Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Higher Education

Good afternoon. Welcome.
It’s Darlene McLennan here and on behalf of ATEND, ADCET and the
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education I would like to welcome you to this webinar titled Supporting Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder
in Higher Education with a focus on the design of the built environment and how this affects
students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Before we go to our presenter I just want to discuss a
few housekeeping items. We do have an internet issue at the University of Tasmania where
this is being hosted and where our presenter is placed at the moment. So we are hoping
that we won’t drop out, but we may. I’m placed somewhere else, so hopefully I can tap dance
to keep you all entertained. It should only take a minute for our presenter to come back
but I do apologise if that happens. To let you know that the webinar is being live captioned by Bradley Reporting
and will be recorded. The recording will be placed on ADCET after we have captioned
the recording. Also, unfortunately the GoTo webinar platform is not as accessible as we
would desire for screen reader users such as people using JAWS. If you are a screen reader user and have
any questions or any comments to make you are able to email us at [email protected] All participants
have been muted. This is to ensure that we have little background noise recieved during the webinar. We
encourage you throughout the presentation to ask questions in the question pod and hopefully at the end
we will have some time to go to those questions and ask our presenter. But firstly, I would like to actually
welcome Sue Trinidad, the director and program leader of the National Centre, to give us a bit of an
overview of the centre and the research that is currently being done. Over to you, Sue.
SUE: Thank you, Darlene and welcome, everyone. We are very very proud to be partnering with ADCET
today to bring you Dr. Owen’s report and her colleagues who have been doing this fascinating
research from the University of Tasmania. This was one of the grants that was funded through
our competitive research grants program. We have had two rounds, 2014 and 2015, we now
have 24 research reports. We have published the first 12 and they are all found on our
website. And this next 12 series of research reports are being released as we go through
the next six months. So this report was released on Monday and we already have had some very
positive feedback. And I’m very interested in listening to the presentation that’s going
to be given to you today. So I will hand you back. The publication that encapsulates the
next 12 reports will be released in July. So you will have a written version as well as
what is found on the website. So I welcome you to come and look at our website. That is at and I will just post that up to the chat area as well. So thank you, Darlene.
DARLENE: Great, thank you, Sue. Now moving on to our presentation. I would like to welcome
Dr. Ceridwen Owen who is a senior lecturer and program director in the School of Architecture and
design at the University of Tasmania. Ceridwen will speak for around 45 to 50 minutes. As
I said before, feel free to enter your questions into the question box and I will ask some
questions at the end of the presentation if we have time. Over to you, Ceridwen.
CERIDWEN: Thanks, Darlene. Welcome, everybody. Thank you for attending. Thank you so much
to Darlene for inviting me to do this. And of course thanks to Sue and everyone at the
NCSCHE at Curtin University for funding the research on Supporting Students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder in Higher Education. So, on the next slide, you are hearing from me today
and I was the lead investigator for this research. But I would like to acknowledge my other participants
also from the University of Tasmania, Damhnat McCann, Christopher Rayner, Carol Devereaux, Fiona Sheehan
and Lyndsay Quarmby. As well as a fabulous range of research assistants and our advisers, which included
Darlene McLennan and Mary Brake who is an autism consultant with the Department of Education. It
was a wonderful opportunity to work with this multidisciplinary team, which was really a core focus of
the research in understanding the complexities and interactions between various aspects of the higher
education context in supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The next slide. I’m just going to
talk to an outline of what I’m going to cover in the presentation today. I will start with
a little bit of context for the research and in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder specifically.
And then I will talk about issues to do with disability supports and pedagogical initiatives,
somewhat briefly. But as Darlene mentioned, the focus of the presentation today will be
in my area of expertise, which is in relation to the design of the built environment, and
then I will finish with conclusions and some of the limitations and future research we
would like to head towards. On the next slide, we start with the context.
