In recent years, there has been a huge spike in the numbers of autistic students attending universities and other higher education institutions in the UK. Overall, the numbers have risen by more than 200% in just five years.
The fact that so many more autistic students are now entering university also means that universities have an obligation to ensure that these students are being helped as much as possible. The 2010 Equality Act states that institutions of higher education must not discriminate against, victimise or harass disabled students. They must also make 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure that disabled students have essentially the same experience and the same access to education that non-disabled students have.
How can universities support autistic students?
As more and more autistic students make their way into higher education, universities are looking for new ways to help them, including everything from training staff to arranging pet therapy. There are also an increasing number of institutions offering summer courses to help autistic students cope with university life prior to actually going.
Ways in which universities can support autistic students include but are not limited to:
- training staff so that they know how to access all the available support
- appointing someone to whom students with autism can always go to for support when required
- promoting autism through, for example, diversity and equality events, ensuring relevant information is available
- maintaining contact with students' families, where appropriate
- being flexible in their teaching methods, identifying how to best meet students' individual learning needs
- ensuring that students are aware of and able to access support groups such as the Student Union, the welfare office or the disability support service
- identifying students who are able to take part in a mentoring programme
- providing support in seminars, lectures and exams, including everything from ensuring optimum seating for students with sensory difficulties to providing a recording of lectures
Students with autism may also need extra support when it comes to taking exams, including:
- extra time
- help with the change in routine that taking exams will involve
- special equipment and exam formats
- someone to write on their behalf
- someone to clarify exam questions
- someone to prompt students when to move forward to the next question
As the increase in numbers of autistic students in higher education shows, access is becoming easier and universities are generally fulfilling their legal obligations to these students, in many cases admirably. However, if you feel that your university is failing to make adequate allowances for you or someone in your care, you should give us a call at Match Solicitors today and we will work closely with you to achieve the best outcome possible.