People to talk to:Nigel Mason, Specialist Autism/ADHD Practitioner - Student Wellbeing Service
Nigel describes the work that led to his Excellence in Student Support Award in 2018:
“It was a privilege and an honour to have been nominated and then to receive an award recognising the support I give to students in Swansea University with autism and ADHD.
It is important to point out that I am part of a team, who are all worthy of the award. We all do what we can to enable the students we support to enjoy their time here at the university both academically and socially.
Within my role, I meet with students to offer support. The sessions focus on difficulties they are experiencing and together we try to establish some solutions.
We often discuss the student’s diagnoses and enable them to have a better understanding of themselves, which in turn can increase their perception of who they are from a negative to positive.
With many students, being aware that they have sessions planned enables them to go through difficult times, as they know they will have the opportunity to discuss their difficulties.
As a team, we have established a social group for students that find socialising difficult. The group known as Eureka runs weekly on a Wednesday evening commonly known as ‘Student Night’ where many of their peers go into Swansea to clubs. Our students often do not like the drinking culture so look forward to coming to Eureka. In a recent questionnaire to students, we asked ‘What would you do if you did not attend the Eureka Group?’ The student’s response was ‘I would be utterly alone’.
I am aware that one of the students who nominated me came to see me to discuss whether he had a form of autism, after meeting with him and listening to his story I arranged for him to be formally assessed, after which he received a diagnosis. Having the diagnosis helped the student to have a better understanding of himself, he become more positive with who he is. The student left Swansea University with a first class degree in aerospace engineering and is now studying for his masters.
We believe that it is important to see the student as an individual and not someone with a diagnosis, to support them from the time they apply to come to university, through university and then help with the changes that happen when they plan to leave. “
Nigel describes his wider thoughts on supporting students with SPLDD and the long term impacts of his work:
“The support we give to students with autism and ADHD is essential, as we have seen so many students arrive at university and struggle to understand the new ways of studying, in a new environment, with new teaching staff amongst a new set of peers. Support for these students needs to continue, as they are the engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists and historians of the future.
We have established an Orientation Event that gives students with autism the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the university and to stay overnight during August each year to help minimise the anxiety before arrivals in September.
Students knowing they have practitioners to support them and to arrange any reasonable adjustments they may need for academic and daily living issues is essential.
The long-term impact of our work is to ensure students receive the right support and understanding so that they are able to reach their own potential.
We are endeavouring to enable the wide range of staff here at Swansea University to increase their knowledge and understanding of neuro-developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD, so that our university will be recognised as one leading the way in support students with disability in higher education.“
Maria Davis, PGR Academy Manager - Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Science
Developing Postgraduate Support Networks
Maria describes the work that lead to her Excellence in Student Support Award in 2016:
“Our postgraduate research students nominated me for my commitment to our PGR community, my professionalism, and the support I provide to individual students particularly when they have to negotiate the many challenges that come with completing a PhD.
I deal with the whole life cycle of the PGR student journey, from enquiry to graduation. I have an open door approach and the students see me as the ‘go to’ person
I always put the voice of the student at the core of discussions. I have supported students through many difficult experiences and personal difficulties, whilst also assisting students with breakdown in supervisory arrangements at critical stages of their candidature.
The PGR students noted that they received an excellent student experience. The support I provided had a positive impact on not only the student experience but also their wellbeing. One candidate in particular had a number of personal difficulties, coupled with a breakdown in supervisory arrangements at a critical stage of the candidature. I played a pivotal role in changing the supervisors and was instrumental in providing the pastoral support to enable this student to keep going. The student was awarded her PhD with no corrections.”
Maria describes the long term impact of her work:
“Over two years ago, the Faculty felt that it would be beneficial to create a PGR Academy for our postgraduate community. When I received my award I was the Postgraduate Administrator and have since become the Postgraduate Research Academy Manager. I continue to work closely with the students, providing the same level of student experience to all our PGRS.
Some of our completed students (especially overseas) keep in contact with me, and one student in particular visits Swansea from Saudi Arabia each year and we arrange to meet. The Faculty has had more admissions on the basis of ‘good word’ about the level of student support provided by the Faculty and University.”
For more information please contact SALT@swansea.ac.uk