The Dutch Fontys University of Applied Sciences offers talent-oriented education to anyone interested in technology, entrepreneurship and creativity. Student+ is a service that offers support in developing the talents of students with ADHD, autism, anxiety and dyslexia as well as those who just need support with planning and organising their studies, or have physical or psychological impairments.
What Student+ Services do
Student+ services at Fontys Hogeschool was developed primarily by a member of staff whose son was autistic, with the aim of improving the support available to students. Initially, the project was developed within the School of IT, though the project has since grown, with other areas of the organisation involved in supporting all students (not just autistic students).
Support ranges from planning, communication, teamwork and skills which are imperative to completing studies. This is offered in two main ways:
- Individual coaching, offered by a team of 43 volunteers, and
- workshops and training in areas such as planning and how to give and receive feedback.
Staff within the Student+ services not only offer support to students, but coach and advise teachers, HR staff and other colleagues within the school. This is done on a one-to-one basis where colleagues can access advice and support, as well as in workshops where best practice is discussed.
What is next?
The Student+ services have been very well received within the School of IT, with other areas of Fontys (for example the School of Applied Science and The School of Engineering) now adapting their practices and employing their own versions of the Student+ services.
Staff within the Student+ services at Fontys are also in the process of initiating an Autism Embassy, which aims to unite autistic employees, giving them a voice within the organisation and an opportunity to share experiences. This is still in the startup phase, but considering the success of the Student+ services, the Autism Embassy should be promising.
Student+ services plan to continue collaborating with projects such as IMAGE and anywhere else where positive changes can be made to make the study and employment more inclusive.
Tips to share with lecturers
- Inform yourselves about autism. Access training opportunities offered by national or regional autism organisations (see the resources section of the Good Practice Guide for Academics).
- Take on board feedback from autistic students and staff, listen to them and implement their ideas wherever possible.
- Remember, best practice for autistic students is best practice for ALL students. Something that benefits autistic students will benefit everyone.
Tips to share with employers
- Consider appointing an autism ambassador, or setting up an Autism Embassy, within your organisation. This can create a platform for employees with autism to have a safe space and give them a voice within the company.