11:35am Wednesday 13 November 2019

Summer school encourages students on the autism spectrum to choose university

But for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) these challenges are magnified considerably. Struggling to cope with change and transition, many young people on the autism spectrum find themselves deterred from applying.

To break down some of the barriers, this year the University is organising a free summer school for students with ASD. Through a residential course on campus, students with ASD will be able to experience all aspects of student life, helping to reduce stress and anxiety and build confidence.

ASD affects one in 68 people, representing over half a million people in the UK (700,000). Including families, ASD touches the lives of 2.7 million people every day. What’s more, the surge in diagnoses of ASD among children reported throughout the 1990s now means that an increasing number of students wishing to go to university with their peers will have ASD. 

Over three days in September in Bath, potential university students get a taster of lectures, seminars and extra-curricular activities and also experience ‘life in Halls’, staying in university accommodation before the main student body returns. It is open to all potential students with ASD, whatever their chosen discipline or university.

Dr Mark Brosnan from the Department of Psychology explained: “While there is much focus on the interpersonal difficulties of people with ASD, those with a diagnosis can also demonstrate great strengths and abilities that lead them to do extremely well in some aspects of university.

“The University of Bath has a long tradition of excellence in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and students with ASD can excel academically in these disciplines when their specific needs are supported.”

The summer school has been developed at Bath by Dr Mark Brosnan and colleagues Dr Chris Ashwin and Dr Ailsa Russell in the University’s Department of Psychology. This year marks the second year the course has been offered.

Dr Chris Ashwin said: “Last year’s summer school was fantastic experience for all those who attended and we will build on its success this year.

“Going to university can be a hugely stressful experience and the summer school will address issues and anxieties that might otherwise prevent people with ASD from applying in the first place, or dropping out when they get there.”

Richard Mills, of Research Autism added: “The summer school recognises the potential difficulties around transition for 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 Brosnan and his colleagues for this thoughtful and very important practical initiative, which we hope to see in other universities.”

The summer school is offered for free thanks to support from Bath Alumni, the University’s Widening Participation Office, The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund and Robert Burgess (Business Administration 1994). It will be run on campus from 1 – 3 September inclusive.

Attendees must be 17 or older, be considering going to university and have a diagnosis of ASD. There are 30 places available.

Find out more – http://www.bath.ac.uk/psychology/autism-summer-school.html


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