South East Wales

Cardiff University launches autism mentor scheme

students
Image caption One in three people with ASD aged between 16 and 24 are not in education, employment or training

Students at Cardiff University will mentor teenagers with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) as part of a new scheme to encourage more to attend university.

The Discovery Project will offer 14 to 19-year-olds with ASD help with their homework, revision and applications to college or university.

They can also attend yoga and circus skills classes to boost their co-ordination and social skills.

The initiative aims to ease anxieties and prepare them for further education.

One in three people on the autistic spectrum aged between 16 and 24 are not in education, employment or training, Cardiff University said.

That figure is more than double the number among the general population despite those with ASD often displaying above average levels of intelligence.

People with ASD often struggle to interact in social situations and to adapt to change, the institution said.

Only 15% of adults with autism are employed full-time and of those who graduate from university, 26% are unemployed - the highest rate in any disability group.

Academic potential

Scott McKenzie, widening access officer at Cardiff University, said that while there was a lot of help available once students get to university, getting there in the first place was a big challenge for some.

"New environments can generate a lot of anxiety for young people on the autism spectrum, but it needn't be a barrier to entering further or higher education," he said.

"With the right support, pupils can have the confidence to overcome their anxieties and go on to become experts in their chosen field, with the ultimate aim of helping them gain a foothold on the career ladder."

Cardiff University vice-chancellor, Prof Colin Riordan, said it was vital prospective students with ASD knew support was available.

"I'm hopeful that this bold and worthwhile initiative will serve to encourage more prospective students on the autism spectrum to continue their education and realise their academic potential here at Cardiff."

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