I think I have a broad audience today. I’m sure many of you are quite familiar with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. But for those who are less familiar, this is the broad definition of
autism spectrum disorder as a lifelong neuro developmental disorder characterised by difficulties
in social communication and interaction and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour
and interests. Underlying this, importantly for the research
in relation to the built environment, included in the ADD symptomatology are differences
in the processes of sensory information which include both hypo and hyper sensitivities to
environmental stimuli and also cognitive differences in perception and the way people with Autism
Spectrum Disorder make sense of information including the built environment. The range
and severity and diversity and profile as well as the cooccurrence of a range of other
disorders and indeed learnt coping strategies particularly amongst adults can make diagnosis
very difficult, particularly if it’s not identified in early life.
On the next slide, I talk about some of the specific challenges for students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder in higher education. They are not only academic challenges but they
also include managing everyday life and independent study. So that transition between the school
environment with very structured activities to that requirement in higher education for
people to be more self-directed, and of course in transitioning out of the home for those
people who are not living at home while they are at university.
Also difficulties in social engagement, socially mediated learning experiences, and disclosing
and seeking assistance. There has been a documented increase in the numbers of students
with autism spectrum disorder undertaking higher education, but there will be many many more
in those of you who are at higher education institutions than are listed with
disability support services. There can be a reluctance to disclose and to seek additional
assistance when required, with attempts for people to cope by themselves.
Further to that, the support needs are very complex, often highly idiosyncratic and at
odds with individuals’ apparent intellectual capacity. The disability is invisible, which
can make the awareness of staff and peers a particular problem.
Traditional academic accommodations that are provided to students with a disability often
do not address the specific needs of students with ASD. However, they also have strengths, passions
for particular fields of interest and an ability to adhere to institutional rules, which can actually be
beneficial in the higher education environment. On this next slide I am going to talk about the scope
of the study and the methods that we employed. The study was undertaken in three parts. First of all,
we undertook reviews of literature in the area of disability supports, pedagogical initiatives
and the design of the built environment. We also concurrently undertook an online survey
via a questionnaire distributed to people in disability support areas in higher education
institutions around Australia. That was to enable us to provide a baseline of understanding
what supports are currently available in Australia and what are seen to be some of the most successful
supports. Finally of course we wanted to understand
in an indepth way the experience of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in higher education.
And we undertook self-directed photography study with some students at the University
of Tasmania. We recruited six students for the study, five of them were able to complete
it. It involved giving them a camera and a diary with some prompts and asking them to
explore and to document any aspects of the their environment, their experience of studying
at the University of Tasmania, whether it be positive or negative. And then when we received the
diaries and the photographs, we then undertook interviews of approximately an hour in length
using the photographs and the information to drive that to have a better understanding
of what those underlying issues were. And that’s the information that I’m going to spend
the majority of time talking to you today. On this next slide here I am going to talk about
the disability support and pedagogy in relation to the literature. This slide is a graph which
shows the number of papers in the journals across time.
What you can see here is an enormous spike as we move towards the last two or three years,
which shows a huge increase in awareness and interest in this issue.
On the next slide, here are some of the themes that emerged from the literature. These themes
include the need to support effective transitions into the university. Orientation within the
university. The need for collaborative multidisciplinary approaches, the need to involve parents, other
support networks outside of the university, the need to work with peers, academic staff and
disability staff within the university for the most effective supports.
Large emphasis on peer mentoring as a key mechanism of support within the university.
The need to focus not only on academic skills but also to develop students’ social, communication
and selfadvocacy skills. A need to create awareness amongst all staff of some of the
sensory processing differences that students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and to develop
professional learning for staff in relation to the needs of students with Autism Spectrum
Disorder and inclusive teaching practices. On the next slide, I’m talking about the existing
supports that we discovered through the survey via the AUS TED network, and the survey
findings really reinforced the information from the literature. There was a strong emphasis
on the provision of individualised assessment of students with ASD, and support to reflect
the specific needs of each student. Types of supports that were normally included
were transition support into university, focus on study and organisational skills, facilitating
social or personal development and the implementation of specific strategies to address some of
the challenges that students with ASD experience. And the key methods included mentoring, education
of staff, the learning access plan process, and in some cases external liaison.
Now, the next slide is the start of the section where I would like to talk about the built
environment. I will start with talking about what we discovered in the literature.
