Autism Friendly University

Autism is a developmental condition that affects how one understands, relates to, and communicates with, other people, and the world. Common traits among autistic people include difficulty with communication and socialising, repetitive behaviours and heightened sensory perception. These characteristics make it more difficult to meet the everyday academic and social challenges of university life.

Over the past 20 years, children with autism have increasingly entered mainstream schools, and this ‘peak cohort’ is now moving on to third level. At DCU, we realised that universities needed to be better prepared to meet their needs. Since 2016, when we first collaborated with AsIAm, Ireland’s national autism charity, on research to identify barriers faced by autistic students in higher education, we have been proud to lead the way in creating a university environment where autistic students are understood, accepted and supported to reach their personal potential.

2017
DCU and AsIAm research published
Establishes 8 Principles of an Autism Friendly University

Shows that ordinary university situations cause increased stress, anxiety and sensory overload for autistic students, from lectures and group work to canteens and social events.

 

2018
DCU becomes Ireland's first Autism Friendly University
Commitment to embed 8 Principles of an Autism Friendly University through a 43-point action plan.
2018 - 2021
Autism Friendly University - Phase 1 Implementation
Creating a university experience where autistic students are understood, accepted and supported to reach their personal potential
  • Appointment of an Autism Friendly University Coordinator
  • Staff autism awareness training
  • Designation of quiet areas and installation of three sensory pods
  • Autism&Uni online toolkit to support transition into university
  • Establishment of a Neurodivergent Society
  • Interview skills training and internships with Specialisterne Ireland
  • World’s first Autism Friendly University Design Guide with Dr Magda Mostafa,  a world leader in autism-friendly design.
2021
Autism diagnosis disclosures double
From 35 students in 2016/17 to 81 in 2020/21
2022 - 2025
Autism Friendly University - Phase 2
Building on our success to help others

Plans for Phase 2 will include research on the successes and challenges of Phase 1 to help other universities follow in our footsteps and roll-out of a network of Escape Spaces across campus, following recommendations from the Autism Friendly University Design Guide.

Interested in supporting this project?

More Excellence and Opportunity Projects

Autism Friendly University

Autism is a developmental condition that affects how one understands,...

University of Sanctuary

DCU’s University of Sanctuary programme welcomes refugees and asylum seekers...

DCU Access Programme

We believe that talented youth should have the opportunity to...