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Students boost their employability with ‘real feel’ autism experience day

Date 5.11.2020

Students of an education degree saw their career prospects get a boost following a new addition to their programme that let them see, feel and hear the world as a person with autism would.

The Inclusive Studies in Special Educational Needs, Disability and Diversity team hosted an Autism Reality Experience for their undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Autism is a condition that affects all aspects of a person’s life including how they learn and their experience in the classroom. This impacts their communication skills and often causes them to display unusual or repetitive behaviours and interests.

The Autism Reality Experience is a mobile training day and this was the first time the event has been offered to University of Northampton students as part of their studies.

Within the ARE team’s van, UON students were able to experience the sensory world of a person with autism.

For instance, they put on glasses that distorted their vision, wore gloves that restricted their sense of touch and meant they could not pick things up easily and headphones that disturbed their hearing.

The students were then given various tasks to complete, such as opening a jar. A simple task for most but for someone with autism, much more difficult to complete.

The students were observed by a trainer who noted the behaviours and mechanisms they exhibited. They received feedback about their perceptions and how they navigated the world as a person with autism, invaluable to any special educational needs and inclusion professional.

Student Rhys Skyrme completed the training and said: “When attempting to understand autism and trying to come up with interventions, sensory difficulties are often overlooked and not accounted for. This experience has completely changed how I will put interventions in place for learners who have autism.

“In addition, the experience has given me a deeper understanding of some autistic behaviours that are not easily explainable. This course has been, quite literally, career changing.”

Tereza Aidonopoulou, Senior Lecturer in SEN and Inclusion – pictured on the left – said: “As far as we can at the University of Northampton, we strive to give our students the most comprehensive, special educational needs and inclusion education, giving them solid foundations for their future careers.

“This immersive experience was an unknown quantity, but it exceeded all of our expectations. All our students rated it as valuable time to understand first-hand the perspective of the people they will go on to support and champion. They will not only be more sympathetic but also have a greater understanding of the interventions they can put in place, embellishing what they learn in the classroom.

“They now have a certified experience to further enhance their employability skills. We look forward to hosting the Autism Reality Experience again for future students to enjoy.”

For more about the Autism Reality Experience.