Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 2553–2566 | Cite as

Changing College Students’ Conceptions of Autism: An Online Training to Increase Knowledge and Decrease Stigma

  • Kristen Gillespie-Lynch
  • Patricia J. Brooks
  • Fumio Someki
  • Rita Obeid
  • Christina Shane-Simpson
  • Steven K. Kapp
  • Nidal Daou
  • David Shane Smith
Original Paper


College students with autism may be negatively impacted by lack of understanding about autism on college campuses. Thus, we developed an online training to improve knowledge and decrease stigma associated with autism among college students. Participants (N = 365) completed a pre-test, online training, and post-test. Women reported lower stigma towards autism than men. Participation in the training was associated with decreased stigma and increased knowledge about autism. Although participants exhibited relatively high baseline knowledge of autism, misconceptions were common, particularly in open-ended responses. Participants commonly confused autism with other disorders, such as learning disabilities. This study suggests that online training may be a cost-effective way to increase college students’ understanding and acceptance of their peers with autism.


Stigma associated with autism Knowledge of autism Online training College students ASD 



We would like to thank all the people who participated in this training and contributed their insights to this paper, particularly Richard Nellis. We are grateful to Christopher Cruz-Cullari, Dennis Bublitz and Joanne D’Onofrio for feedback on initial drafts of the training. We thank Marsha Dupiton, Erica Golin and Claudia Olender for help with coding. This study was funded by CUNY Project R.E.A.C.H. (Resources and Education on Autism as CUNY’s Hallmark) and the Far Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristen Gillespie-Lynch
    • 1
  • Patricia J. Brooks
    • 1
  • Fumio Someki
    • 2
  • Rita Obeid
    • 1
  • Christina Shane-Simpson
    • 1
  • Steven K. Kapp
    • 3
  • Nidal Daou
    • 4
  • David Shane Smith
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, College of Staten Island and The Graduate CenterCUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational StudiesCollege of Staten IslandStaten IslandUSA
  3. 3.Department of EducationUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyAmerican University of BeirutBeirutLebanon
  5. 5.Department of Psychology, College of Staten IslandCUNYStaten IslandUSA

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