Brian joined CRAE in the summer of 2022 on the ESRC Superior Perceptual Capacity Project.
We know that many autistic people hear, see and feel more than the majority might. The Superior Perceptual Capacity Project is hunting for environments where all might thrive. This might be less about creating simple education or employment environments and more about making them the right kind of interesting. We also want to make sure that this kind of approach is helpful to all, by developing research tools with and for those with intellectual impairment, and by widening our thinking to see if superior perceptual capacity crops up elsewhere.
He has just wrapped up his own ESRC doctorate as at ACER, the University of Birmingham’s Autism Centre for Education and Research. There, Brian developed the first framework for Specialist (Autism) Mentoring in UK HEIs. To do so, autistic mentees asked questions for mentors to answer in diaries and then an autistic-majority forum of master mentors pointed him in the right direction. Mentors can use the framework to reflect on how they can develop their own practice. By thinking about mentoring as more than becoming part of a new role – but as a means of changing cultures for the better – mentoring in many other places might be improved.
Brian’s work hinges on a commitment to foster the neurodiverse academy. With the challenges that face the world, we need robust universities and other institutions that gather thinkers of all kinds to answer problems in new ways. To do so we need autistic people and communities to be central to the production of knowledge about autism. This knowledge will inspire and demand compassionate, clear and calm universities where all students will thrive. Then there will be a wider pool of neurodiverse students to find their way into places of leadership. Brian is excited by the idea of autism gain, when we make institutions better for autistic people, they become nicer for all people.
He has mentored autistic students at Royal Holloway, University of London where, over the last decade, he has had the pleasure of regular meetings with many brilliant students as they journeyed through their university life. Before then, he worked in an autism inclusion unit in a primary school, was a child minder who called himself a manny, and – last century – was Head of RE in a secondary modern.
For fun he creates quiet by keeping bees. And noise by playing the ukulele badly.
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Irvine, B. and MacLeod, A. (2022) What are the challenges and successes reported by autistic students at university?: a literature review. Good Autism Practice (GAP), 23 (1): 49–59. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/361337091_What_are_the_challenges_and_successes_reported_by_autistic_students_at_university_a_literature_review