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Barriers and facilitators to supporting Canadian autistic postsecondary students: Experiences of accessible learning staff and administrators

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number102260
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/11/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/10/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Specific supports like social skills training, support groups, and mentorship programs can improve autistic postsecondary students’ chances of success. To improve inclusion practices, it is vital to understand the experiences of key staff and administrators who support autistic students during their postsecondary education. This mixed-methods study provides insight into the scope, strengths, and weaknesses of autism-specific services among Canadian universities from the perspective of university staff and administrators associated with accessibility services. Method: Thirty-six staff and administrators (N = 36) from publicly-funded Canadian universities responded to an online survey, and eight participated in a follow-up semi-structured interview. Descriptive statistics and reflexive thematic analysis were conducted. Results: Half of the participants endorsed having support for autistic students; the most common being for transition to university. Main obstacles to providing autism-specific supports included a need for more funding, knowledgeable staff, and institutional support. In the interviews, participants reported a strong desire to support autistic students; however, noted several barriers, including under-resourced challenges faced by staff and limitations to funding. Conclusions: Findings highlight financial and practical challenges to supporting autistic students on postsecondary campuses. We advocate for the implementation and evaluation of wrap-around services for autistic students to enhance their success and promote social inclusion. Achieving this will require changes at all levels of the university system, including leadership and policy decisions involving autistic advocates’ perspectives.