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Strategies Which Increase The Likelihood Of Success

At University Of Students With Asperger's Syndrome


Nicola Martin
Address for correspondence: N.Martin@shu.ac.uk
Editorial comment
Nicola Martin manages the Disabled Student Support Team at Sheffield Hallam
University. She has recently undertaken an in-depth study of support available for
students ith !sperger syndrome "!S# in higher education ith a vie to developing
good practice guidance. This paper discusses the recommendations arising from this
study. $t is based on responses from over %&' H( staff that have direct contact ith
students ith !S in over %) universities. $n addition* + people ith !S currently
studying at U, universities provided information about the type of support they feel
ould be helpful. ! -oerpoint presentation summarising the main points of the study
is available electronically from the author ho can also provide a full or half day
orkshop on re.uest via Sheffield Hallam University. This paper ill be invaluable to
students ith !S and to all ho are engaged in supporting these students at
University. Many of the recommendations can also be considered in other settings
across the age span.
Introduction
$t is highly likely that University staff ill meet students ith !S* particularly in Science-
based courses* engineering* architecture and $/T* areas in hich students ith !S
often do very ell. The ma0ority of students in this study ere young male science
undergraduates ith good grades in their Science ! levels. !sperger syndrome has
received a lot of media attention and staff often feel nervous and ill e.uipped to deal
ith someone ho may* in their imagination* conform to the 1ain Man stereotype. The
reality is somehat different and students knon to have !S cope ell* if given
appropriate support.
The profiles of people ith !S are different and there may be some individuals ho do
not need a diagnosis or specific support. 2here to dra the line in terms of giving and
sharing the diagnosis and the potential benefits and drabacks is the sub0ect of much
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debate "Murray* 3'')#* but it is important in a paper such as this* to point out that
here staff think a person might have !S 4 or may kno the student has !S* this does
not automatically mean that that student needs help. That said* there are many
aspects of University life hich a student ith !S is likely to find difficult and so it is
important for staff to kno the types of problem that might occur and to establish ith
the individual student hether such problems are true for them. There ill be students
at Universities ith !S "both diagnosed and undiagnosed# ho need specific support
but ho do not receive this and ho may drop out of their course* fail their e5ams or
have a fairly miserable time at University. $t is students in this latter group ho re.uire
attention. $t is also important to avoid developing the sort of stereotype hich results in
6genius pressure6.
Type of support required
1eliability and consistency are the key elements to successful backup. Success is
most likely if systems are in place before the start of the course* and organised in such
a ay that parameters are communicated e5plicitly and sufficient fle5ibility e5ists so
that skills and responsibilities e5tend across staff members. ! student ith a clear
timetable and an understanding that they ill be notified in advance if changes are
about to occur is likely to develop a sense of security hich ill result in diminishing
an5iety levels. ! holistic vie is re.uired hich understands that academic ork is only
part of University life* so planning to enable the student ith !S to manage practically
and socially is also needed.
7amily input often plays a crucial role in enabling students ith !S to manage at
University . Studying from home is not uncommon. University staff have to balance the
understanding that a high level of parental involvement is likely* ith respect for the
feelings* ishes and aspirations of the student ith !S ho may be trying to develop a
greater degree of independence.
The guidance presented here adopts the social model of disability. 8y making the
environment less disabling for individuals ith !S* the impact of the impairments hich
could present difficulties in a less enabling conte5t* may be minimised. 1ather than
concentrating on a medical model to perceived impairments as barriers* the social
model emphasises finding ays over* through and around potential obstacles.
/elebrating difference and diversity rather than perceiving people ith !S as other* or
impaired* is the positive position hich is advocated here. This is congruent ith the
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vie held by many "but not all# people ith !S ho do not classify themselves as
disabled.
Asperger syndrome
!S is not rare and diagnosis can be ambiguous and is not e5clusively given in
childhood. $t is likely that H( staff ill come across students for hom !S has been
recently diagnosed* and those ho received a diagnosis as a child. $ndividuals react
emotionally to the label in varying ays and ith various degrees of understanding*
and reactions may ell change over time. Some students are uncomfortable ith the
idea that they are perceived as different. 6!sperger syndrome -ride6 may be the
reaction of others. The difference versus disability debate is relevant here.
