University through the eyes of autistic students and staff

Book chapter


Martin, N. (2020). University through the eyes of autistic students and staff. in: Milton, D. (ed.) Neurodiversity Reader
AuthorsMartin, N.
EditorsMilton, D.
Abstract

Work related experiences of autistic university staff receive scant research attention and this contribution seeks to slightly reduce the size of a very large hole into which this area of enquiry seems to have fallen. Research which aims to identify barriers to higher education participation identified by autistic students is a little more prolific and examples are discussed here. Striking overlaps between the narratives of autistic people working and studying at university emerge in this review. Conclusions are drawn from the available evidence about common approaches which could benefit autistic employees and learners alike. These shelter largely under the universal design (UD) umbrella and are generally obvious and uncomplicated. UD can potentially benefit everyone because the approach involves planning for diversity rather than being surprised that the mythical norm is actually imaginary. The ethos of UD is congruent with the anticipatory anti-discriminatory duty of The Equality Act (2010). A model which has acquired the acronym REAL is discussed as a way to conceptualize good autism practice within a UD paradigm with the potential to benefit everyone. The approach is informed by a commitment to equality as a social justice concern. REAL stands for: reliable, empathic, anticipatory and logical.
As staff-focused sources are so limited, in comparison with research evidence about student experience, they are supplemented here by illuminating comments from autistic academics. The twelve people who contributed either provided information on post-it notes at a meeting of the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC) or responded to a call from an autistic researcher to provide insights for a book chapter. A common denominator is the experience of practices which impacted negatively on the possibility of full participation as researchers and /or lecturers in higher education. Most alarming was the recurring theme of providing autistic expertise to research without proper financial compensation.
The emergence and purpose of PARC as a vehicle for autistic scholars to collaborate is discussed. Although the collective’s reach is far greater now, PARC originated from The Critical Autism and Disability Research Group (CADS) at London South Bank University (LSBU). Participants regularly echo the contentions of autistic contributors to this paper that that they are seldom remunerated justly for their contribution to autism research. CADS operates within the Centre for Social Justice and Global Responsibility at LSBU and paid autistic co-researchers are always central to our autism research. This policy decision is a point of principle informed by a social justice ethos, the principle being ‘nothing about us without us’ (Charlton, 1998, p1). The extensive use of detailed unedited quotations from autistic contributors here reflects the centrality of unfiltered autistic voices to this contribution.

Year2020
Book titleNeurodiversity Reader
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ISBN9781912755394
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PrintSep 2020
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Deposited26 Oct 2021
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