Needs of Spanish University Students, As Perceived By Their Relatives

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
M. E. Merino, ULIAZPI, San Sebastian, Spain

The number of university students diagnosed with autism is increasing. Providing these students with effective support is crucial to ensure they have opportunities to attend and succeed at university. The European project “Autism and Uni” was designed and developed to broaden knowledge on the transition to adulthood, with a specific focus on the transition to university. Although previous projects have used case studies and assessments of counseling interventions to describe students’ anxiety about higher education, the literature about the on-going needs of autistic university students remains thin.

Objectives: To identify opportunities for improvement of support services that parents of autistic university students believe would promote postsecondary success for students with autism.

Methods: A survey of 48 parents in Spain inquired about parents’ perceptions of their autistic children’s needs at university and the type of support their students received throughout higher education. Parents also offered recommendations for solutions to challenges they've seen their students experience in adulthood.

Results: Responses from parents indicate that the types of support provided to university students with autism varied widely. Fully 31% of the respondents indicated their students with ASD did not receive any support during university study. However, 27% had a specific teaching assistant inside the college, 27% received adjustments to exams, 25% had a tutor outside of the university, and 8% had a support group or adaptations in coursework.

Moreover, 78% of the responding parents reported that meeting with the institution’s disabilities support team before starting at university was important to help the ASD student successfully transition to university. Campus visits were important for 73% of respondents, while 60% felt they needed information about getting assistance with lectures prior to the start date. Only about half (53%) of the parents, however, considered it important to raise awareness amongst other students about autism.

Overall, 75% of parents of university students with autism felt “quite” or “very” confident in the academic ability of their children, though 48% of the parents would have preferred that their children had stayed at home instead of moving to another city to study.


Although most families felt confident about their child’s academic achievement, many parents worried about their child’s ability to live independently and integrate with peers at university. Other concerns related to helping their students set up their schedules and cope with unexpected changes that inevitably happen at university. To mitigate those concerns, families considered it particularly important to meet with the institution’s disabilities support team before students start at university. In particular, parents would have liked the universities to have an awareness of the common challenges linked to ASD, provide assistance with homework, and offer support for group projects. Results from this study, therefore, offer important guidance to both the families of college students with autism and the leaders of the postsecondary institutions they attend.