The key issues experienced by students with Autism Spectrum Disorder that relate to the
built environment are primarily to do with differences in sensory sensitivities, the
hyper and hypo sensitivity. And also this perception, the ways of making sense of the
built environment, which can lead to disorientation, not knowing where to go or what to do.
And because of the diversity on the autism spectrum there is a need for a great variety
of different spatial conditions and a real key need for what we will call safe spaces,
spaces that are more comforting, spaces of retreat, the opportunity to escape when things
become too overwhelming. It’s evident from the literature that there
is a lack of research in this field. And there is very, very little specifically in relation
to higher education. Most of the work has been done in relation to autism specific schools,
early learning and in housing, again, for specifically for adults with Autism Spectrum
Disorder. There is also very, very little in policy development and guidelines. So while
we will talk about universal design or inclusive design, which is very broad in its aspirations,
whenever that’s listed in a specific criteria, that generally comes down to issues of physical
mobility, wheelchair access, or to accommodate people with vision impairments or hearing
impairments. There is very, very little about cognitive diversity.
The other thing that was evident from the literature is we could find information in
literature where students were talking about their experience of the of being at university
and they did bring up issues of built environment. Whereas staff understanding of that, it was
never, ever raised as an issue, particularly in relation to the sensory sensitivities.
So, this next slide I will talk about an overview of the study. As I mentioned before, we undertook
the study at the University of Tasmania, focusing on the student experiences, the six students
with autism spectrum disorder although only five completed the study. And the approach
was self-directed photography. So the next few slides what you are going to see are some examples of
the photographs, some of the quotes that either come from the diaries or from the interviews. I will talk
through a variety of the themes that emerged around the built environment.
The first one of these is related to the sensory experiences. I think this quote is very powerful
and very simple and a very polite plea just the picture of a clock, a ticking clock and
it simply says, “Please find an alternative for these”. If you look around the university
environment they are incredibly prevalent. This just something about the acoustic sensitivities
and how distracting even these things we would normally ignore can be for students with ASD.
Not only acoustic sense acoustic sensitivities are very common, but also sensitivities to
visual stimuli as well as this lack of understanding about why certain things are if they don’t
seem to follow a pattern. This quote that just says simply looking at the chairs, the
variety of coloured chairs, “I can cope with this unless I am tired or stressed”, would
not for most of us even seem to be something that we would need to cope with. We might
not like it, we might find it a bit strange but the fact that for the students actually
an embedded anxiety around being in this lecture theatre.
This next slide show as picture of one of the new learning spaces at the University
of Tasmania with a very highly patterned carpet, which this participant says, “When I was taking
this photo I felt nauseous, physically sick.” And in extra information about this photo
for the researchers she says, “this carpet is new. I liked the old plain one.” This is
the variety of the sensory issues here, that include visual stimuli around the patterned
surfaces, lots of groups of people, lots of colour, lots of things. And also glary screens
and glary lights and flickering lights that make these environments very overwhelming.
The consequences of this sensory experience for students as this participate articulates,
he says, “You lose the ability to think or process. You’re essentially stupider in these
environments.” So obviously this is large consequences for academic attainment, if this
is how they really feel. On top of that, these real bodily experiences
where students talked about having headaches or feeling sick and that wasn’t only while they
were in these particular environments during class; they said how this could continue for
hours or even sometimes days afterwards, meaning they then had to stay at home and
of course would miss further classes. This next slide is a picture of one of the
student cafeterias on campus at the University of Tasmania. The participant diary says, “I
could not go inside even to take a picture.” This shows the extent of exclusion. These
sensory barriers may be invisible but they are no less real than asking somebody in a
wheelchair at the bottom of a set of staircase to get up to the top.
The social inclusion aspect which I’m now talking about on the next slide, we show two
pictures of classrooms at the University of Tasmania, one with rows of desks and the other
one with a different arrangement of square tables you can move around. And two very powerful
quotes from the same participant. For the ones with rows of desks he says, “When I was
taking this photo I felt angry, trapped, hate, get out of my way.” So really really strong words,
a very negative response to the environment. Conversely in the image with the square tables,
he says, “When I was taking this photo I felt relaxed, collaborative, engaged.” The reason
for this feeling trapped a forced social interaction. There is no choice in the tables and rows.
