Posted on 14th October 2020
Dublin City University launches the Autism&Uni toolkit
Fiona Earley, Autism Friendly University Coordinator at Dublin City University, explains why and how she adopted the Autism&Uni toolkit.
Dublin City University was recognised as an autism-friendly university by AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity and Advocacy Organisation, in 2017. The designation marked the conclusion of an 18-month research project.
Research findings by DCU showed that autistic students in third-level often experience greater levels of difficulty settling in and adapting to university life than do their peers. Frequently cited issues were discomfort in noisy environments; difficulties in managing schedules, deadlines and workload, challenges in participating in group work and unease in new social situations and extracurricular activities. To achieve the autism-friendly university designation, DCU must address eight generic principles that were established as part of the research study. To read the full report click here. One of the principles is:
Encourage and enable autistic students to transition and participate in university programmes;
So the opportunity to participate in the Autism&Uni project was a timely one as it specifically addressed transition. We had created a lot of resources which were on our main webpage, but the volume of information can make it difficult to filter.
The structure of the Autism&Uni toolkit is clear and concise. It really helped us collate information specific to new students in an autism-friendly way. It highlighted gaps in our information and also information duplication. The pages “student voices” and “professional interviews” were particularly welcomed by us as we have a strong autistic student voice in DCU. We used video and transcript to get student and staff perspectives from the NeuroDSoc and dcu.ie/disability. This is something we will continue to develop.
As we worked through the template and sample content provided with the Autism&Uni toolkit, we found it addressed the cited issues for autistic students in the initial DCU research findings (see “Living with Autism as a University Student at Dublin City University: Developing an Autism Friendly University“. A fundamental value of the DCU project is that universities which are autism-friendly are understanding of the needs of autistic students, open to making adaptations to be more accessible and have a positive, celebratory culture towards autism. The Autism and Uni project aligns with this value and we welcome the toolkit as a resource to build on.
Autism Friendly University Coordinator
Dublin City University