Issues of disclosure
Some staff in this study said they thought they had students ith !S* but the student
had not disclosed their diagnosis. /aution is urged as the person may not have !S* or
may have chosen not to disclose. $n either case they may be insulted or made an5ious
by the suggestion that they have !S. Such an intervention needs careful thought and
skill. The Disability Discrimination !ct "DD!# -art 9 "3''3# is very clear that :informed
consent; must be obtained from a disabled student before any information about them
can be shared ith a third party. This is absolutely non negotiable. Therefore* any idea
about discussing the re.uirements or behaviours of a student ith !S ith their fello
students* parents* or other staff or agencies can not be indulged.
$t is possible to be supportive ithout necessarily labelling an individual. 2hile some
students ill talk about their !S* others may be less illing* or may not perceive
themselves as having a disability. Sensitivity to the individual;s feelings is essential as
it is possible to cause distress by offering assistance* hich is vieed as unnecessary
or intrusive. $t is necessary to be open to the possibility that additional disabilities*
including dysle5ia and epilepsy can be present* and problems ith depression and
an5iety may occur chronically or intermittently.
Seeing the individual rather than the syndrome is essential* therefore advice given
here comes ith a health arning. No to people ith !S are the same. Staff are
re.uired under DD! -art 9 to make reasonable ad0ustments to accommodate
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behaviours arising from a disability. This is not alays easy* particularly if staff are
unaare of ho !S can affect behaviour.
Potential strengths of students ith Asperger syndrome
2hilst all students ith !S ill differ from each other* there are some areas hich are
likely to be true of most students in this group hich can act in their favour. They often
have a genuine and deep interest in their area of study and are likely to spend many
more hours than peers orking on tasks and assignments and spend less time on
social pursuits. 1eliability is something hich students ith !S not only value in others
but also often display in their on behaviour. !n unusual and highly entertaining sense
of humour is not uncommon and looking at ideas from a refreshingly different angle is
a common and almost defining characteristic. "The Disability (.uality Duty "3'')#
encourages institutions to embrace the positive so lets do that here#.
Potential difficulties for students ith Asperger syndrome
$t is important to note that some students ith !S are not very accepting of the picture
of themselves that the folloing descriptions depict. The role of H( staff is to embrace
the positive and empoer students* and not to classify them in a ay hich may be
disabling* so caution in interpretation is urged.
Social issues
<ne of the main problems that most students ith !S e5perience in the University
conte5t is difficulty ith social interactions. They may have no friends* or be vulnerable
to e5ploitation by peers they perceive to be friends "eg students ho constantly e5pect
drinks to be bought for them ithout reciprocating#. <ther students may perceive some
people ith !S as :odd;* and they may have problems ith :fitting in; partly because of
other people6s reactions. 8ody language and eye contact can appear akard.
(mpathising ith others is something a student ith !S can find e5tremely hard so
they may not realise ho their behaviour is perceived* "eg hen they are boring
people#. -eers may ignore* isolate* include* tolerate* like or admire an unusual
character* particularly someone ith an interesting take on life or an area of impressive
ability. Media stereotypes of !S may impact positively or negatively on the ay other
students behave.
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The ability of neurotypical people to empathise ith those ith !S is rarely discussed*
as the literature focuses almost e5clusively on lack of empathy as an autistic trait.
(ncouraging values of tolerance and acceptance and the development of empathy in
other students is something hich merits consideration. $t is possible to develop a
climate hich fosters mutual support ithout the need to label anybody. 8ullying is
something hich students ith !S described as lessening after their school days ere
over. !lthough this is very positive* it is important for staff to remain vigilant to the
possibility* in a lo key-non intrusive ay.
Communication
/ommunication may be more impaired than it first appears. (ven if the student has
superficially good language* they may have difficulty ith some aspects of
comprehension and a tendency to take things literally. (5pressions like take a leaf
out of his book for e5ample* are confusing. The language re.uired for articulating
feelings may be limited and the student may not think to ask for help. <n the other
hand* s=he may make e5traordinary demands on the support service because of an
inability to ork out hat is reasonable. :Call in to Student Services any time for
e5ample* could result in daily visits#.
