With the lockdown restrictions which the Covid-19 outbreak presents, students' access to social interaction at university has been curtailed. The reduction in face to face teaching and social events in halls has reduced the opportunity to meet people, leading to isolation and loneliness amongst students.
As autism specialists, the contributors were keen to provide autistic students with opportunities to meet each other in a structured way with the hope that friendships would form beyond the initial organised sessions. For the winter term of the 2020-21 academic year they ran a weekly two hour online session for new autistic students, based around game playing to provide structure whilst facilitating chat.
Run by one of the university's specialist autism mentors, the online social group sessions were attended by between five and ten students each week, and helped to facilitate ongoing friendships between some members of the group. Based on weekly staff reflection and student evaluation feedback the session considers what worked well and what didn't, and what we might learn for the future in setting up social groups for autistic students.