D. Gallacher

Glasgow Caledonian University (UNITED KINGDOM)
In recent years there has been growing recognition of the importance of providing support for students on the autism spectrum during key transition stages in Higher Education. Primarily, these have focused on transition into university, with some work looking at onward progression. For pre-entry transition, staff in our team have been involved in long-standing work in the development of a ‘Summer Transition Programme’, in collaboration with the National Autistic Society.

In isolation these are effective tools. However, there are not always connections from one transition stage to the next. A 2012 Equality Challenge Unit (UK) study highlights that autistic graduates are least likely to be in full time employment, compared to both their disabled and non-disabled peers. The report shows that 22% of graduates in this category are unemployed after graduation. People with a physical/mobility difficulty make up the next highest group at 14% (ECU, 2014:2).This highlighted the need to look into the support provided to identify areas for improvement, and to help prepare students more effectively for life beyond university.

The aim of this paper is to look at how we can link transition stages to create an on-going programme of support, designed to take students from pre-application through to graduation (and beyond). The rationale is that a student’s transition at university never stops, and simply moves from one stage to another. It is through each of these stages that we can assist students to develop the core life skills needed for future progression beyond academia.

The main points of the paper will be to:
- Identify the various transition stages a student will go through during their time at university. Exploring why they are crucial and what to consider.
- Look at the support available to help manage each of these transition stages. Including visits to local schools, a pre-entry transition programme, mentoring support and social skills development (tailoring the Socialeyes pack devised by the National Autistic Society).
- Show how these support mechanisms/programmes can, and must, be connected to empower the student and to aid their progression.
- Identify opportunities for the future: how can we build upon this model? Where are we finding gaps? What are we doing to address these?
- The model will demonstrate how this comprehensive support can be provided at low cost by working in partnership with schools, academic colleagues and third sector organisations.
- To demonstrate effectiveness, the model will look at feedback from students who have been through each of the stages.
- Look at how we can help to develop the core skills that students need to try and address the gap in employment rates for this group. Tackling issues around social communication, work placements, organisation and time management.

These points will be covered by providing an overview of the model used at this university, highlighting novel examples, which will hopefully be transferable to colleagues elsewhere. The model is one which has been developed over the last 5 years and is constantly evolving based on the needs of our students.

The key conclusions will be the need for greater links between support at key stages. By linking these stages we can support students to develop the core skills they will need to make the step into employment, post-graduation. The aim will be to provide a platform/model for development for other institutions.