/lear* straightforard* unambiguous language is essential to avoid confusion. >okes
and sarcasm may possibly be misunderstood. Understanding of instructions for e5am
and assignment .uestions should be checked so that help can be given before time is
asted. $n lectures* the student may need to be brought into group discussions by
being asked direct .uestions and =or clear guidelines during discussion sessions. $t
may be difficult for them to stick to the point if they have become fi5ated ith a minor
detail for e5ample. -roviding a reminder of the topic and asking the student specific
.uestions can help to bring them back on task. Social conventions* such as not
dominating discussions* shouting out or interrupting* may need reinforcing in some
instances. (mphasising* sensitively the message that the language used in the pub is
not necessarily appropriate in the lecture theatre may also be necessary.
ehavioural issues
$f it is necessary to tell a student ith !S something about their behaviour directly*
obviously* this should not be done in front of peers because of the potential humiliation
this could cause. ! popular myth prevails that people ith !S do not e5perience
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embarrassment. This is usually not the case. !s logic ould suggest* if someone is
doing their best to fit in* and their failings are pointed out publicly* this is very unlikely
to be helpful. <ccasional reports of other students complaining about the person ith
!S* for e5ample shouting out in lectures* ere evident in this study. 1eassurance from
staff that this ill be discussed* confidentially* is ade.uate. There is no need to e5plain
that the behaviour is due to !S. <n the other hand* if the student ith !S has
negotiated a ay they ould like information shared ith peers* this could be helpful.
Some people chose to generate a short statement about themselves* during the
Disabled Student !lloance "DS!# process* hich they could choose to give out or
not. $mportantly* this remained ithin the control of the student* rather than staff*
parents or others.
Areas of intense interest
The student may have* or develop* areas of intense interest "and this can become the
sole topic of conversation#. $f their fascination is directly related to their course it may
be very motivating. !lternatively* it could be a barrier to learning. $f* for e5ample* a
student does not see the point of completing a particular element of a course* hich is
re.uired* and spends disproportionate time on a more interesting element* the
resulting potential for failure may ell need to be made e5plicit. $t is possible to point
out that it is not necessary for the student to en0oy or feel particularly stimulated by a
problematic aspect of the course. $t is hoever essential that ork in the given area is
completed to a specified standard in order to achieve the desired .ualification.
!ppealing to a desire not to disappoint a third party is probably not useful* as intrinsic
motivation is likely to be a more effective driver.
!pplication of knoledge can create challenges for some learners ith !S. !nalysis*
comparison* interpretation* synthesising information from a range of sources* and
interpreting re.uire a range of skills including the ability to generalise and empathise.
Some learners ith !S are highly successful at ?/S( level and then struggle hen
e5pected to ork more analytically. Social Science sub0ects attract feer students ith
!S than do the areas of physical sciences* mathematics* $/T and engineering-sub0ects
hich de-emphasise the social conte5t of learning to an e5tent.
!s an individual progresses in his or her academic career* opportunities for narro
specialisation ill increase and the products of in depth investigation valued.
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2ittgenstein* Neton and (instein are sometimes .uoted as e5amples of individuals
ith !S associated ith genius and achievement "7it@gerald* 3'')#.

!necdotal evidence suggests that some people ith !S have a very unusual learning
style* $t may not be possible for H( staff to understand the processes behind the
learning in every instance. Strong visual perception is sometimes evident and it may
be possible to help the student to make use of visual strategies if this is the preferred
mode. Multi sensory approaches and activities to facilitate personal organisation can
be helpful. Some students reported making use of the sort of study skills sessions
popular ith some dysle5ic students.
Affect and mood
Ao self-esteem* depression and high levels of an5iety are common states* particularly
in young adults ith !S. This may ell be e5acerbated by moving aay from home.
Social isolation is hard to accept for a person ith !S ho ill often have a strong
desire for friendship and relationships. /onversely* individuals ith 6able autism6* rather
than !S may be more content ith their on company and less troubled by the need
for interaction. Students may find it very hard to break into any sort of social scene at
university. Structured opportunities* such as attending regular aerobics classes* may
be more successful* particularly if they are timetabled in and therefore become part of
the routine. The minefield that is 7resher;s eek re.uires careful navigation by the
student ith !S and support to 0oin clubs and societies can be very helpful. ! person
ith !S is likely to become a valued and highly committed member. 1egular
recreational opportunities can provide much needed structure to a eek hich can
otherise contain a lot of empty time hich someone ith !S may struggle to fill.
( mail can be .uite an important lifeline to assist ith alleviating an5iety and feelings of
isolation. ! system to ensure that reliable responses to email communications are
possible ill be necessary. Some guidance on the length of emails and ho to frame
.uestions may be useful.
