Case Study – Geography and Ability to Empathise


The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , 


Paul is a Geography student with Asperger’s Syndrome, and faces particular difficulties in relation to fieldtrips. He is volatile in temperament on occasion and the department was warned about taking him away from home. He was also an unknown in terms of whether he would be able to control his social activities (drinking) and how he would behave in such close proximity to people for 10 days or so – he had a single room and didn’t share. It was arranged that a support worker from the National Autistic Society would also go on the field trip.

The trip went well, there were one or two occasions where the support worker was able to diffuse the situation early on.

Paul felt that this support was not necessary and he’s since changed course to Geology. He went on a fieldtrip unaccompanied this Easter, and apart from one or two instances, was generally OK.

Issues that needed to be addressed were allowing Paul to give permission to support workers to share some information which would help them understand his behaviour, rather than regard him as a lazy oddball who ‘got away’ with behaviour they would not get away with.

Academic staff needed to encourage Paul to work within the same boundaries as for other students, and sometimes make those boundaries more definite, not looser – particularly on fieldtrips. However, at the same time, staff need to make some reasonable adjustments for the student – if, say, – he couldn’t work all day, he could have a short break, and work in the evening.

As Asperger’s Syndrome is a condition that is so different in each individual, it is difficult to give generic advice – apart from the fact that these students do need a high level of support. The DSA can be used to pay for this support, and requests should always be made.

Paul has now transferred to Geology, and his Easter field trip was OK. However, he faces a mapping exercise in the summer and so is breaking new ground all the time.


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