Dublin City University is working towards becoming Ireland’s first autism friendly campus through a collaboration between DCU, AsIAm and Specialisterne Ireland (a specialist consultancy that recruits and supports people with Autism)
The project was developed as more people with Autism are attending education in Ireland than ever before. 86% of those with Autism attend mainstream school or an autism class in a mainstream school. This highlights the fact that people with Autism are capable of engaging with an academic curriculum and integrating into a mainstream environment.
However people with Autism can find transition and change difficult and therefore, the transition to college – from a highly structured, controlled environment to an independent, adult world can be particularly challenging.
University presents an important opportunity for people with Autism to go on and access the jobs market, study a subject they are interested in and socialise through activities and special interests.
It is important, as we see more and more young people come through the school’s system with Autism, to explore the University experience of those currently enrolled, to identify key barriers and challenges and to explore how we can develop University as an “Autism-friendly” environment.
The work to date with DCU has involved conducting a campus wide survey, to all students, and focus groups with staff to capture their experiences, knowledge and attitudes about autism.
We are now working with the University to raise awareness and deliver training about Autism. This has included working with students to set up a society ‘Spectrum’ for students with autism, and their friends. We will be holding our ‘Autism Experience’ Exhibition in the helix and on the Saint Patrick’s campus, and deliver training to students and staff throughout March and April.
We hope that by identifying the key concerns and difficulties of students with Autism, to make a series of recommendations to the University to further meet the needs of students on campus. This will lead to an improved college experience for students with Autism in DCU.
‘This project was approved by Government with support from the Dormant Accounts Fund’