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Academic’s toolkit to aid transition into higher education for autistic students

A toolkit to make the transition to higher education easier for autistic students – developed by a Leeds Beckett academic – has been adopted by several UK universities.

Dr Marc Fabri

The toolkit was created following an EU-funded initiative – Autism&Uni – and was led by Dr Marc Fabri, from the School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering.

The project aimed to support higher numbers of young adults on the autistic spectrum to gain access to Higher Education.

Five universities across England have now adopted the toolkit, which gives students information and strategies for overcoming the challenges they typically encounter in the transition to university.

Dr Fabri said: “As part of this project, we spoke to parents, teachers, lecturers and autism professionals – but mostly autistic students.

“They told us about the challenges they face, such as picking the right course, the right university and whether to move away to a different city from the safety of their home and family.

“This period of major change can be extremely daunting and can cause anxiety, especially with large crowds and noisy or bright places. When autistic students start their academic life, they may then face struggles when it comes to group work, understanding how different modules relate to each other, or how grades relate to marking at school.

Autism&Uni toolkit

The toolkit online

“The majority of autistic students adapt very quickly, but for some it can be trickier. This toolkit helps students to adapt to these big changes quicker.”

The toolkit is online and each university can adopt it to specific needs. It covers several themes, including how to tell your university about your autism, managing expectations, help with getting to campus locations, typical study situations and how to manage difficult situations.

The institutions which have adopted the toolkit are University of Birmingham, University College London, University for the Creative Arts, University of Leeds and University of Portsmouth.

Each university has their own customised version of the toolkit. The first students to use it will be confirming their university places in spring 2018, to start their studies in September.

Students can find out more about the themes, look at background information and see practical tips to help them overcome challenges.

“Autistic students were involved in the design of the content and visual appearance of the toolkit,” added Dr Fabri.

“The aim is to widen access to higher education and break down some of the barriers stopping autistic young adults from going to university.

“I hope more universities will consider adopting the toolkit going forward to help make the transition into university life much easier for those on the autistic spectrum.”

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