The lived experience of autistic tutors at a higher education institution: reflections and recommendations for student support

Aubrey, Claire and Laskey, Philippa (2022) The lived experience of autistic tutors at a higher education institution: reflections and recommendations for student support. In: NET 2022 Conference (Networking for Education in Healthcare), 6-7 September 2022, Lancaster University, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Promotional abstract: This presentation will discuss the benefits of framing the tutor as an expert by experience, outline their potential role in student support, and highlight the culture change needed to accommodate this approach to student support within a university setting. The two presenters are both autistic and so will be drawing on their own experience to demonstrate this in a meaningful and authentic way.

Key concepts to be addressed, including, where possible, the international relevance: There is a documented increase in the number of students entering higher education who have a wide and diverse range of needs. Consideration should therefore be given to how to enable institutions and students to work together in harmony so that students feel comfortable discussing and disclosing their needs, whilst universities are engaged in listening and understanding students’ needs on an individual basis. Although the training of tutors is often recommended as a way of building understanding around support, this can be limited in scope and will undoubtedly contradict the framework of individualisation as it can only ever offer a generic overview.

Aim(s)/focus: This session will discuss the benefits of framing the tutor as an expert by experience, outline their potential role in student support, and highlight the culture change needed to accommodate this approach to student support within a university setting.

Evidence base and literature informing the arguments: There is a documented increase in the number of students entering higher education who have a wide and diverse range of needs. Specifically, in 2019/20 332,300 students in higher education declared a known disability, which is an increase of 47% from 2014/15 (Hubble & Bolton, 2021). Although there is a lack of research on this topic, there is a suggestion that support is both limited and inconsistent across the UK (Kendall, 2018), which could be as a result of policies and frameworks which are open to interpretation by each institution. Additionally, it has been found that students do not always disclose fully, either due to poor understanding of their own condition or need, or due to stigma and fear of discrimination (Grimes, Southgate, Scevak & Buchanan, 2019). Feelings of ‘otherness’ have frequently been cited when discussing discrimination (Calloway & Copeland, 2021) and so it is the normalisation and acceptance of this ‘otherness’ that this solution seeks to address.

Issues for debate: A potential solution that we will be proposing in this presentation, is the concept of using the lived experience of tutors to promote an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion in universities. Rather than a formalised package of training, this approach would cultivate an inclusive environment through role modelling. The approach we are proposing has the potential to enable students to feel both represented and accommodated by being able to identify with the tutors and their experiences of similar challenges in higher education. It is also hoped that these tutors would be seen as a safe space or person for students who are in need of support.

Three key points to indicate how your work contributes to knowledge development within the selected theme:
1. This work contributes to a deeper understanding and appreciation of tutors with lived experience.
2. It shows a potential stronger integration of this into the university support system.
3. It will address a unique and largely unexplored style of student support.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Departments: Institute of Health > Medical Sciences
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2022 12:26
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2022 12:30
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/6584

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