into the phenomenon of independence for this population of student will provide an understanding of identity components raised such as understanding of self/needs, self-advocacy, and considerations of issues surrounding disclosure or non-disclosure of the disability of autism. A qualitative, phenomenological method was utilized to study the expressed experience (Smith et al., 2009, 2022) in an effort to explore how the participants themselves understood and made sense of the phenomenon of independence. Key findings from this study included an emergence of five over-arching Group Experiential Themes (in no specific order of importance) including Self-Consciousness over Being Perceived Inadequate, Self-Determination with Individual Strategies to Drive Academic Success, the Lived Experience was an Emotional Journey, Identity Development through an Awareness and Acceptance of Self, and a Sense of Belonging in the Community College Setting. The significance of this study lies in gaining the voice of a select group of students with autism experiencing independence in the community college setting, during a period of emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2007; Cribb et al., 2019).


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.


education, disability studies, community college



Attribution (CC BY)