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Autism spectrum disorder, also known as ASD, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges associated with social skills, speech, and non-verbal behaviour. This article highlights ways in which both SUSU and the University of Southampton have, and continue to support autistic students.
The main port of call for support and practical advice provided by the students union is its Advice Centre and this is no different for autistic students. Located in Building 40 above Stag’s, the Advice Centre offers students practical support mostly around three core topic areas – housing, finances, and academia. The office is open during term time Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and the center can also be contacted via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or by phone: 02380 592085.
This year, for the first time ever the Clubs and Societies Fayre, or Bunfight, was opened an hour early to students registered with the University’s Enabling Services. The initiative was specifically designed with mobility impaired and autistic students in mind and SUSU also hope to reproduce the scheme at the 2018/19 academic year Bunfight.
In terms of sports clubs, VP Sports Steve Gore and VP Welfare Sam Higman have collaborated this academic year to work on a ‘Welfare in Sports’ campaign, aiming to make sports societies ‘as mindful and inclusive as possible to all members’.
Finally, Southampton RAG have this year led the way in raising funds for the National Autistic Society. A leading British charity, the National Autistic Society provides services to autistic people of all ages, ranging from community day hubs to special autism centres in mainstream schools, campaigns for government policies to show a greater understanding of autistic people’s needs, and runs an Autism Accreditation Programme for organisations to achieve recognition for autism-friendly practices. This year, RAG has helped raise nearly £7,000 to donate to the society via a sponsored sky-dive and awareness-raising Street Raid.
University of Southampton:
Enabling Services help provide support for students with physical or mental health disabilities or special learning difficulties. Located in Building 37 (pictured left), drop-in sessions are available during term time from Monday-Friday, 1-3pm. Alternatively, with the exception of Counselling appointments, telephone or Skype-based appointments can also be made. Enabling Services can be contacted by email – email@example.com – or by phone: 023 8059 7726.
As well as one-to-one advice, learning support, and the possible provision of additional exam arrangements, Enabling Services also run a series of events throughout the year to enhance the well-being of students with disabilities, health conditions or special learning difficulties.
One event recently held was a four week, informal, sensory sessions mindfulness course, while in April Enabling Services will be running a training session on how to best utilize free assistive technology apps. If an individual is registered with Enabling Services, they can request a special network log-in providing them with access to the assistive technology which the university provides ‘for anyone who may need assistance to gain more equal access to the academic curriculum’.
University of Southampton student Charlotte Colombo, herself diagnosed with Asperger’s, said of the support provided by Enabling Services:
The assistive technology (i.e. two screens) is invaluable to my studies to lay out and organise all that jumble in my brain. Also, Enabling provide resources to ease the transition as an extra visit day where you visit the support staff (including a one-to-one mentor), and get all the provisions you need in place ready for freshers.
It definitely put me at ease and made starting university a lot less stressful.
Via Enabling Services, the Wessex Needs Assessment Centre and three regional outreach centres can assess students to determine whether they are entitled to extra support and also supply guidance to individuals applying for Disabled Students’ Allowance.
This grant helps cover the extra costs incurred by students due to an ongoing disability, health condition or special learning difficulties. Autistic students are eligible for the grant, although being diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) does not guarantee that your application for grant funding will be successful.
Acknowledgments: With thanks to VP Welfare Sam Higman and Students’ Union Coordinator Ilona Bartlett for highlighting recent SUSU initiatives.