Psychology launches first summer school for people with autism

The University is running a new free summer school for young people with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are thinking of going to university.

The 'Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum' will allow students with ASD to experience all aspects of student life at the residential summer school being held in September.

ASD is estimated to affect one in 88 people, representing about half a million people in the UK. The 1990s saw a surge in diagnoses of ASD in children who are now approaching university age.

Difficulties in dealing with change and transition are central to ASD, therefore the transition from home to university is often overwhelming and many potential students with ASD are deterred from attending or drop out.

The ‘Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum’ aims to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with the transition and will help prepare the students for university life.

While there is much focus on the interpersonal difficulties of people with autism, those with a diagnosis can also demonstrate great strengths and abilities that lead them to do extremely well in some aspects at university.

The University has a long tradition of excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (the STEM subjects) in addition to Humanities and the Social Sciences and students with ASD can excel academically in these disciplines when their specific needs are supported.

The summer school aims to equip students with ASD with the skills required to support their own learning at university. It is open to all potential students with ASD, whatever their chosen discipline.

The summer school has been developed by the Department of Psychology, led by Drs Mark Brosnan, Chris Ashwin and Alisa Russell. There are 30 places are available, free to those who wish to attend.

Dr Mark Brosnan said: “We’re very excited to be able to offer this opportunity to students with ASD thinking of going to university. Thanks to financial support from the Bath Alumni fund and the Widening Participation Office, we are able to offer this summer school free to those with a diagnosis of ASD.”

Dr Chris Ashwin said: “Going to university can be hugely stressful and we hope that the summer school will allow potential students to experience a little bit of student life and overcome some of the anxieties that may prevent them attending university.”

Dr Alisa Russell said: “The programme has been constructed to reflect ‘work, rest and play’, to ensure the students gain appropriate skills to negotiate the academic, personal and social skills necessary for successful university life.”

Annette Hayton, Head of Widening Participation added: “I am very pleased that the Department of Psychology has developed this pre-entry summer school. Successful transition to university for all students is at the heart of our approach to widening participation.”

The summer school will run for the first time on campus from September 10 to 12, 2013 (inclusive, 3 days and 2 nights). Attendees must have a diagnosis of ASD and considering going to university. The summer school is residential and students sleep in an individual student bedroom.

Drs Brosnan, Ashwin and Russell hope that regular funding can be secured to allow the ‘Introduction to University life: Summer school for students on the autism spectrum.’ to run every year.

Richard Mills, Research Director of Research Autism said: "The summer school recognises the potential difficulties around transition of students on the autism spectrum in dealing with novel experiences and offers students the opportunity to experience university life in a supportive environment. We commend Dr Mark Brosnan and his colleagues for this thoughtful and very important practical initiative, which we hope to see in other universities."

Find out more about the summer school and view a provisional timetable here or email staff for more information.

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