Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Opinion: Is Foothill Aware There Are Autistic Students on Campus?


In the 1960’s, parents were fed up with the lack of awareness and support for their autistic children, launching a group known as the Autism Society, who have since been working to improve the quality of life for all autistic people. This led to the development of Autistic Children’s Week, which through time transformed into the modern day Autism Acceptance Month, annually occurring in the month of April.

This is most likely brand new information to most readers currently viewing this, because Foothill College has failed to acknowledge the existence of this acceptance month as a whole, in turn failing to acknowledge the existence of an entire group of students. There is not one mention of April being Autism Acceptance Month on Foothill’s website or social media, not even a simple visual graphic displaying the words ‘Autism Acceptance Month.’

April could’ve been used by Foothill to provide education about Autism, provide support to autistic students, and help seek out opportunities for those students. It’s estimated by the U.S Department of Education that approximately 2% of all college students identify with having Autism, yet when it comes to life after education, only 16% of those autistic people will have full time employment, compared to the average 70% of college graduates acquiring full time jobs after graduating.

The lack of conversation about this disparity is interesting, especially for a college that states in their mission statement: “…Foothill College serves diverse learners and equips its students with critical thinking skills to address complex societal challenges, to thrive in the global workforce, and to engage in a life of inquiry.”

There is an obvious disconnect between the promises Foothill makes and the college’s actions. If they want students to thrive in the global workforce, extending career support to some of the most disadvantaged members of the workforce would’ve uplifted that value, yet none of that was done.

As an autistic student who’s been attending Foothill since summer of 2023, I am disappointed but not surprised. The experience I have had as an autistic student on campus has shown me that there is a major lack of education about the true effects of Autism, and this lack of education has put up major barriers for autistic, and most likely other neurodivergent students, to overcome simply to attend this college. These barriers have made it extremely difficult to get the education I deserve as a student of this college, and have made my college experiences thus far pretty sour.

Without turning this into a sob story, let’s quickly establish my experience at Foothill College in my first 3 quarters. As a disabled student, my time entering college got to be started by having to go through the lengthy process to get accommodations, just for me to only get accommodations for my ADHD symptoms. With those only half-helpful support options, I then was met with the recurring situation of having to disclose the fact that I had, and therefore the fact that I needed, those accommodations in front of entire class periods when professors didn’t give me a chance to pull them aside and voice my concerns. I have to remember to schedule my exams with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) testing rooms 2 weeks in advance, ironic considering I am getting access to the testing room because of ADHD, a disorder that causes forgetfulness. And recently, I found out that I have to re-request my accommodations every single quarter, something that was not properly conveyed to me when originally filing for them, meaning I spent the entirety of winter quarter without access to my support and I didn’t even know it.

The worst part is, I can see exactly what parts of our education are failing through my participation in a psychology course on campus. I was completing my required readings for a discussion post in that class, which has a professor who has been extremely helpful and supportive of my need for accommodations. The topic was mirror neurons, and how they establish a scientific basis for empathy, and one of the articles was an interview with a psychologist who makes the claim that autistic people have a mirror neuron deficiency. This is effectively claiming that autistic individuals fundamentally have less empathy, a completely harmful and disputed stereotype that has plagued this diagnosis for many years. All I could do upon reading this was cry, knowing my peers are reading this material and could very well take it as fact.

My professor has made it clear that they are open to criticism, and wants to learn from us, but I feel no desire to have to teach these things to people. I am not a professor. I am a student that comes here to learn. I shouldn’t have to educate my own psychology professor about Autism, they should be educated on the subject if it is going to be brought up in the content of the class. As educators, isn’t it your responsibility to be educated on how to teach a diverse array of students? Without educated faculty, it is no question that the students of Foothill will remain ignorant to the struggles of autistic people, contributing to the societal standards we have that make Autism such a debilitating disability.

So, I am not surprised Foothill has not acknowledged the month, because I don’t see much proof that Foothill practices Autism Acceptance. There is a lot of internal work that needs to be done at this college to improve the DRC, and since the grievance process is framed to pertain to problems with discrimination (and not actual grievances with the department), this article is the best way to get the word directly out to students. All disabled students on this campus deserve better support, so we can get the experience from Foothill that we expect from this highly ranked institution. Disabled students have been putting in far too much extra work just to be here, and it’s time for Foothill to step up and be responsible enough to put in effort for us.

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About the Contributor
Ryann Mejia-Gonzales
Ryann Mejia-Gonzales, Staff Writer
Ryann Mejia-Gonzales is a first-year at Foothill, majoring in Communications with a plan to transfer to a four-year university in 2025. Here with a huge passion for photography and journalism, joining the script is her first step into starting her desired career as an investigative journalist. She’s excited to work and have fun with the rest of the staff, and thankful for the opportunity to share her stories with the student body.

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    Kyle Whalen
    Apr 27, 2024 at 3:18 pm