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Towards an inclusive environment for university students who have Asperger syndrome (AS)

Nicola Martin, Sheffield Hallam University
Co-author(s): Martin N, Beardon L, Hodge N, Goodley D, Madriaga M

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This paper is informed by a range of studies which have actively listened students who have Asperger syndrome (AS) describing the sort of support services they would benefit from at university. Manny Madriaga (working with Goodley, Hodge and Martin) has systematically followed the lives of eight students during their first year in various UK universities, and has learned from their insights. Luke Beardon and Genevieve Edmonds have co-ordinated a study in which over 200 people with AS have shared ideas about a range of support including university based services. Nicola Martin also draws on the experience of practitioners working with students who have AS in an attempt to identify what good practice might look like.

The studies have revealed that students with AS commonly experience stereotyping and lack of empathy from other people, often arriving at university with previous experience of exclusion. Staff feel worried about their ability to help. In reality, reliability, empathy, anticipation and logic are the cornerstones of helpful services. Reliable practitioners who respect individuality, communicate with clarity, help the learner to build on their strengths and find ways around potential difficulties, are more use than those who have a stereotyped view of what AS is all about. Students often reinvent themselves at university, are euphoric about their achievements, and become increasingly independent and socially included, over time. Services can help or hinder them in this learning process. This study focuses on helpful approaches.

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