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Going to college: Third-level institutions are becoming more autism-friendly

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Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris relaxes in a new sensory room at the National College of Ireland, the second higher education college in Ireland to be designated an Autism Friendly Higher Education Institute by AsIAm

Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris relaxes in a new sensory room at the National College of Ireland, the second higher education college in Ireland to be designated an Autism Friendly Higher Education Institute by AsIAm

Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris relaxes in a new sensory room at the National College of Ireland, the second higher education college in Ireland to be designated an Autism Friendly Higher Education Institute by AsIAm

Supports for students with autism entering or resuming their third-level studies are steadily growing.

The advocacy organisation AsIAm has launched a website — AutismFriendlyHEI.ie — which should prove very helpful to young people who may find the transition to third level challenging, particularly in the context of Covid-19.

It features practical resources and advice, including videos with helpful tips from other students who have had the same experience. There’s also financial and budgeting advice, virtual tours and simple student recipes.

AsIAm has also undertaken significant work in making the university experience more autism-friendly.

In 2018, it launched the world’s first framework for universities to achieve a whole-of-campus accreditation for autism-friendly practice, in partnership with Dublin City University (DCU).

DCU was the first higher-level institution to implement the standard and, recently, the National College of Ireland (NCI) was also accredited. Five other higher-education institutions are working towards the recognition, while generally, throughout the sector, more attention is being paid to supporting students with autism.

Autism-friendly universities have seen staff receive training in autism, specific calm spaces created on campuses and significant increases in the number of young people disclosing a diagnosis to university authorities and accessing support.

Free Laptops

Free laptops will be available to disadvantaged students and will be distributed through lending schemes run by the higher-education institutions. This is similar to the scheme that operated last year after the pandemic forced the switch to online learning.

Students who consider they might be eligible to receive a device should contact their college Access Office.

The scheme will be primarily aimed at first years but it is open to anyone to seek support.

Last year, more than 8,000 laptops were distributed to higher-education students.


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