About the Autism Friendly University Initiative

What is the Autism Friendly University Initiative?

UCC has undertaken a three-year project to make the University as a whole more 'autism-friendly'. This project is formally known as the 'Autism Friendly University Initiative'. The project's aims are to make the physical, social and academic spaces of the University more 'autism-friendly'.

This includes the development of an autism-friendly and accessible Calm Zone, outdoor sensory spaces and the adaptation of an online toolkit designed to support autistic students with the transition to university (created by the Autism&Uni Project).

The project is funded by the Student Charges and Fees Forum and is supported by the Students' Union.

Who is involved in the Autism Friendly University Initiative?

The project is supported by the Students' Union and Disability Support Service in UCC. There is a fulltime member of staff allocated to manage the day-to-day coordination of the project. It is overseen by a Steering Group which provides input and guidance from senior members of the University. As the project encompasses many different aspects of student life, we have also established several specialized working groups bringing together key members of the University to address some of the challenges our students may face. Student consultation is a key part of the approach to developing a more 'autism-friendly' university, and focus groups and surveys are being conducted on an ongoing basis to help shape the focus of the project.


The Project Team 

Name Role  
Professor Máire Leane Chair of the Autism Friendly University Initiative  
Ms Linda Doran Disability Officer  
Ms Kirsten Hurley Project Coordinator  


Autism Friendly University Initiative Steering Group

Name Role
Professor Máire Leane Chair of the Autism Friendly University Initiative
Professor John O'Halloran  President
Ms Linda Doran Disability Officer
Ms Olive Byrne Head of Access and Participation
Ms Marian Browne Student Counselling and Development
Mr Paul Prendergast Buildings Officer
Ms Kirsten Hurley Project Coordinator
Mr Brian Irwin Former UCC Student  
Ms Kelly Coyle Students' Union Deputy President (18-19)
Ms Ciara Kealy Students' Union Deputy President (19-20) 
Mr Ross Brennan Students' Union Deputy President (20-21)

Have you involved people with autism/autistic people throughout this project?

Of course! Inclusion is a key objective of this project so involving students (both with or without a diagnosis of autism/Asperger's) has been a priority. We have held focus groups and surveys seeking feedback on our ideas and plans for this project throughout. We are also working with the Students' Union on several aspects of the project.

The project is coordinated by a graduate of UCC who has a formal diagnosis of autism (Asperger's syndrome).

Why is the phrase 'people with autism'/ 'autistic people' /students 'on the spectrum' being used?

The terminology around autism (and disability more generally) is ever-evolving. People may have different preferences for particular phrasing in relation to having a diagnosis of autism and may express strong views in support of their own choices. 

Some people may choose 'person-first' language (e.g. person with autism). Others prefer 'identity-first' language (e.g. autistic person). The phrase 'on the spectrum' is also often used to refer to someone who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or identifies as being autistic.

Upon consideration, we have chosen to use a mix of phrasing in this project when discussing autism and autistic people to be as respectful as possible to the different opinions held by those in the autism community.

Further reading:

Which terms should be used to describe autism?

What is the most appropriate way to talk about individuals with a diagnosis of autism?


Autism Friendly University Initiative

Tionscnamh Ollscoile a Thacaíonn le hUathachas

Disability Support Service, The Hub,