You get locked into sitting next to someone. Being on view from the lecturer, unable to
get out. No choices about his social interaction. And this causes a great deal of anxiety
and stress. This next slide is a quote from one of the
participants where she says, “I had made a conscious decision some time ago now that
I had to build myself up as much as I possibly can to all of that to get by in life, otherwise
I would just be in my little cocoon all the time at home and that’s not healthy.” What
she is talking about here is the importance of university life, of the campus environment,
as a relatively low risk, contained space to develop skills in social interaction. She
talks about how she observes people from a safe distance, understanding some of the
social norms. And I think this is something that we really
need to recognise. It’s not only about academic attainment but it’s about the broader role
and opportunity that universities offer for lifelong learning, for the capacity to go
forward and to engage successfully in social life as well as in employment.
This next slide I will talk about some of the cognitive aspects the perception, the
ways of making sense of the environment. This photo here is simply about some of the room
numbers, which I think any of us at the University of Tasmania and perhaps many of you in other
higher education institutions will certainly recognise this madness of room numbering.
She says, “I don’t understand why there are so many numbers and codes for the same room.
I have often got lost. I don’t understand and the campus map either is a coded mess”
and she is absolutely right. I’m an architect, I’m used to reading maps and I have problems
understanding the campus map and navigating the campus environment. The difference for
me is if I’m lost, I will actually ask someone. Whereas a student because of the social interaction,
the dislike of some of the social interaction, the fear and uncertainty of how that will
unfold, the student won’t do that. She has missed whole classes when they have moved
the room and she is unable to navigate and find the new tutorial space.
This next slide is also about the cognitive environment. And I think this is really important,
because it shows that there is difficulty in making sense of the environment, of knowing
where to go that it’s not only to do with navigating between buildings, but it’s also
about navigating within spaces. This is a photograph of one of the new learning environments
again at the University of Tasmania. She says, “This photo makes me think about how I spent
a lot of the lesson trying to work out which way to sit. There are whiteboards almost whole
way around the room. This added to my confusion.” If she is spending a lot of the lesson trying
to figure out where to look and what to do, obviously this affects academic issues, if
she is unable to fully concentrate on the lesson.
The next slide I put in because I wanted to explain the diversity. This space that we’re
looking at here is one of the nursing labs at the University of Tasmania. It is quite
a confusing open space, but for this student with Autism Spectrum Disorder, he finds this
very good, the fact there is less structure, it’s more casual and selfdirected. He says
the whole atmosphere changes a bit and “you can kind of realise you are allowed to do
that and there are not really rules in place; it’s more something that just flows”. So it’s
not a one size fits all for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s important that
we understand this diversity and respond to each student’s individual unique needs.
The following few slides I will talk about some of the supports that are provided. In
this first slide I will talk about what we would traditionally think of as supports.
At the University of Tasmania on the Hobart campus, we have a student access study centre,
which is provided for students with disabilities. We also provide online and distance education
support, learning access plans and indeed staff awareness and support. You can see here
from the quote from one of the participants how important the staff awareness and support
is. Which he says if it wasn’t for her lecturer she would have pulled the pin. “I wouldn’t
be there now at all. I would have thought, no, this is just too hard. I just feel like
an idiot.” This next slide shows a support which is a disability support. It’s a picture
of the disabled symbol of someone in a wheelchair and a disabled parking bay. Firstly the student
says, “I feel a bit sad that the logo is highlighting difference and the stereo type that someone
with a challenge therefore must be in a wheelchair. This photo makes me think about wanting to
redesign the concept of disability.” Now, the context of this photograph the student
regularly parks her car in this spot and it’s important for her, she uses her car as place
of retreat. She is on the Launceston campus where there is no disability access centre.
So she uses her car as an alternative place of retreat. It’s very important that she can
access the disability parking bay. It’s very close to the building, so she can get there
quickly. But she says she has experienced people looking at her as she has got out of
her car in her high heels and suggesting that that’s not right; she doesn’t belong there
and should not be parking in the disabled parking bay. So it’s really, really important
that we think about the staff awareness, peer awareness of these issues but also arguably
to change the symbols that continually tie disability to particular mobility impairments.
