LIFE CHANGER: Jess Harrison and Jacob Ducat will mentor students in this semester’s A-Skills program.
LIFE CHANGER: Jess Harrison and Jacob Ducat will mentor students in this semester’s A-Skills program. Contributed

Asperger's and autistic students encouraged to join A-Skills

UNIVERSITY of Southern Queensland students on the autism spectrum can strive towards achieving their personal study goals thanks to the A-Skills Meet-Up program.

The program has been offered at USQ since 2014 and was developed by USQ Disability Support Coordinator Donna-Marie Thompson to help students with Asperger's Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) thrive in university.

A-Skills provides students with critical skills and knowledge which help them discover their own pathways, options and strengths to allow them to control the experiences of university life.

Participants gather weekly in a safe and supportive environment with senior student mentors guiding them through a 10-week program that focuses on discussions and activities related to university study, life at university, and building on academic and graduate career skills.

Mentors Jess Harrison and Jacob Ducat, who are both studying psychology, were part of the program last year and the experience has profoundly impacted them.

"It changed my life in a big way because I was diagnosed with ASD last year and at the time, people who care about me were worried how it might impact my life and what disadvantages there would be," Miss Harrison said.

"However, as soon as I got to A-Skills, by the second session I felt comfortable speaking about it and everyone could see I was happy and enjoyed being on campus.

"Sometimes it can become quite overwhelming for students who don't know who they can turn to when they have a problem with their studies, especially for students on the spectrum.

"The program allows students to talk to the facilitators and get advice on who to approach and how to approach them for any issues, which eases a lot of that anxiety."

Mr Ducat said he was looking forward to sharing his personal experiences to help others build confidence and be ready to navigate the challenges that life presents.

"I'm glad to be part of the program again because it's a great environment and a good way to meet students, which was one of the huge benefits Jess and I got out of A-Skills from a social aspect last year," he said.

"We got to connect with people like ourselves who faced similar challenges and had a lot in common, which can be difficult for people on the spectrum to do."

A-Skills sessions run for 90 minutes weekly, commencing March 16 at USQ Ipswich and March 18 at USQ Springfield.

Email studentservicesspringfield@usq.edu.au or visit usq.edu.au



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