arly preparation and careful planning are among the six keys to helping a student with autism have a successful college career, according to Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D, whose remarks are featured in a new podcast published at Autism Hangout.

In an interview with Craig Evans, founder of Autism Hangout, Brown said preparation for post-high school education and research into appropriate colleges should begin as early as ninth grade rather than in junior or senior year. Developing independent living skills and choosing a college wisely are crucial, she said.

"If a student is still using an aide by junior or senior year, you really have to look at a college choice very carefully, because there are no colleges anywhere in the country that are going to provide an aide for a student," Brown said. "That doesn't happen in college."

In addition to starting early and choosing wisely, Brown emphasized careful planning of the transition to college life, working with the appropriate people, establishing a good foundation of skills, and using available services. She expands on each factor in the podcast.

Brown, who is Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law, has worked in disability services for 30 years and has a teen-age son with autism. She said high school guidance counselors "can only do so much" to help students prepare for college, in part because of the vast differences in affected students' capabilities.

"When they're asked to really understand each child's disability and what colleges might be best, they just find themselves coming up short," she said. Parents and professionals who are more closely involved with college-bound autistic students need to begin helping them prepare early.

Rhonda Arkley of Apple Valley, Minn., has a teen-age son who has Asperger's Syndrome, one form of autism. She said the Autism Hangout podcast was "wonderfully informative about what exactly needs to be addressed by Asperger's parents and their college-bound students." A newcomer to the site, she added, "Within one week, I've learned more about the current possibilities for college/tech school-bound Asperger's students than I thought possible."

The podcast interview is the latest in an ongoing Autism Hangout series called "Key Learnings of Autism Thought Leaders." Other podcasts featuring newsmakers in the field are presented in the online community's "Behind the Headlines" series.

Brown is co-director with Lisa King, M.Ed., of Higher Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders, Inc. She is the author of "College Students on the Autism Spectrum: A Guide for Professionals," which is scheduled for publication in early 2009 by the Autism Asperger Publishing Company. Another volume for parents will be published later.