Adherence to the familiar
Unpredictable changes in planned activities can result in confusion and upset and this
may give rise to behaviours hich others find challenging* hich could in turn increase
isolation from peers. !nticipated stressful events may have similar conse.uences. 7or
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e5ample* some students ith !S are likely to e5perience e5treme levels of stress
around e5am time. !dvising a student of a change in routine can be as simple as
putting a -ost-it note on a door to advise that a lecture has moved. 2ithout this sort of
thoughtfulness* the learner ith !S may find themselves at a loss to kno hat to do.
!nything more than this may be unnecessary and leave the student feeling
overprotected or singled out in an embarrassing ay.
!ifficult "ehaviour
The term 6difficult behaviour6 represents a value 0udgement on the part of a third party.
!ctions someone else does not like are not limited to people ith !S of course.
Hoever* some conflicts may arise because of the student ith !S having limited
understanding of social norms* and others being less than easy going "eg that it is not
<, to take a motorbike to pieces in the middle of a communal living space#. -roblems
may occur because of lack of social e5perience and an impaired ability to understand
other people;s motivation. Straightforard e5planation about hy it is not acceptable to
use a shared front room in this manner is far more likely to be understood and result in
behavioural change* than more subtle attempts to get the message across through
sarcastic remarks or despairing looks.
The reactions of others can e5acerbate difficulties* and negative responses often arise
through the inability of a third party to empathise ith an individual ith !S* or a
tendency to make assumptions about behaviour* for e5ample* being the result of
rudeness. ! label may also prompt others to ascribe all behaviours to manifestations
of !sperger syndrome.
Sometimes; difficult behaviour; is perceived as such by other people because of their
lack of understanding* for e5ample* of a re.uirement to carry out some lo-key
ritualised activity. $f a person ith !S insists on lining up their pens before starting
ork for e5ample* then it could be argued that it is unreasonable for someone else to
define this as problematic. $n other ords* hy shouldn;t they do this* especially if it
has a calming effectB $ncreasingly* Universities emphasise the importance of valuing
diversity. $f an individual behaves in an unusual ay* classifying the behaviour as
difficult does not sit comfortably alongside valuing diversity. $f a particular unusual
behaviour has no negative effect on the student ith !S or on others* then it is
reasonable to e5pect people not to interfere.
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Sensory overload
Heightened sensory perception may make some ordinary situations* like using the
refectory* seem unbearably stimulating. This in itself could result in ritualistic
behaviours in an attempt to gain some environmental control* and the behaviour could
enhance the impression that the individual ith !S is 6odd6 in some ay. !voidance of
the refectory can be problematic* especially if the student is not used to cooking* and
therefore not likely to be eating properly. Helping the student to ork out here to sit in
this sort of environment may ell be helpful. <ne person described their need to sit in
a corner so that sensory stimulus as limited because no one could alk behind them.
!reating a sympathetic en"ironment
2ith a clear structure* an understanding of here to turn to for support and a
sympathetic environment* students ith !S can do very ell. (5amples of students
ith !S ho have been successful indicate that high .uality support early on can
enable the learner to cope ith less intervention later* hen everything is becoming
more familiar. <n the other hand* people have floundered because seemingly trivial
problems* hich are often social and practical* rather than academic* have become
insurmountable to them. $t is important to note that help ith coping ith the day to day
practicalities of life* such as shopping* cooking* and eating can be an essential
re.uirement* so consideration to the sort of backup re.uired in halls of residence for
e5ample is vital.
The folloing considerations should help in the process of providing a useful DS!
assessment and planning an effective service hich includes anticipatory reasonable
ad0ustments as re.uired by the DD! -art 9. !n understanding and acceptance of the
nature of !S ill help service providers to negotiate appropriate support ith the
individual* and some .uite simple strategies can make an enormous difference. $t is
essential* hoever* to focus on the individual and remember that students ith !S are
not all the same. $t is not enough to simply apply the guidance suggested here* ithout
thinking carefully about the individual in .uestion and the conte5t in hich they
operate. <vertly over-supporting someone can disempoer and disable. Subtly
backing them up is a more sensitive response.
!onsiderations
9
The folloing .uestions may help the institution to be positive* the DS! !ssessor ith
their recommendations* the Disability <fficer ith service planning* and be useful to
other staff ho come into contact ith students ith !sperger syndromeC
Pre#entry
%. Ho does the institution market itselfB $s it knon for having a positive attitude and
an understanding of the potential re.uirements of a person ith !sperger
syndromeB $f so* is the information about the sort of backup hich can be offered
truthfulB <rganisations hich over-promise and under-deliver are not effective in
supporting students ith !S ho rely heavily on people being reliable.
