Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Amanda L. Schlegel

Advisor Department



As the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder continues to increase every year, so does the number of students on the spectrum who pursue a college education. This case study was designed to examine the lives of two college music majors: one, Bella, lies on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and the other, Rebekah, does not. In order to collect rich, reliable, and valid data, several different methods of data collection were employed. Each student graciously recorded several video journal entries, as well as individual practice sessions on their major applied instrument. In addition, each student, their shared applied instrument professor, and their mothers participated in interviews with the researcher.

This case study was designed to find out how the diagnosis of AS affects Bella’s college success, as compared to that of students who are not on the spectrum, like Rebekah. The point was to see if Bella is challenged in more profound ways than other students, and also to see what lengths she has to go to in her efforts to succeed at the university level. The results found that Bella’s diagnosis might actually aid in her academic load, as she enjoys putting forth the time necessary for school work, which requires vast amounts of alone time. However, the diagnosis does pose challenges for the social aspects of college life, which do sometimes cause uncomfortable situations. However, her level of effort she puts forth and her level of success and fulfillment do not appear to be any different from those of Rebekah. Thus, the title of the case study is very applicable: while these two students are starkly different, they are ultimately the same.