An Evaluation of Specialist Mentoring for University Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Mental Health Conditions

Abstract

Mentoring is often recommended to universities as a way of supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and/or mental health conditions (MHC), but there is little literature on optimising this support. We used mixed-methods to evaluate mentees’ and mentors’ experiences of a specialist mentoring programme. Mentees experienced academic, social and emotional support, although subtle group differences emerged between students with ASD and MHC. The quality of the mentee-mentor relationship was especially important. Mentors also reported benefits. Thematic analysis identified that effective mentoring requires a tailored partnership, which involves a personal relationship, empowerment, and building bridges into the university experience. Mentoring can effectively support students with ASD and/or MHC, but this is highly dependent on the development of tailored mentee-mentor partnerships.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Dr Alexandra Stanton and Susan Jewitt for their help with the design and implementation of the evaluation, and Neelam Solanki for her assistance with conducting this research. We would also like to thank all of the mentees and mentors who took part in the study. We are grateful to Royal Holloway University of London who supported the research via a College Teaching Initiatives fund.

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Authors

Contributions

RL and AJ contributed to the design and coordination of the study and data collection. RL had primary responsibility for the quantitative analyses, and AJ had primary responsibility for the qualitative analyses. Both authors drafted the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca Lucas.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants.

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Lucas, R., James, A.I. An Evaluation of Specialist Mentoring for University Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Mental Health Conditions. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 694–707 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3303-1

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Mental health conditions
  • Mentoring
  • University
  • Higher education
  • Programme evaluation