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Autism Hampshire - University Specialist Mentoring

Our highly qualified and skilled mentors support students in Higher Education with an Autism Spectrum Condition and/ or mental health condition to achieve their personal and academic goals independently.

Who to contact

Contact Name
Rachel Jefferson, Operations Manager
01489 880881

Where to go

Autism Hampshire - University Specialist Mentoring
1634 Parkway, Solent Business Park, Whiteley
PO15 7AH
Sensory adaptations, Secure environment

Other Details


Age Ranges
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

Local Offer

Local Offer
PECS, Makaton, Sign supported English
What does your service do?

Our Specialist Mentoring service offers support to undergraduate and graduate students who have been diagnosed with Autism and particularly with its form known as Asperger’s Syndrome. We have been offering this service in partnership with the University of Portsmouth since 2008 and our co-operation has flourished going from strength to strength. We understand that people with diagnoses of Autism require tailored strategies that help them cope with the requirements of everyday life which can become even more daunting if they are compounded by academic demands. Our 1:1 support focuses on overcoming barriers to learning which may include coping strategies, time management strategies, prioritising and maintaining healthy work-life balance and providing emotional support. We also refer students to specialist mental health services. We have an excellent track record of helping students in overcoming social and other barriers which inhibit their academic and personal growth. We ensure that students enjoy positive social interactions and that they explore their local communities. Our specialist mentors would like to be perceived as anchors providing reliable support and sense of security for students. We understand that they often feel overwhelmed, especially during the first weeks of their university experience but also during critical times where deadlines have to be met and exams need to be taken with full confidence. By doing this we prepare our students for life after the university when they will have to apply their skills and strategies in order to find and maintain sustainable jobs.

Who does your service provide for?

Our Specialist Mentoring Service provides mainly for undergraduate and graduate students who have a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. It is probably useful to consider that in the beginnings of our partnership with the University of Portsmouth there was a mutual realisation that supporting students with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome requires a completely different set of strategies and methodologies capable of addressing the subtlety and variability of the often overwhelming difficulties faced by students from day one. The widely acknowledged ‘tried of difficulties’ (or ‘triad of impairments’) helps with explaining these difficulties: * A. ''''''Social and emotional interaction'''''': in student’s life this normally means difficulties with striking new friendships, managing unstructured parts of the day (crucially affecting individual study tasks) and working co-operatively which may have a negative effect on group work assignments * B. ''''''Language and communication:'''''' this normally transpires in difficulties linked with processing and retaining verbal communications, literal interpretation leading to social exclusion (e.g. by misinterpretation of jokes and sarcasm) * C. ''''''Flexibility of thought (imagination):'''''' not being able to cope with changes in routine, empathy and generalisations Many students with Asperger syndrome will also have difficulties with fine and gross motor co-ordination and organisational skills. They can also be affected by underlying fears and phobias, often (but not always) related to sensory sensitivities. Our Specialist Mentors offer simple strategies allowing students to cope better with these difficulties. They also focus on providing brief mental health interventions and further referrals to specialist services.

How can I start using the service?

OurAll students at the University of Portsmouth can start using the service by contacting either Autism Hampshire directly or via ASDAC. Contact details for Autism Hampshire can be found in the last section of this information document. ASDAC very often would refer students to our Specialist Mentoring Team for initial assessments. Following the initial assessment support is then formally agreed and purchased on individual basis. Our support plans are always tailored around the needs of each student. The funding mechanism involving DSA (Disabled Student Allowance) is simple and either ASDAC or Autism Hampshire is always happy to assist in applying for it. There is also additional information and helpline available via the main [ Government’s website] Depending on circumstances we would be also happy to explore other sources of funding to ensure that students receive the kind of support they require. Once the assessment is in place and funding agreed our team starts to co-produce individual support plans with each student. Depending on levels of support required, support plans may include many support sessions initially but with time students develop a variety of independent learning skills, coping strategies and other transferrable skills that reduce reliance on our support. We always make sure that all students have an opportunity to comment on how well we do. If changes are required on our part we are always keen to consider them and adjust our support accordingly.

Where is it located and what areas does it cover?

Our service is located predominantly at the University of Portsmouth where our team of Specialist Mentors provide 1:1 support in various venues across the campus. Although we accept direct referrals, the majority of students come to us via the [ Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre (ASDAC)] which is led by the university and dedicated to ensuring that all applicants and students receive suitable support. Our Specialist Mentors are funded on an individual basis via the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) which is a funding mechanism adopted by the Student Finance England in order to provide necessary support in such areas as: • Lifelong developmental condition, e.g. Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome • Long-term health condition • Mental health condition • Specific learning difficulty, e.g. dyslexia • Or combination of the above For further information regarding DSA eligibility and application process please visit the [ government website] We are also happy to explore funding arrangements that are alternative to DSA. At present our Specialist Mentoring Service is available mainly to students at the University of Portsmouth but we also provide individual support packages in other locations across Hampshire and are always willing to work with universities in the neighbouring counties. Designing individual support packages and entering into new partnerships is ultimately dictated by the level of needs and interest. We believe that our excellent reputation puts us in a very good position to respond to those needs satisfactorily.

How are decisions made about who can use your service?

