Week 3

20/07/2020 – 24/07/2020

At start of this week, we prepared for recruitment by gaining a presence on social media. We set up a Twitter account introducing our linked UROP projects and followed relevant University of Reading accounts. In doing this, we received a positive response from students, alumni and university services. That afternoon, we were contacted by someone in student communications who kindly offered to share our recruitment posts. We were anticipating what the response to Twitter would be, and we were pleasantly surprised to see others at the University showing an interest in our projects.

We met with a Student Disability Officer to discuss the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) and her insights into student experiences with diagnoses and symptoms of ASD, MHC, and SpLD. It was felt that stigma has greatly reduced in recent years, leading to an increase in disclosure for the three conditions. However, there are still some barriers which prevent students from disclosing.

We discussed how financial issues are a key barrier for students with ASD and SpLD as assessments can be costly. We were informed that parental influence may also pose a challenge for some students. Family members may not be aware of their difficulties, so students may be concerned about their reactions to seeking diagnoses and accessing support. In contrast, some parents may encourage their child to disclose and access support. For MHCs, it appears easier to get a diagnosis as students can go to their GP, however MHCs can be more difficult to support as it was thought that there is generally a lack of resources.

We also spoke about the non-academic experiences of students with these conditions, particularly in university living. For example, peers may not be aware of how to appropriately accommodate students with these difficulties. This highlights that these conditions impact all aspects of university life.

We were also grateful to receive an exceptionally prompt response from the Ethics Committee who approved our research project this week. They commended us on our attention to ethical issues associated with online data collection. This meant that we could proceed with recruitment as soon as our survey was completed.

The key focus for us this week was to design our online survey. To do this we became familiar with using the ‘Online Surveys’ platform. As part of the survey, there are many different routes which respondents can take depending on their previous answers. This was the most difficult aspect to design, as we had to make sure all of the routes were planned accordingly. To overcome this challenge, one of our supervisors suggested mapping out all the potential routes in a plan prior to designing the survey. We found this incredibly helpful as it enabled us to visualise the different pathways in the survey. We also used this map to manually check every possible route in the survey to ensure they were correct. Once our supervisors and a couple of service users had checked the survey and suggested a few changes, we were given the go ahead to launch it. This involved uploading our recruitment posts to our social media platforms and blog.

We are impressed with our accomplishments this week, and the pace at which our project is progressing. Launching the survey was a significant achievement of the project and we look forward to getting responses in the weeks to come.

Post written by: Bryony, Charis and Michelle