University Challenge - Autism

Scarlett Hayes

As an autistic student, I was shocked to discover that the university dropout rate of my autistic peers is over 60%, 10 times higher than the neurotypical counterparts. Many that remain underperform, navigating an alien environment and experiencing an education that does not play to their strengths. These aspects of the autistic student experience are explored in qualitative studies capturing authentic voices. This inspired me to develop an activist project aimed at creating awareness of this inequity as a precursor to change, targeted at university decision makers. Their understanding of the lived experience of autistic students is essential if they are to promote interventions and dismantle barriers to create autism friendly environments. The concept explores issues of inclusion and diversity against the backdrop of social justice.

My project uses an autoethnographic approach to storytelling with outcomes designed to capture the interest of the HE community and explain the complexity of the issues. The textile (weighted blanket) and zine (open letter to the HE Community) emerge from a tradition of protest and the hand-crafting emphasises autoethnography as a personal critique. To enable wider dissemination I have produced a film to voice my story and show scenes from the blanket.

Instagram: @scarlett_artwork


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