This next slide is a start of what I want to talk about I have called them “informal
supports”. These are things that students at the University of Tasmania found useful.
They use these as supports but they are not explicitly provided by the university to support
students with disabilities or any students in fact.
One of the first of these is the spaces around campus which are often outside spaces, which
are seen to be calmer, safer places of retreat that the students use. And the participants
here talk about some of the qualities of these spaces. What they have in common is a kind
of open space, easy to navigate, not too busy, not too quiet but open. He is talking about
another space that is open and outdoors but at the same time closed and contained by the
walls of the buildings. There is a lot of complexity here. It’s not that the students
want to retreat to entirely isolated spaces; they want to be part of the campus life but
they want to feel something of the security and the containment, the choices of proximity,
choices about different forms of sensory stimuli. This next slide shows a hole in the wall cafe
that exists. The student talks about how important this was for her. She says, “The lady used
to save me a sandwich each day. It was much safer here than other places that sold food.
She probably never knew how much she helped me that first year.” The idea that
some places that sell food are safer than others is a very very
different notion of safety. This was a real point of refuge or support for this student
that wasn’t recognised. There’s a risk if we don’t recognise the importance of these
informal supports that with rationalisation in the university, with the trend towards
wanting to make things more dynamic and interactive, that some of these spaces may disappear. This
next slide is a picture of one of the filtered water stations on campus and some vending
machines. Many students talked about the importance of water, accessing water, when they were
feeling stressed or anxious; they needed to drink water. And also students talked about
the vending machines. Many of the students choose to come to campus towards the end of
the day because it’s a little bit quieter. So they can still participate in some level
of social interaction but it’s not as overwhelming, it’s not as noisy, it’s not as visually stimulating. And also if they are unable to enter the cafes whether thats because during the middle of the day they are extremely
busy and overwhelming and seem to be inaccessible, or because by coming to campus towards the end of the day, the cafes are no longer
open and the vending machines become important forms of supports of sustenance for students on
campus. This next slide is a picture of a lecture theatre. What it’s talking about here is the
importance of escape. So students are much, much more able to participate in the university
during classes if they feel like they have an option for escape. And many students talked
about this. And there was many many pictures of lecture theatres. The student talks about
how her strategy for managing to participate in the lesson, in the lecture theatre, “I
tend to pick a spot all the time. Even in the lecture room I pick a chair; that’s my
chair.” She often arrives as much as she can before class so she can pick her preferred
spot. And picking the preferred spot can be quite difficult. You don’t want too many people
behind you; you don’t want too many people in front of you. You want to easily be able
to nip out the backdoor without being seen too much by the lecturer. But you want to
pick spots where you are avoiding glare on the whiteboards. So it can be quite complicated
and indeed the student talked about the challenges if she comes into the lecture theatre and
her preferred spot is taken. Then this last slide about escape highlights
some of the differences the student wants to escape to the student access centre. So
she is feeling overwhelmed. This is her go to place. She says, “This is a picture of
the scary selfopening door at the student access centre. It’s hard to remember to stop
when I am in a rush to get to the safety of the ASSC.” So the scary self opening door is of
course a means to support egress from the building in terms of fire it opens automatically,
in particular for people in wheelchairs. And for this student, she is not moving, trying
to escape from the building; she is trying to escape into the building. And in those
times of anxiety as she moves towards it, she can never remember even though she has
been there many, many times before, because she is stressed and looking down, she comes
up to the door, she is moving very quickly and it almost always just about hits her in
the face and it causes her even more anxiety on top of the way she is already feeling.
So, to conclude you can see there are so many complexities around supporting students with
Autism Spectrum Disorder. I thought this quote from a participant was very powerful. She
says, “You have to be assertive to be autistic. The world doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t
like to play the victim. Where I just put it out there and say look, I’m autistic, I
just need your assistance.” This is a mature age student who has come to this position and
I think she is much more able to cope. But for many of the students, they are not declaring
the disability and they have very great and varied needs. These are really not understood.