3. 8efore entry to H(* is some sort of transitional planning possible so that the
student has time to familiarise him or herself ith the environment they are moving
into "eg pre-entry Summer School or a chance to look at their room in residence
before moving in#B $t is desirable for the student to try things out because potential
problems around imagining ne situations in the abstract. /ould a structured and
constructive gap year be really helpful for some individuals ho may then apply to
University on the basis of knon ! level grades and ith a DS! sorted ell in
advance.
D. $s there an opportunity to carry out a DS! needs assessment early so that support
can be put in place from the beginning of the courseB " DS! regulations mean that
it is theoretically possible to do this from the !pril of the year of entry. The
challenge is to secure appropriate diagnostic information to satisfy the student;s
local authority* and to find an !ssessment /entre ith a short enough aiting list
and a sufficiently detailed understanding of !S.
9. Does the person carrying out the DS! assessment liaise closely "ith the students
permission# ith the Disability <fficer in the University hen making support
recommendationsB "$ncreasingly the e5pectation is that a good .uality needs
assessment ill include this#. $t is necessary to ensure that the DS! assessment is
realistic about the sort of support hich is feasible and that arrangements are
e5pressed clearly so that boundaries are made e5plicit. ! notetaker may be
recommended for e5ample* ho can also help the student to organise his or her
ork. Support may be made available to assist ith social activities. $n each
instance* roles* times and boundaries must be clear to avoid ambiguity. Ho is
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communication ith parents organised in the DS! assessment* in order to make
sure that the student has the opportunity to put their vie acrossB (nsuring that
permission is gained to talk to parents and time ithout them in the room during
the assessment is recommended.
). Does the Disability <fficer subse.uently ork ith the student to negotiate ho
best any information sharing should be organised to assist people to understand
the potential positive contribution and sort of support hich is likely to be re.uiredB
$f advocacy backup is needed for this to be effective* hat sort of strategies can be
employed to make sure that the student is putting their vies across* rather than
being influenced heavily by the perceptions of a third part* such as a parentB
E. $s the university e5perience considered holistically* so that access to University life
is not restricted to academic activityB "-otential social isolation* underdeveloped
possible lack of independent living skills* such as cooking and managing money*
are important considerations and* though not covered by DS!* support ith these
aspects of life can mean the difference beteen success and failure. #.
&. !re the named people in the University managing the transition process in liaison
ith each other and in consultation ith the studentB "-arents are likely to have
played a very large role in enabling their son or daughter practically and socially as
ell as emotionally* and can be an e5cellent source of advice* ith appropriate
permission from the student of course. Sensitivity is re.uired to the possibility that
parents; vies may differ from those of their offspring#.
+. $s staff development ade.uate* positive* timely "anticipatory# and available to all
relevant "not 0ust academic# staffB 1esidential services; personnel* for e5ample*
are likely to need advice. $t is easy to assume that an articulate* ell-presented
young person has more ability to look after him or herself than they actually
possess. They may ell have relied heavily on parents and find it difficult to cope
ith practicalities* ithout fairly lo key but reliable backup "eg an early morning
call* being shon ho to use the ashing machine#.
F. Do staff have the opportunity to consider their responsibilities under the DD! -art
9 in relation to hat is re.uired hen orking ith a student ith !SB "This could
cover ho behaviours associated ith !S may manifest themselves in the
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individual* appropriate responses from staff* course = environmental re.uirements*
and an understanding of confidentiality* and issues around enabling a student ho
may be very sensitive about their disability#. $s practical advice for staff presented
tactfully enough so they feel confident in their ability to enable the student by
providing reliable backup* rather than confused and orried by the ambiguity
around the disability.
%'. !re arrangements set up so that the student can make contact ith the University*
and receive an appropriate informed response if necessary during the summer
holiday after leaving school =college and before starting as a University studentB
"!n5iety may build up during this phase because of the uncertainty#.
%%. $s it possible for a named person at the University make contact ith the student
during the pre-entry summer holiday to make sure they kno hat is going to
happen on the first dayB ! brief phone call can make the difference beteen orry
escalating and diminishing.
