Living with Autism As a University Student: An Irish University Experience

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
M. R. Sweeney, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Ireland
Background:  A recent autism prevalence study conducted in Ireland has shown Autism rates of 1%. The National Council for Special Education in Ireland recently published new policy advice on the education of people with Autism. One of the findings, underpinning the Council’s advice, is that 1 in 65 or 14,000 students in National and Secondary school in Ireland have a diagnosis of Autism. This means that more people with Autism are attending education in Ireland than ever before.


The aim of our research project is to explore the college related experiences of students with autism attending an Irish University. Of particular interest is

  • Their interactions with staff and other students
  • Their teaching and learning experiences
  • Their integration into the University community
  • The physical campus environment
  • Travel to and from campus


Methods: There are three parts to this study

1) An online survey with students with autism attending university (n=50)

2) Semi-structured interviews or focus groups (n = 3 groups of 6-8) with key campus staff who regularly engage with students with autism

3) An online survey of the entire student body at the University to explore their attitudes and knowledge of autism (n= 16,000) pre an post a high profile awareness campaign

Results:  Data from the 3 arms of the study above will be presented to give a picture of the issues arising for students attending university as well as the supports being put in place. Additional supports needed will be identified.

Conclusions:  This study will identify what is currently working well for students with Autism in the University and where improvements could be made to make the University more “Autism-Friendly”. It is hoped that a model will be developed which can be replicated in other HEIs.