Posted on 10th July 2020
Toolkit and Best Practice Guides translated into French and introduced in two Swiss universities
Professor Véronique Zbinden Sapin talks about autism support in Swiss universities and her reasons for translating the Autism&Uni Best Practice Guides and Toolkit together with her colleague Prof Nicolas Ruffieux.
In Switzerland, there are significant gaps in supporting people on the autism spectrum, at all ages. Testimonials from students on the autism spectrum that face difficulties in completing their studies do exist, but this population is still not very visible in Swiss universities. At present, most Swiss universities have no dedicated services for autistic students which are organised and visible enough to be recognised.
To improve this situation, in 2018 the Swiss government set out – for the first time – recommendations and priority development routes relating to diagnosis and early intervention. As Switzerland has a federal system of government, it is up to the regions (26 cantons in 3 language regions) to implement the necessary actions – a substantial effort.
Several universities are now putting in place procedures and accommodations that are aimed at reducing the disadvantages resulting from various disabilities, including autism. The University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland has participated in several research projects in the field of autism, in particular one of the investigations that led to the government’s recommendations. The overall objective of these efforts is to develop more inclusive higher education institutions.
Professor Véronique Zbinden Sapin from HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, School of Social Work, in Fribourg, and Professor Nicolas Ruffieux from University of Fribourg, Department of Special Education, have decided to pool their strengths to contribute to improve the situation of student on the autism spectrum, specifically through two positive actions: Firstly the translation of the Autism&Uni Best Practice Guides into French, which is nearly completed now. Secondly the translation of the Autism&Uni toolkit into French and its adaptation to the Swiss higher education context. Funding for this has been secured and translation will start in the autumn of 2020.
Prof Zbinden Sapin and Prof Ruffieux want to raise autism awareness in Swiss higher education, make institutions aware of the existence of autistic students and their needs, and initiate actions to support the HE journeys of this student group.
These two aforementioned actions constitute a first step in the development of projects and activities on this topic aimed at the creation of a Higher Education and Autism Office in Switzerland.
Véronique Zbinden Sapin, Professor
HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland
School of Social Work
Nicolas Ruffieux, Professor
University of Fribourg
Department of Special Education