Using Visualization and Pedagogical Patterns in Support of Undergraduate Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Undergraduate students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who are overrepresented on IT degree programs, experience significant and unique challenges that require specific interventions and support mechanisms. Research on university students with ASD shows mixed results; for many, there is a poor outcome. There is therefore a general need for reports on educational practices and insight from professionals who work closely with these students. Practical support (extended deadlines, a quiet working space) is provided according to well-known recommendations for these students, but pedagogical interventions, which are equally important, are often lacking. This paper describes the professional supervision of undergraduate IT students diagnosed with ASD over a period of several years. The diversity of people with ASD makes it necessary to target each student individually, in order to apply effective methods. Some traits are, however, broadly common to this population, and when correctly identified, pedagogical patterns can be applied to successfully address some of the challenges these students face. As an alternative to (often excessive) verbal explanations, we report how modelling techniques can be used to both explain and visualize practical problems related to subjects like programming and databases. The positive outcomes of this approach are confirmed through interviews, observations of the students and academic results.