$s the student6s first contact ith the University planned "in liaison ith parents=
appropriate provider# and evaluated afterards so that any problems* hich arise*
can be addressed siftlyB "$s this the responsibility of a named individual#B Simple
planning like ensuring that the student is met by someone ho is able to sho
him=her around can make a big difference* as orking out hat to do in an
ambiguous situation can pose a great challenge to someone ith !S in an
unfamiliar environment.
$n the programme of study
%3. $s there a method of helping the student to generate a clear comprehensible
timetable as early as possible so they can develop a sense of security about here
they are supposed to be* hen and hat for B !re staff clear that unpredictable
changes to this timetable ill be very confusing to students ith !S ho may
struggle to ork out ho to deal ith the une5pected. ! culture of informing of
knon changes in advance* ith an email or a note on the door or similar* ill help
all students* not 0ust those ith !S.
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%D. Social e5perience may be limited hen the student begins H(* and they may have
relied .uite heavily on family support for social contact. $s it possible to put some
sort of regular recreational activity in place and provide appropriate backup to
facilitate attendanceB "The student may have never travelled independently on
public transport* for e5ample* and may need practical help ith this#. /an 7resher;s
eek be planned really carefully to assist the student to develop a social timetable
by 0oining clubs and societiesB
%9. Help to arrange health care* dentistry* and bank accounts may also be re.uired.
2hat sort of strategies can be employed to ensure that this is provided and
monitored* and that the student is taking care of their health " eg by eating
regularly#B
%). $f a student is adamant that they do not re.uire assistance and do not ant others
to kno they have !S* hat can be done to ensure that their right to confidentiality
is not compromisedB "The situation is most comple5 hen a student is unable to
relate to the effect of their behaviour on other people because of their on lack of
empathy* or does not understand hy aspects of course ork are falling belo
standard. <ften* very direct advice hich describes the impact of an action on the
student and does not contain a great deal of emotional content is re.uired "eg you
have to go on the field trip because if you dont you will fail the course#. This
response presents factual information ithout unnecessary emotional overload.
%E. $s it possible to support students ithout labelling themB !rguably* if staff suspect
that someone has !S* a lo key approach to enabling the person to access
reliable support services is likely to be more empoering in some instances than
an approach hich re.uires a diagnosis. Gery careful consideration is vital before
any interaction hich involves mentioning !S to a student ho has not disclosed.
They may have a diagnosis hich they do not ish to share and vie a clumsy
approach as highlighting their failure to blend in.
%&. Do the staff feel supported and kno here to go if they need help* and ho can
this be done in a ay hich ill not compromise student confidentialityB "! one-off
staff development event ill not be enough as people can be left feeling that they
have to cope because they have had 6 the training;. ?etting the message across
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that support services need to be reliable and orientated toards problem -solving is
helpful#.
%+. $s personal support provided* including assistance or monitoring in halls of
residence* from the start of the courseB problefor "7ront loaded support in
transition may ell lead to greater independance later#.
%F. !re support arrangements made absolutely clear to the student* revieed regularly
and amended if necessaryB "! single named person throughout the course may
not be the best idea as over identification may lead to a dependent relationship* but
the student needs to kno hat to do = here to go for support if they get into
difficulties. ! small team of people able to offer backup at a regular time each eek
is probably best as this is likely to be the most reliable system#. ! timetable hich
describes episodes of time limited support hich occur at regular times through the
eek can be beneficial as this can be integrated into the routine.
3'. !re transitions and changes hich take place throughout the course managed in a
ay that minimises stressB "eg changing modules* around e5am time#. 2herever
possible* can a student be notified of changes "eg to the timetable#* in advance.
/an some orry-inducing changes be avoided "eg could staying in halls for the
duration of the course be an optionB#
3%. !re systems for communicating ith the student made clear so that they kno for
e5ample* to e5pect email instructions* electronic versions of handouts in advance
of lectures* a te5t to arn of a room change or similar. Sometimes electronic
communication is less stressful and has clearer boundaries than face-to-face
interaction.
33. !re mechanisms in place to help the student ork through ideas in order to see
connections beteen aspects of the course and to generalise and apply learning
across conte5tsB Aack of fle5ible imagination can be a characteristic of !S so
support to do this is a legitimate* disability-related reasonable ad0ustment.
3D. Does help ith personal organisation* if re.uired* e5tend to practical self help skills*
such as shopping* as ell as academic backup* like filing ork properlyB
14
Transitions and pre#e%it support.
