Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum in Higher Education
Mentor: Kathy Patterson
In a classroom setting, it’s easy to identify a person with a broken arm. Instantly, the instructor might assume that this student needs assistance with note-taking. But what happens when there is no obvious cue that a student needs accommodations? The markers of being on the spectrum are not always apparent. This makes it challenging for instructors to not only identify students in need but also to know how to proceed when they do come across these students. Signs of being on the spectrum can be misinterpreted by instructors who might see unwillingness to interact with peers as anxiety or avoidance of eye contact as shyness. My project is designed to advocate for those who feel like they don’t have a voice in a classroom setting. In order to determine how best to provide accommodations for students on the autism spectrum, college instructors must first be able to identify who they are and what they need. I will interview UCSB instructors to hear their perspective about working with students who are on the spectrum. With the information I gain on what instructors know and do when helping students on the spectrum, I will develop an online practical guide to help college instructors effectively meet the needs of these students.
The purpose of this research project is to first and foremost raise awareness about the autism spectrum. Second, I want to help instructors create higher education classrooms that are more welcoming and comfortable for students. In addition, I want to remind instructors and staff that, although students on the spectrum and those who may have other invisible disabilities may not be apparent, these students are not only out there, but their numbers are growing.
Check out my project website here: https://www.thespectruminhighered.com/