Exam stresses, financial pressures and social awkwardness are everyday challenges at university – but for students on the autism spectrum, these challenges can be even tougher.
Dealing with sensory overload, social challenges and adapting to life away from home can quickly become too much for students with autism if they don’t receive adequate support.
Parents also deal with stresses when their child is finding a university as they adapt to being less involved in their child’s life – but none of this should prevent students benefiting from the third-best education system in the world.
Luckily, universities are beginning to take note through dedicated programmes, allowing students with autism spectrum disorder to study at their own pace…
Ranked 10th in the world by QS World University Rankings 2019, UCL may seem like an intimidatingly elite university – but its dedicated support for students with autism helps them achieve their maximum potential regardless of their condition.
Through the university’s disability service, students have access to daily support with a disability advisor as well as an assigned advisor who has a close relationship with the student throughout their studies. The advisors can help students navigate difficulties in their programme, from obtaining course material from their professors to organising extra time in exams.
oh man i never publicly stated my sisterly pride. diagnosed w autism n extreme anxiety, literally told by teachers he couldn’t get into uni/volunteer work for charities was the only option post-school. now A GRADUATE FROM UCL!!!!! my brave n fricken boundless brother, everyone ✨ pic.twitter.com/FCa5HLilDD
— Jenny McQuilliam (@jennnymcq) July 25, 2018
UCL also offers a new starters guide and student planner developed by a previous UCL student with autism, giving students a useful resource that helps them make the most of their time at the institution with the guidance of someone who knows how it feels.
The University of Sheffield understands that autism affects every student differently. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and each student needs an individualised learning plan to help them reach their potential.
The university acknowledges the academic, social and personal challenges autism can create and provides support in all areas to ensure all challenges are overcome.
“Each individual with the label of Asperger syndrome will experience the condition differently, necessitating individually tailored support.
“Non-academic learning may cause greater issues than the academic side of university life; for example, not understanding the social rules and difficulties in managing the practicalities of being at university may lead to a student becoming vulnerable to social isolation,” the university acknowledges.
Some interesting thoughts on the need to personalise the support offered by universities to students with autism. Hopefully my doctoral studies will help with this at @AngliaRuskin
Autism and School: How to Support Autistic People in Education https://t.co/2vMPSBWNx0
— Julia Carr (@juliacarr993) July 25, 2018
The university encourages academic staff to recognise these challenges in their teaching and assessments to give students the best possible chance of success. Advice notes the cognitive ability of autistic students and the impact disruptions to timetables or last-minute changes can have.
Ranked in the top 50 universities according to the QS World University Rankings 2019, the University of Manchester is a leading institution dedicated to providing support to students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
As well as having a designated disability advisor and assistant disability advisor to help you navigate the changes of university life, students are part of a broader supportive community where they can meet other students who share their disability.
Once a week students can meet at a lunchtime, gathering to discuss their experience at university and build friendships with others who understand.
Combined with the support offered by disability advisors, this gives students well-rounded support both from professionals and peers, allowing them to make the most of their university experience and grow both academically and socially.
Committed to helping every student achieve the most they can during their studies, the University of Sussex has specialised support for students on the autism, or those who think they could be.
The disability service aids students in liaising with academic staff on how they can be better supported throughout their studies. Accommodation issues, exam arrangements or assignment extensions and health concerns are also cared for under the autism spectrum programme at the university.
There is also an Autism Spectrum Summer School that allows students to come to the university before term starts and familiarise themselves with the setting. Autistic students often find new places and people overwhelming; the summer school allows students to get used to this before all students arrive on campus.
The University of Brighton offers students with autism support from the very beginning of the application stage. This helps ease anxieties around applying to university, which can be an overwhelming experience – especially if you’re studying for exams at the same time.
Students are further supported during their studies by the university’s mental wellbeing support offices. You will be assigned an officer before you begin your studies, allowing you to discuss your personal needs to ease the transition to university life.
Mental wellbeing support officers can offer you mentorship throughout your studies, organise one-on-one learning support, coordinate a note taker or scribe for your classes and assignments and help you adapt to university life.
The university can also offer you support in finding suitable student accommodation, either in their 24-hour monitored halls of residence or private housing nearby.