39. $s careful consideration given to the re.uirements an individual may have in
relation to field trips* visits and ork e5perienceB $t may be that the academic side
of this activity is relatively straightforard* but advice on ho to interact socially*
hat to ear* or here to catch the bus is re.uired.
3). $s there enough fle5ibility in the system to facilitate e5am arrangements* hich
minimise stressB (5tra time or a separate room may be needed. The student may
benefit from some control of the space to minimise sensory overload "eg they may
choose to ork ith the blinds don#. (5am instructions and .uestions should be
e5pressed in unambiguous language and the format of the paper should be clear
and familiar. The student may need prompting to go onto the ne5t .uestion and to
understand time constraints. 1est breaks may be re.uired. $f the student has
dysle5ia in addition to !S or uses unusual* possibly pedantic language they should
not be penalised for this. -ractice ith a reader or scribe ill be essential if this is
to be used* and changing personnel at the last minute ould not be an option. The
e5am routine itself may be very stressful and should be made as clear as possible.
/an alternatives to e5ams be e5plored in some instancesB
3E. !re systems fle5ible enough to ensure that the student is given every opportunity
to succeedB "/redit accumulation and transfer* modular courses* fle5ible modes of
delivery* timescale* and combined studies#. $s a change of course ithin the same
institution possible* here necessaryB $s time-out an option and if so* is it possible
to support the student in making sure this time is not asted "eg by studying for an
<pen University module from home for a period of time#.
3&. !re end of course transitional arrangements for moving on supportive and
sustained "eg ith the support of specialist careers and supported employment
agencies#.
&inally
3+. $s the approach positive* as The Disability (.uality Duty re.uires* so that the
student is seen as someone ho can contribute and do ell ith appropriate
15
support* rather than a potential problemB $s this done ithout applying subliminal or
overt pressure on the person ith !S to be :the ne5t (instein;B
3F. $s there a thriving culture of valuing diversity ithin the organisationB $f not* can
The Disability (.uality Duty be e5ploited as a vehicle for positive changeB
D'. $s the responsibility for supporting disabled students oned and shared by people
at all levelsB
!oncluding comments
Students knon to have !S have achieved in H( ith enormous personal
determination and the backup of sensitive support services and often family members.
<thers have managed ithout disclosing !S or seeking backup. /areful planning to
ensure that reliable help is in place from as early as possible is most likely to facilitate
success.
2hen staff are prepared and open to the idea that !S* an ambiguous hidden disability*
is real* and that seemingly trivial things can create real problems* they feel more able
to offer appropriate support. <ften small ad0ustments designed to make routines
predictable can alleviate potential difficulties .uite easily. !n attitude of valuing
diversity and not making value 0udgements about hat may be perceived as unusual
behaviour is very helpful.
Staff feel more confident if they can access information hich puts across the
message that straightforard* unambiguous reliable backup is re.uired by students
ith !S and they can play a valuable part in ensuring that this occurs. $t is not
necessary or desirable to :hold the student;s hand; all the time but it is essential to be
clear about the services the student can e5pect* and reliable in their delivery . Help
ith practical and social activities is often as important as academic support* therefore
personnel from all parts of the university ould benefit from an aareness of their role
in supporting students ith !S.
!ll staff development activities need to caution against stereotyping and emphasise
that no to individuals ith !S are the same. ! culture hich values diversity and is
committed to empoering people* the legislative re.uirements of the DD!* and an
increasing familiarity ith people ith !S in the H( sector* are factors hich are likely
16
to make University more user friendly over time. The Disability (.uality Duty re.uires
that disabled people are consulted and involved in the formation of disability e.uality
schemes. Aearners ith !S may ell be very vocal on the sub0ect* if encouraged and
supported . -ractitioners are urged to talk to the students. The e5pertise lies ith
people ith !sperger syndrome.
17
'eferences and further reading
/oates. S. "%FFE# $ssues relating to the further education and support of students ith
autism* The Skill Journal )9* %%-%9.
/ottrell. S. "3''D# Students ith dysle5ia and other specific learning disabilities in S.
-oell. S. "(d# Special teaching in higher education! successful strategies for
inclusion* AondonC ,ogan -age
/roucher ,."3''9# 2hat happens ne5tB ! report on the first destinations of 3''3
graduates ith disabilities* The Skill Journal "#D
/umine. G. Aeach. !nd >. Stevenson. ?. "%FF+$% &sperger syndrome! a practical
guide for teachers% Aondon. David 7ulton.
