AN Inverness College UHI project, which supports students with autism, has been named as the winner of the 2016 University of the Highlands and Islands Student Support Initiative Award.
Introduced last year, the award celebrates innovative projects which have enhanced the experience of students.
Inverness College UHI’s Spectrum Support Group was chosen for the award from entries from around the University of the Highlands and Islands network.
The group aims to provide a weekly forum where students with autism can learn about the condition and share their experiences. Set up as a trial by the college guidance team in 2015, the initiative was so well received that it has now become a permanent fixture.
Judges commended the project for providing effective support to students with additional needs, helping participants to develop employment skills, creating a productive relationship between the college and an autism charity and helping staff to gain a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students with autism.
Andrew Denovan, a project assistant at the charity Autism Initiatives and former Inverness College UHI student, helped to set up and run the support group.
He explains the benefits of the initiative: “Having a safe, regular and predictable space where students can come, relax and interact has helped them to make the transition to college life. Some of the students who are in second year are helping new students to settle in and develop skills for studying.”
The university’s dean of students, Dr Iain Morrison, said: “This is an excellent student-centred initiative with a focused purpose, linking staff development with effective support for students with additional support needs and highlighting a productive and efficient relationship between the university and a third sector partner. It is a clear demonstration of our commitment to inclusion and to the creation of opportunities for all people in our region.”
Claire Kilburn-Young, a wellbeing officer in Inverness College UHI’s student support services team, said: “We’re delighted that our project has won the Student Support Initiative award and the hard work of the staff and students involved has been commended.
“This has proved to be an innovative approach to supporting students and has made a positive impact on the individuals who participated. We’re now looking forward to looking at how we can replicate this type of support mechanism to benefit other groups of students.”
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