We received a really good response to our request for Colleges and Services to identify Autism Champions from their area, with 30 members of staff contacting us to be part of the project. On Wednesday 25th September, we held our first meeting of the Autism Champions for the project at the Streatham campus and via Skype for Business. Slides from the meeting are here.
Layal opened the meeting by giving an introduction to the project and explaining the role of Autism Champions. As a group, we will meet once a month to share experiences and ideas for supporting students with autism. We will be working through a series of resources by the National Autistic Society (NAS) and will evaluate together what is essential for understanding autism in Higher Education. As part of the project, we want the Autism Champions to be able to lead an autism awareness session for staff in their own area.
Following this, we had a round of introductions with each Autism Champion saying a little about themselves and why they wanted to be part of the project. There was a range of experiences, from those with little direct experience of autism to those who have very significant personal experiences and/or expertise.
We watched an introductory video produced by NAS (on the homepage for this project) and then had an open discussion of experiences and ideas. One of the key aspects that emerged was that many staff did not know much about what is already being done (e.g. here). Staff were keen to hear more directly from students with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) – we have sought ethical approval for this aspect of the project – and it was suggested that students with ASC could create videos about their experience for prospective and existing students. Anna shared similar examples from her research on transitions for young adults with ADHD.
Our next steps are to receive access to the online training materials from NAS and provide these to the Autism Champions, so that we can start to evaluate them.