Good Practice Guidelines for Universities

The following is an extract from "Taking Responsibility: Good practice guidelines for services - adults with Asperger syndrome" by Andrew Powell, The National Autistic Society, London, 2002, funded by the Department of Health.

The full report can be downloaded from the NAS website here.

Thanks to Andrew Powell for kindly allowing me to reproduce this extract here.

College or University

People with Asperger syndrome usually have average, or higher intelligence and can greatly benefit from college or university education.

Unfortunately, many experience difficulties accessing tertiary education, for a mixture of reasons. Many students become isolated, lonely and find their social difficulties increase, without necessary support. Students also often struggle because the academic approach demanded by colleges/universities is not differentiated to their learning style.

Support pathway into college or university

The Planning Group representatives for colleges and local universities should work with their colleagues in those institutions to develop good practice for people with Asperger syndrome wishing to study.

As stated in the section on transition, the student should have the support of Connexions or other professionals in order to make the move into college or university. Students will ofter require advice about applying for support and asking the right questions before choosing a course.

The following are some of the important areas to consider and for the Planning Group to encourage across all local colleges and universities.

1. Awareness sessions on Asperger syndrome to be taken up by college/university, for all staff - 'Systems' approach (reception, tutors, learning support, student counsellors, restaurant/canteen staff).

2. Learning support, counsellors and disability officers will benefit from 'job specific' training on Asperger syndrome to enable them to provide effective pastoral support.

3. First impressions are important to people with Asperger syndrome. A coherent protocol for students entry into college/university, should be established including:

  • enrolment forms with mention of developmental difficulties such as Asperger syndrome
  • stress reducing 'welcomes' (for example, prior contact with an understanding personal tutor, home visit)
  • ensuring funding is in place for any learning support before term starts
  • good induction and orientation (for example, providing maps of the campus, and important contacts)
  • a flexible approach (for example allowing visits during holidays for familiarisation)
  • establishing positive contact with parents, where appropriate).
  • 4. Colleges locally should discuss good practice and share ideas, about how best to support students.

    5. Colleges should consider Asperger syndrome specific courses, 'open-learning' or outreach courses to assist those who find traditional provision prevents them from learning.

    6. Colleges should consider courses which help prepare people for work, by developing closer links with employers, and which address the specific employment needs of people with Asperger syndrome ( National Autistic Society, Prospects Supported Employment Consultancy).

    7. Some collges in the UK offer Asperger syndrome specific post-school options. These institutions could be contacted for ideas on good practice. (For example, Nautical College, Glasgow; Interact College, London; ESPA, Sunderland; Farleigh Education Group, Somerset).

    8. Link courses can be considered for students to test out local colleges/universities facilities and whether the course content suits from 14 onwards.

    9. People with Asperger syndrome and their families should have access to a checklist of questions to ask any proposed college or university.

    10. A good practice guide is needed for colleges and universities when including students with Asperger syndrome. This guide could be part of a training package and might include elements such as:

  • an explanation of Asperger syndrome
  • how the conditions affects an individual's ability to learn
  • a preparation checklist before the student starts the course
  • a social needs checklist
  • an academic/learning needs checklist
  • an exit strategy checklist
  • useful contacts within college and links to specialist agencies.
  • 11. There should be differentiation of teaching and different formats for taught material. Students should have access to taping equipment for lectures and photocopying should be made available, using student allowances.

    12. Assessment of support during exams should be made available, such as extra time, someone to scribe, prompts, or a distraction free room.

    13. Adequate support structures should be identified by the college/university. These could include disability groups or Asperger syndrome specific groups, or 'befriender' schemes.

    14. The students' union or welfare officer should provide a knowledgeable service to all new students with Asperger syndrome identified on enrolment, and provide ongoing pastoral support throughout the person's education.

    15. Each institution should be able to identify someone with a good understanding of Asperger syndrome to provide advice and support to tutors (Portway, 2000).

    16. The college or university should identify quiet rooms for people with Asperger syndrome to relax, and use as their own area.

    17. A coherent protocol for students' exit from college/university needs to be established. Each student must leave college or university with a clear, realistic plan. Ideally there would be reviews in the final year so that any difficulties for transition to work, or other pursuit can be assessed and discussed. Connexions should become involved again if people with a disability are under 25 and require guidance.

    References from this section

    Portway, S. (200) The needs of children and adults with Asperger syndrome living in Berkshire, Report of the Berkshire Asperger Research Project. Reading: Berkshire Autistic Society.

    Glasgow Nautical College, Transitions programme, a life-skills programme for people not yet ready for a vocational college course 0141 565 2806.

    Interact Centre, a model of further education provision for people who require some life skill training before going into a vocational college placement 020 8575 0046.

    European Services for People with Autism (ESPA). Range of Further education provision 0191 567 3523.

    Farleigh Education Group (schools and further education provision) 01373 463 172.

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