Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Cooter

Second Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Dinkins

Third Advisor

Dr. Lisa Ruble


This dissertation was multi-case study designed to examine how three male students with autism experienced the academic, social, and self-advocacy aspects of postsecondary education. The study was driven by the following conceptual framework concepts: entrainment, social capital, self-determination, and disability studies. The research question for the study was: How do male students with autism experience the academic, social, and self-advocacy needs of postsecondary education from the perspectives of the students themselves, their parents, their professors, their disability coordinators, and their tutors? Data were collected via multiple interviews with the students, their parents, their professors, and the disability coordinators at their university. Additional data were gathered through observations of the students in class, documentation, and course syllabi. Results indicated that each of the students had support with tasks involving executive function, each of the students had at least one comorbid mental health disorder that impacted his postsecondary experience, and each of the students was content with his respective level and type of socialization. Frustration and a sense of uncertainty for the future permeated their experiences. Finally, individuals providing support for students with autism experienced tension regarding their support. Implications of the study included the impact of executive function on self-determination and the importance of including families while supporting students with autism in postsecondary programs. Additionally, the study had epistemological implications regarding the level of support and the goal of postsecondary education.