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The Exeter Spectrum Project

A fascinating project is underway in the Education Incubator this year, Layal Hakim and Barrie Cooper are working to improve the experience of students with autistic spectrum conditions. You can follow their progress on their web-page, and here, to get you started, is a re-blog of Layal’s recent post.

The autism champions met on Wednesday 23rd October at 13:00. We started the meeting watching a video on Rosie King’s personal experience with autism.

Following that, we discussed the challenges and opportunities around supporting autistic students. Some brief notes taken during the meeting are given below.

Can we get hold of data on proportion of autistic students in different subjects?

What existing support is available? AccessAbility provides support including advisors specializing in ASC mentoring, and support groups for autistic students on a regular basis.


Multiple-choice questions – can find fault with all answers, or distractors can be more distracting than intended.

Is the issue one of resourcing?  Do we need more recognition of the time this takes?  This should be business as usual, not above and beyond … but need time/resources to do it properly.

Hyper-sensitivity to sound, stimulation …

Room for interpretation in the task … can this be difficult to navigate?  Is this ambiguity an essential component of the subject, assessment, learning in some subjects?

Seminars and contributions?

Are ILPs being adhered to correctly?  Are all the recommended adjustments in the ILPs manageable?

Are there examples of inclusive assessment design? How does this relate to module descriptors and specifying the forms of assessment?  Need to understand more about the alternatives.  Examples of inclusive teaching also.

Do we have autism-friendly student accommodation?  Room opening to communal area could be daunting.

If autistic students have such diverse requirements, to what extent can general recommendations be made or be helpful?


Tailor resources, assessment, experiences to allow students to demonstrate a range of different abilities (not necessarily different assessments).

Help design situations and assessments that encourage use of imagination.

We can change the environment … ILPs might specify smaller rooms for examinations … technology such as noise-cancelling headphones?

Can we structure responses and answers to questions more without losing the essential ambiguity in some areas?

Could inclusive design save time and produce better experience versus adjusting for ILPs?

Might structured role-playing be more inclusive than a general discussion?

Can we do more on student expectations and what might reasonably happen e.g. ILPs adjustments?  Are ILPs the right way to do this anymore?

New university resource for inclusive design … relevant for any student.




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