Supporting people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in leisure time: Impact of an university volunteer program, and related factors
Social participation has positive effects on mental and physical health, and it can be taken as an indicator of quality of life. However, the participation of people with disabilities in their communities is still scarce, especially for people with autism.
The impact on individual satisfaction produced by a university volunteer program (APUNTATE) aimed at supporting people with autism in leisure activities was evaluated. A questionnaire of impact assessment, that identifies those areas where the impact is greater, was completed by 159 users and 230 volunteers.
Users and volunteers reported a very high level of satisfaction with the program, but personal characteristics of users slightly influenced the scores. The structured organization of the program, and the continued training and support received by volunteers were the highest valued aspects. The adaptation of supports to the individual needs of users and volunteers was another relevant factor to explain the results.The evaluation obtained shows that volunteering programs to promote the participation of people with ASD can be successfully implemented in public universities. These programs can increase the personal development, facilitate a change of attitude towards people with disabilities and can improve future employment prospects of students.
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