Posted on 29th January 2015
Support for students with ASD in Finland: challenges in the mapping process
There have been some unexpected challenges in mapping the support that HE students on the autism spectrum receive in different countries. Direct comparisons are not possible because the titles of the professionals involved in providing support vary from one country to another, as does the division of labour between universities, NGOs, health care and disability service systems. When statistics on students with ASD are not available, as is the case in Finland, individual professionals in key positions are crucial sources of information. Two such professionals have provided us with a picture of how support services and reasonable adjustments are currently developing in this country.
Timo Tapola (in the image above) is one of three study psychologists serving the 20,000 students of Aalto University in the Finnish capital region. He works with students from the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and the School of Chemical Technology, while his colleagues cover other schools within the University: Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Science, and Business. Tapola estimates that over the past six years he has worked with about 15 students on the autism spectrum, both negotiating reasonable academic adjustments and providing counselling.
No precise records are available on the numbers or later progress of these students, or on the exact interventions they have ended up receiving. Aalto University applicants are not routinely asked about their diagnoses, and even if they reveal one, these are not systematically recorded.…