HEIs are now placing a greater emphasis on ensuring that autistic students have more access to support services. To equip universities who wish to create this learning environment, AsIAm has developed the Autism Friendly University Award, which provides a common understanding and good practice in third-level institutions. It is drawn from a range of evaluations, policy guidelines and best practices from Ireland, the UK and internationally.
In 2018 Dublin City University (DCU) became the world’s first accredited Autism Friendly University through AsIAm. DCU’s designation as Autism Friendly marked the conclusion of an 18-month research project, led by Dr Mary Rose Sweeney (the summary of which can be read here.) Through this research, AsIAm and DCU developed the initial 8 principles of an autism-friendly university.
The Principles focus on supporting students with the transition into Higher Education, complementary academic and social supports. Supports in the realm of communication, information processing, life skills, navigation of the physical campus and securing internships and employment. The Autism Friendly HEI Award aims to equip Autistic students to meet challenges of academic and social life, combating stigma and recognising the diverse experiences of students
In 2021, the first ever Autism-Friendly University Design Guide was developed in collaboration with DCU, AsIAm and global expert Prof Magda Mostafa, a world leader in the field of architectural design and the author of the world’s first research-based design framework for autism. This guide is founded on a basic foundational understanding that all students in higher education campuses have the equal right to a built environment that not only does not create barriers to their physical access to an education but provides, whenever and wherever possible, built environment supports that facilitate their access to the learning experience. To download the guide click here
February 16th, 2023, saw the launch of the Autism Friendly DCU Project Phase 2, which launched the 9th principle. This new principle aimed for the inclusion of autistic staff in the university. This new principle has encouraged mentoring and counselling for employees. The second phase of the initiative will focus on building capacity to support autistic employees, piloting an indoor navigation app, a dashboard that informs users of current noise levels, locations of noisy and quiet spaces and zones on campus. To learn more about DCU and the Launch of Principle 9 click here
Dublin City University
Since 2018, DCU have completed many actions under each of the Autism Friendly HEI Principles. These have included the formation of the Neurodivergent Society (click here to learn more about the Neurodivergent Society in DCU) , sensory pods, (click here to learn more about the sensory pods) quiet rooms, online support and different supports for autistic staff, and increased awareness and training for staff and students. Additionally, DCU are implementing a mentoring programme, a sensory-friendly way-finding app, sensory ‘hubs’ in the Henry Grattan building, workshops for independent living skills, and a summer transition programme. To find out more about DCU and the Autism Friendly HEI Award, click here