Our service is available to all students who meet the [ eligibility criteria for DSA] (Disabled Student’s Allowance) and are based on a very simple assessment process conducted normally in partnership with the University of Portsmouth. A decision is made immediately after the assessment is finalised and is thereafter communicated to the individual student. Support agreements are renewed on a term basis and we are always keen to receive feedback on how well we do and what needs improving. We also like to make sure that the ultimate decision in choosing our support is lies with the student. All students who would like to receive support from our Specialist Mentoring team but for some reason are not eligible for DSA support, are encouraged to contact Autism Hampshire directly so that alternative means of funding can be explored. Contact details can be found in the last section. We are also keen to work with other Universities and individual students who would be interested in exploring our support methods that value co-production and person- centred approaches.

How do you communicate with service users and how are they involved in decision making?

Our strategy for communicating with people who choose to be supported by us is based on a practice model called APV which stands for Autism Partnership Validation. In practice it simply means that we provide our service by focusing on: • Skills and strategies • Personalised approaches • Shared understanding of how a person’s autism affects them • ‘Power with’ approaches • Independent and valued citizenship Paying attention to all the areas listed above helps us with getting our communications right. We operate by strict working standards which allow our team members, often working alone with individual students, to find common ground and mutual understanding. Our standards include: • Students truly co-producing their support plans and having direct impact on how their needs are met via regular feedback • Communication procedures between our service, students and ASDAC set out in the Joint Working Protocol • Staff in regular contact and receiving support with their line manager • Staff meetings in place • Feedback forms available to all students and stakeholders • Robust complaints and compliments protocol in place • Principles of co-production and person centeredness imbedded in service provision, i.e. students decide what support they require and when We also invite our students to share their experience of being supported by Autism Hampshire during and after their academic studies. In some cases students are happy to contribute to our internal newsletters, and others share their opinions and views though external communication channels.

Is your service fully accessible?

Our Specialist Mentoring service is fully accessible to all students with a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger's Syndrome. We focus on providing this bespoke support at the University of Portsmouth and our domiciliary service extends to other academic centres by providing individually tailored packages to students who required support with developing strategies leading to greater independence and confidence in undertaking their daily tasks. Contacting us is easy and in the case of the students at Portsmouth it usually happens through [ ASDAC], a specialist student support service. We are always happy to explain the support we provide and how we can help with making the academic experience as enjoyable as possible. Our contact details can be found in section 10. When deciding to be supported by our Specialist Mentoring Service we offer the following: • Help with managing appointments • Supporting students with seeking academic guidance from tutors independently • Mentoring focused on developing independent strategies • Supporting student’s study skills • Orientation on the campus and within local community • Helping with developing communication skills Our person centred approach to providing services ensures that all students are supported in communicating their needs clearly and without confusion. This way we can understand and respond appropriately to everyone’s needs. We are experienced in using assistive technology and rely on advice of communication specialists who help with overcoming potential barriers and eliminating misunderstandings.

What training are the staff supporting children and young people with SEN and Disabilities had or are having?

The role of the Specialist Mentor is to provide high quality, individually tailored and professional support which leads to students overcoming the barriers to learning and other aspects of academic and social life. In order to provide this high quality support our Specialist Mentors are required to undergo a stringent recruitment process which involves a Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS), registration with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, Occupational Health screening and employment references. Specialist mentors are employed on a full or part time basis to fit around the university semester. Our mentors benefit from the following: • Comprehensive Corporate Induction • Specialist Autism training • Diploma or Certificate in Mentoring and Coaching • Training in Strategies for Crisis Intervention and Prevention (SCIP) • Access to specialist qualification within the National Care Qualifications Framework • Specific and tailored training provided for each Mentor where necessary and as identified by assessment • Regular supervisions and annual appraisal sessions which serve to review performance and set objectives for each academic year • Staff meetings where the feedback from students and other critical aspects of the service are discussed • Mental Health awareness training allowing for better understanding of students’ needs and enabling early identification of potential warning signs, e.g. anxiety, depression • Some staff also received the Introduction to Counselling training which allows them to discern potential need for further referrals if necessary • ALL our staff benefit from the up- to- date Equality and Diversity training

How will I know my child is safe?

Autism Hampshire operates strict Health Safety policy which ensures physical well- being of people we support in all our services. This includes our Specialist Mentoring Service based at the University of Portsmouth. We are very serious about maintaining healthy and safe environment because it helps with learning new skills. Our mentors are keen to support all students in identifying potential risks, avoiding hazards and contributing positively to their own and students’ safety. We understand the first weeks or months at university can be quite daunting, therefore our mentors set out from the onset to equip all students with strategies and coping mechanisms that promote confidence, positive risk taking and independence. An inevitable part of learning has to do with accepting an element of risk. Our mentors help to identify main risk areas and suggest a number of techniques capable of dealing with them, e.g. • Identifying the risk • Undertaking necessary assessments with key people involved • Action plan to decrease risks and criteria for success • Identifying areas of responsibility and accountability • Evaluation and implementation of support plans As previously mentioned all our Specialist Mentors are DBS vetted and carefully hand- picked during the recruitment process. They are carefully managed by the Lead Specialist Mentor who also works on the main campus. When required, we also have robust policies allowing our staff to work efficiently alone and away from the campus.

Who can I contact for further information?

We are always willing to answer initial queries or discuss the possibility of supporting students via our Specialist Mentoring Service. Although the majority of our referrals come to us through the [ Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre] (ASDAC) we are happy to talk to applicants and students directly. We would also expect to consult with family and friends in order that we can understand better how our service can make experience of the university life more satisfying and enjoyable. Studying does not have to be a stressful challenge or source of anxiety. We are there to make it fun and enjoyable. Here is how you can get in touch with us: Domiciliary Support Services Autism Hampshire 1634 Parkway, Solent Business Park Whiteley, Fareham PO15 7AH Tel. 01489 880 881 Email: []

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