Event to boost autistic students’ success at university
3 March 2016 - Carrie Braithwaite
An event to improve the transition into university for autistic students is set to be held by Leeds Beckett University ahead of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day.
The Transition Pathways conference will take place on Friday 18 March at Old Broadcasting House on Woodhouse Lane, with World Autism Awareness Day following on Saturday 2 April.
The event, which will run from 9.45am to 4.30pm, aims to bring together disability and student services practitioners, academics, as well as anyone with an interest in supporting autistic students on their higher education journey.
The day will begin with an introduction to Leeds Beckett research exploring barriers that autistic students face when making the transition into university. Dr Marc Fabri, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering at Leeds Beckett, will talk about the multinational, EU-funded, project he leads, Autism&Uni, sharing the findings of the research so far. Each attendee will receive a copy of the Autism&Uni 'Guide to Best Practice in supporting Higher Education Students on the Autism Spectrum'.
Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Marc Fabri commented: “Our research has shown that knowledge of how best to support autistic students is not consistent across Europe and often varies within a country. Pockets of best practice exist, and our new guide aims to highlight and promote these in order to improve the prospects and number of higher education students on the autism spectrum.”
Alongside Dr Fabri’s research, the Leeds Beckett University Disability Assessment Centre, led by Kate Dean, has been working in partnership with the National Autistic Society to review all aspects of the Centre's service to ensure that it is as meaningful as possible for autistic students. The next stage of the project is set to be the creation of a network of Autism Champions across the University to raise awareness and share best practice across the organisation.
Kate said: “An emerging interest in autistic spectrum conditions has been evident across Leeds Beckett University and our statistics show a 20% year on year increase in the number of students declaring autism. In order to enable fair access, retention and attainment for students, we must ensure transition and progression pathways are clear, and remove unnecessary barriers to study.”
In addition to the introduction to Autism&Uni, the event will include talks on autistic students’ transitions throughout their studies and into employment; group discussions sharing good practice, and an insight into what it is like to be an autistic university student as Penny Andrews, a Research Assistant at Leeds Beckett, relates her experience of studying for her bachelor’s degree and PhD.
Dr Fabri added: “Autistic students who receive appropriate support in a timely manner thrive in higher education. Their skills and expertise are recognised and they have access to world class lectures and library facilities to support their special interests, and other opportunities that enable them to grow and develop.”
To find out more about Autism&Uni, please visit the website at autism-uni.org.