Through the development of a range of initiatives and supports, the Autism at Uni program aims to address the challenges experienced by autistic students attending university and help ease the transition into the higher education environment.
Autistic people experience a number of barriers to inclusion and to reaching their potential, with some of the most significant barriers experienced in education and employment. Many of these barriers are social and environmental in nature and are predictors of low self-esteem, exclusion, and course drop-out.
As our understanding of autism increases – and we slowly break down the barriers to disclosure and inclusion – it is increasingly clear that a growing number of autistic people can and do thrive at university with the right support mechanisms in place.
At ACU we seek to explore, understand and implement those mechanisms within and beyond our university. We do not seek to change autistic people, but rather to build a more inclusive society where autistic people are supported to reduce barriers and recognise and celebrate strengths.
The (Uni)Life-Hacker mentor program is a peer mentoring scheme established for ACU students to develop supporting relationships to improve their positive outcomes during higher education. The (Uni)Life-Hacker mentors are students from ACU who:
To support our autistic students to adapt to university life, we are establishing a structured program of social activities developed for, and guided by, autistic students; enabling them to develop a sense of community by meeting and interacting in a safe, supportive environment. We hope to increase autistic students’ feelings of inclusion in the university community by providing an opportunity for neurotypical students to identify shared interests with autistic students. Social events include both recreational activities (such as board games) and skill development (such as meditation, cooking on a budget etc).
We provide access to a number of resources on succeeding at university as a student on the spectrum. They include librarian resources to facilitate study and research, websites, apps, study skills resources and books.
Sensory maps of ACU campuses are under development. These maps aim to make the university environment more accessible for autistic students by highlighting high-sensory and low-sensory zones.
Our Melbourne campus has a dedicated low-sensory room that autistic students, can access during the day. This quiet space has resources to help manage the challenges faced during University attendance including stim toys, weighted blankets and lego.
At ACU we are committed to providing inclusion equity to our students and have established the Autism Inclusion Equity Scholarship. This $4,000 scholarship will benefit autistic students commencing studies at our Blacktown Campus.
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