So it’s really not a very supportive environment. And we all need to take some responsibility.
The students themselves in this capacity for selfadvocacy, but also creating more inclusive
environments so that they feel supported in making those declarations and are offered
opportunities to support their own individual needs. So, the conclusions that we found from the study in relation to disability supports specifically,
we believe there is an importance for individualised assistance. Learning access
plans are useful but we need to look at their effective implementation. So it’s not enough
just to give someone a learning access plan and then expect them to be proactive entirely
in talking to their lecturers about their particular needs and accommodations, but we
need to provide advice to staff about how to help the students identify those issues,
how to help them discuss those issues, so that there can be shared communication.
For the students we also need to focus on developing social self management and advocacy
skills to enable them to do this. And the development of peer mentoring programs
does seem to be particularly effective means of support for students with Autism Spectrum
Disorder. In relation to pedagogy, we could learn a
lot from my colleague Christopher Rayner, who focuses on universal design for learning,
to foster more inclusive practices in the classroom. We really really need to promote
greater awareness and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, particularly among the
teaching staff and we need to enable students to exercise their own agency and manage their
own learning journey in whatever diverse forms that may take. Indeed many of the students
in our study at the University of Tasmania showed how much initiative they had taken
themselves in crafting their own learning journey, some very innovative, almost sometimes
slightly subversive ways in which they were navigating online systems and built environment
aspects to support their journey through university. Conclusions around the design of the built
environment include we need to consider that we need to design campus spaces holistically.
We can’t only think about particular disability access spaces. We need to think about pathways
to them. We might think about designing quiet spaces in the library, but we would need to
think about how students get to them. There is no point in putting a quiet learning space
in the library if you then need to move past the coffee cart positioned at the front entranceway;
it’s already going to be inaccessible. We need spaces to facilitate navigation and
engagement and we also need to provide opportunities for withdrawal. As universities are moving towards
more dynamic learning environments and greater focus on intensive activity I think some of
the opportunities for withdrawal, for the quiet spaces, may be overlooked, so it’s important
that we put that front and foremost on the agenda, together with the need for the dynamic
interactive spaces. The study also shows how there can be many low cost simple adjustments
like for example the ticking clocks or the flickering lights and how this can really
make a big difference to the wellbeing of students and to their academic attainments.
The recent trend towards hyper stimulating learning spaces needs to be balanced with
access to quiet environments, with natural features. The green spaces, trees, and so on
are often very calming. Calming for everyone but particularly with the need
for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. And finally we really need to develop relevant
policy and design guidelines where these needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
are specifically recognised. Even though there is a diversity of needs, I think there are some
key things that we can do within the policy guidelines that would support the broad population.
We also looked in the study at the possibilities for support under the National Disability Insurance
Scheme. And one of the key opportunities that we have identified here is the opportunity
to broaden the peer mentor role. At the moment it focuses particularly on transitioning
into university and to a certain extent to transitioning out of university. But what
we noticed in the study is there is a series of micro transitions that happen across the
whole learning journey and we would like to see the opportunities of expanding this peer mentor
role across the entire learning journey. We also believe that we need to clarify the
type of support available under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It will talk
about supports that are reasonable and necessary, but at the moment there is very little information
about what that means. So we need further research that looks at the specific needs
of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder so we can build the empirical basis for recognising
and expanding the support that is available under the NDIS.
Finally I would like to talk about a recognised limitation of the study and future directions.
A key limitation of the study is obviously that it was conducted with a very small group
of students and this was partly because of the timeframe of the research. It’s also extraordinarily
difficult to recruit students with Autism Spectrum Disorder particularly during semester
where they are already overwhelmed with other needs, their academic requirements, in order
to undertake the study. But recognising these limitations in future
research, we would like to expand the size of the participants, the number of participants
in the study. But we also recognise that the students who participated in our study were
still actively engaged in education. We need to also focus on individuals with ASD who
have entered higher education but who have failed to graduate and indeed students with
ASD who are perfect competent and interested in accessing higher education but who have
failed to access it. In future studies we will be seeking to expand the participants
to encompass those groups. I will just leave you with this last slide,
which I liked because it challenges some of the things around my field, architecture.