Datlo-Smith. M. 8elcher. 1. >uhrs. -. "%FF)# & guide to successful employment for
individuals with autism 8altimore. Aondon. -aul 8rooks.
Debbault. D. "3''3# &utism advocates and law enforcement professionals%
recognising and reducing risk situations for people with autistic spectrum disorders
Aondon. -hiladelphia. >essica ,ingsley.
Deimel* A. "3''9# Ho diagnosis can change an outlook on employment for !sperger
syndrome people. a personal account; 'ood &utism (ractice Journal* )* %* 3)-D%
Df(S "3''3# &utistic Spectrum )isorders! 'ood (ractice 'uidance* AondonC Df(S
Df(S "3''9# *ridging the 'ap! guide to disabled student+s allowances ,)S&s$ in
higher education in -../#0. AondonC Department for (ducation and Skills.
Department of Health "3'''# No secrets! guidance on developing and implementing
multi#agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse AondonC
HMS<
Disability Discrimination !ct "3'')# Disability (.uality Duty .dotheduty.org
Drake. 1. "%FFF$ 1nderstanding disability policies AondonC Macmillan
18
(.uality /hallenge Unit "3''9# 2mploying disabled people in higher education%
guidance* (/U Aondon.
(riksson. 8 and >ohnstone. D. "3''9# Disabled students in higher educationC a pilot
study in to (uropean universities* The Skill Journal 3esearch Supplement* &+* %-F
7leisher M. "3''3# Making sense of the unfeasible! my life 4ourney with &sperger
syndrome AondonC >essica ,ingsley.
?oddard. ,. "3''9# Draft Disability Discrimination 8illC an update; The Skill Journal*
&F* %' -%3
Harpur. >. Aalor. M. and 7it@gerald M "3''9# Succeeding in college with &sperger
syndrome% AondonC >essica ,ingsley
Hakins. ?. "3''9$ 5ow to find work that works for people with &sperger syndrome *
AondonC >essica ,ingsley
Holliday-2illey "3''D#. &spergers syndrome in adolescence! living with the ups and
downs and things in between* AondonC >essica ,ingsley.
Holin* -. "3''D# &utism! preparing for adulthood -
nd
edition Aondon. 1outledge.
.Holin* -. "3'''# <utcome in adult life for more able individuals ith autism or
!sperger syndrome &utism% The 6nternational Journal of 3esearch and (ractice% / "
ED-+)
>ones* ?. "3''%# ?iving the diagnosis to the young person ith !sperger syndrome or
high functioning autismC issues and strategies* ?ood !utism -ractice >ournal* 3* 3* E)-
&).
<;Neill. >. "%FF+# . !utismC isolation not desolationC personal account &utism! the
6nternational Journal of 3esearch and (ractice 3* 3* %FF-3'9.
Aovecky. D "3''9# )ifferent minds! gifted children with &)5) &sperger syndrome and
other learning deficits >essica ,ingsley. Aondon.
19
Auckett T. H -oell S. Students ith autism and !sperger;s syndrome; in S.-oell
"(d# Special teaching in higher education AondonC ,ogan -age
Mahood. A and Holin. -. "%FFF# The outcome of a supported employment scheme
for high functioning adults ith autism or !sperger6s syndrome &utism% The
6nternational Journal of 3esearch and (ractice% D* D* 33F-3)9.
Martin. N. "%FFE# !sperger;s syndrome 4 a challenge for the family The Skill Journal%
)9* %9 -%&.
Meyer. 1. "3''%# &sperger syndrome employment workbook% an employment
workbook for adults with &sperger syndrome* AondonC >essica ,ingsley.

Molloy. H. and Gasil. A. "3''9# &spergers syndrome adolescents and identity%
looking beyond the label AondonC >essica ,ingsley.
Moyes. M "3''3# !ddressing the challenging behaviour of children with high
functioning autism and &sperger syndrome in the classroom* AondonC >essica
,ingsley.
Murray* D "3'')# Coming out &spergers* AondonC >essica ,ingsley
Iuality !ssurance !gency "I!!# for Higher (ducation "%FFF# Code of practice for the
assurance of academic 7uality and standards in higher education Section 8! students
with disabilities+% AondonC I!!.
Thomas* A "3''9# Seeking and negotiating academic support in higher educationC a
.ualitative analysis of the e5periences of students ith mental health problems* The
Skill Journal &+* D-E

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