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Abstract

COVID-19 caused a major shift in how college students, including those with disabilities, received their education during the Spring 2020 semester. The rapid shift to remote learning resulted in new challenges, but also, some benefits for students. This study presents the results of open-ended responses of a cohort of 31 students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who were part of a larger study and enrolled in very- to highly competitive institutions (as rated by U.S. News and World Report) during the Spring 2020 semester regarding their experiences, both positive and negative, in shifting to remote learning. The students described advantages, including personal and academic benefits with remote learning as well as disadvantages. These problematic areas included the structure and infrastructure of course delivery, environmental factors, social factors, and personal factors. Specific examples of each are presented to help richly capture the experiences of these students during an unprecedented period in history.

Plain Language Summary

COVID-19 required most college students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to take their courses remotely during the last part of the Spring 2020 semester. This resulted in both benefits and challenges for students. Thirty-one college students with ASD described their experiences and what went well and what were challenges. Advantages included more convenient schedules. Challenges included taking courses online, learning at home, and less chances to talk to teachers and peers. We provide comments from the students that describe their experiences during this unique time.

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