The student says, “I took this photo because I keep on wanting to fix this skewed building.
When I was taking the photo I felt a bit agitated and this photo makes me think about why people
design buildings this way, why they build them incorrectly, which makes me think about
how I design in my field” and I will leave it with that. Thank you for listening.
DARLENE: That’s a fabulous ending there Ceridwen. That’s a recently built new add on to the Student Centre
in the Launceston campus and I think it is challenging for most of us but I’m sure for students
on the spectrum it is even more so. Cause as ghastly as it is on the outside, and as askewed as it is, on the
inside is just as bad. So thank you very much for that presentation. It has been fantastic to hear how the research has been, even though I was part of it, it’s just nice to kind of see it all in this way. And the experiences
that you shared with the students is so powerful and I found that during the research and just once again
reinforced in your presentation. We have not had many questions but there is
a question that someone has asked in regards to the research that is available . Sue, or Ceridwen, do you want to say where
people can see the research? CERIDWEN: The report was published last Friday,
on 1st April. But it’s available on the NCSCHE website. So if you go there, there’s a link
to reports. I think at this point it’s right at the top because it’s the latest one to
be published. You can download the full report. There is an executive summary of the findings,
but then all of the detail it’s quite a lengthy report. DARLENE: It will also be available on ADCET with the webinar link and so forth, on the
ADCET website as well. So hopefully people will definitely be able to find it.
CERIDWEN: I would be very happy for anyone to contact me by email. I’m not sure if my
email details are up there but I’m quite easy to find if you put me in and look at the University
of Tasmania, I’m pretty sure I’m the only Ceridwen here. Please feel free to email me if you would
like to get in touch or have any further questions. DARELENE: I think probably Jane might be able
to put it up into the chat pod so everybody will see. There is another question. Are the
University of Tasmania going to implement any of the changes as suggested by the
students in this study. CERIDWEN: That’s a great question. I very
much hope so. The University of Tasmania is looking at doing a lot of new development
over the next five years. I’m currently working with my fifth year master of architecture
students on thinking about design guidelines that we can develop so that when the University
moves into those new developments we can provide them with best practice information on
what they should be considering. The people who are in control of the library are very interested. They have
contacted me recently to say they would like us to provide information on what we could do right now
to make the library a more accessible environment for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. So
we will be looking at some lowcost modifications. This is not going to wait for another three
to five years to have new facilities; they want to make the changes right now. I will
present the results of this study widely in the university to the students experience
committee and other senior people as opportunities arise to be proactive in trying to make this
environment better. I would be very happy to provide the information to anyone else
if it’s useful, in other higher education institutions. DARLENE: That’s fantastic. Thank you very much for your time and thank you to everybody else for
joining us. I will do a quick plug for our next webinar, to be held on 3rd May and
the topic will be Using Technology in the Classroom for Deaf Students. We will be promoting
that soon. In wrapping up I want to thank the National Centre and Sue for joining us
today. Also to Bradley Reporting for their wonderful captioning. Jason has done a great
job once again today. And also to you, Ceridwen. It’s fantastic to see this research coming
to fruition and hear you speak today. So thank you, everybody, for participating.

1 thought on “Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Higher Education

  • I was thinking about the student with ASD who was using a disability parking space as her "safe spot". I am the parent of both a young man with ASD, and a young woman with a severe physical disability. I have never considered their different disabilities to be in competition with each other, rather it is clear to me that each must have his or her needs met.

    In NSW at least, the legal criteria for a disability parking permit, as certified by a medical practitioner, are to be unable to walk 100 meters easily, to need to use a mobility aid to walk, or to have a significant visual impairment. There are not enough disability parking spots as it is generally, and their lack seriously prevents people with a physical disability getting out and about as much as they would like.

    I would not be encouraging my son with ASD to use a disability parking space, as he IS able to walk 100 meters easily, despite his other issues. Surely there is an alternative safe spot for this student that does not involve exploiting students with a different disability? Disability shouldn't be a competition.

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