Learning from the Experts: Evaluating a Participatory Autism and Universal Design Training for University Teaching Staff


Autistic students experience strengths and challenges that can impact their full inclusion in higher education, including stigma. A participatory team of autistic and non-autistic scholars developed an Autism and Universal Design (UD) training. This participatory approach centered the voices of autistic collaborators in training designand evaluation. Ninety-eight educators from 53 institutions across 5 countries completed assessments before training (pre-tests), 89 completed post-tests (after training), and 82 completed maintenance assessments (amonth after post-test). Pre-test autism stigma was heightened among males, educators with less autism knowledge, and those who reported heightened social dominance orientation. Autism knowledge, autism stigma, and attitudes toward UD improved with training. Improvements remained apparent a month after post-test but were somewhat attenuated for knowledge and stigma. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence of maintenance of benefits of an autism training over time. Participants’ main reason for enrolling in the study was to gain a better understanding about neurodiversity. Feedback indicates that this goal was reached by most with the added benefit of gaining understanding about UD. Results suggest that interest in one type of diversity (i.e., autism) can motivate faculty to learn UD-aligned teaching strategies that benefit diverse students more generally.

PrePrint/Under Review