Autism Champions, second meeting

The autism champions met on Wednesday 23rd October at 13:00. We started the meeting watching a video on Rosie King’s personal experience with autism.

Following that, we discussed the challenges and opportunities around supporting autistic students. Some brief notes taken during the meeting are given below.

Can we get hold of data on proportion of autistic students in different subjects?

What existing support is available? AccessAbility provides support including advisors specializing in ASC mentoring, and support groups for autistic students on a regular basis.

Challenges:

Multiple-choice questions – can find fault with all answers, or distractors can be more distracting than intended.

Is the issue one of resourcing?  Do we need more recognition of the time this takes?  This should be business as usual, not above and beyond … but need time/resources to do it properly.

Hyper-sensitivity to sound, stimulation …

Room for interpretation in the task … can this be difficult to navigate?  Is this ambiguity an essential component of the subject, assessment, learning in some subjects?

Seminars and contributions?

Are ILPs being adhered to correctly?  Are all the recommended adjustments in the ILPs manageable?

Are there examples of inclusive assessment design? How does this relate to module descriptors and specifying the forms of assessment?  Need to understand more about the alternatives.  Examples of inclusive teaching also.

Do we have autism-friendly student accommodation?  Room opening to communal area could be daunting.

If autistic students have such diverse requirements, to what extent can general recommendations be made or be helpful?

Opportunities:

Tailor resources, assessment, experiences to allow students to demonstrate a range of different abilities (not necessarily different assessments).

Help design situations and assessments that encourage use of imagination.

We can change the environment … ILPs might specify smaller rooms for examinations … technology such as noise-cancelling headphones?

Can we structure responses and answers to questions more without losing the essential ambiguity in some areas?

Could inclusive design save time and produce better experience versus adjusting for ILPs?

Might structured role-playing be more inclusive than a general discussion?

Can we do more on student expectations and what might reasonably happen e.g. ILPs adjustments?  Are ILPs the right way to do this anymore?

New university resource for inclusive design … relevant for any student.

Autism Champions, first meeting

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.

Tamsin recommended a book, How to be autistic and there is a corresponding video.

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.

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