Supporting Students with ASC in Higher Education

It’s World Autism Awareness Week! Pioneered by the National Autism Society, this is a week for raising awareness, breaking stereotypes, and participating in fundraisers, challenges and competitions.

In the UK, about 1 in every 100 people are on the autistic spectrum, that’s 700,000 individuals! Unfortunately, many people with autism face barriers in their every-day life, whether in education, at work or within the wider community. Although the number of students with autism that progress to higher education is increasing, Autistic students are still less likely to complete their course than their classmates, with over 25% of Autistic graduates facing unemployment in the future.

So what’s going wrong?

Only 39% of students on the Autistic spectrum receive support during their studies at UK Universities. Without this support, students may struggle with things like routine, social interactions, completing deadlines and participating in lectures. This could be a result of students with Autism feeling uncomfortable and unsupported in disclosing their disability, unable to receive the support they deserve. Unfortunately, a lack of awareness and understanding of autism can also leave students being excluded from university activities and discriminated against, resulting in isolation and loneliness. Without recognition of the challenges people with ASC face, students are not offered reasonable adjustments that can support them in completing their studies.

Let’s change this!

By raising awareness, improving educational settings and changing attitudes towards Autism, all students on the Autistic spectrum can have the chance to succeed in higher education! To get involved in World Autism Awareness Week, visit  www.autism.org.uk

I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to receive specialist mentoring because of the wonderful personalised support that has helped me get through university
Some days I’ve been feeling down, but after my session I leave feeling infinitely better because it’s an outlet for whatever’s on my mind and my mentor’s warmth and enthusiasm is really uplifting.
Cansu T, Zoology Student
I have massively benefitted from the help that my mentor has offered
and she has really helped me be the best I can be during a crazy four years of uni!
Laura D - BA French & Spanish
Laura D
With the help of my mentor I have done things I didn't think I'd be able to
like present a poster at a conference, and now, I am a PhD student and the happiest I've ever been.
Oliver B - Phd Student
Olver
I can’t stress enough how much Specialist Mentoring had a positive impact on my university experience
Mentoring taught me so much: how to manage my time better, how to revise efficiently, and most importantly, how to cope with my anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Specialist Mentoring made my university experience a positive one, and I don’t think I would be the person I am today without it.
Sara G - MA Sports Journalism
Sarah G
More success stories

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterised by a predominance of either inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, or a combination of both. The condition involves challenges in managing attention, with considerable variability in how individuals focus on tasks based on their relevance. ADHD individuals often seek sensory stimulation and may have a strong need for movement, which can aid in concentration, anxiety regulation, or serve as a form of release. Organisational tasks can be particularly challenging, and there may be difficulties in retaining information in working memory. Written instructions or note-taking can be beneficial. Support in breaking down tasks and managing organisation is often needed.

 

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Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity acknowledges the natural variations in human brain function and behavioural traits as integral to human diversity, viewing conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia not as disorders but as different aspects of neurocognitive functioning. It advocates for societal shifts towards greater acceptance, rights, and accommodations for those with neurological differences, emphasizing inclusion and support. The concept of a "spiky profile" integrates with this view, illustrating how individuals may exhibit significant strengths in certain areas while facing challenges in others, further highlighting the diverse spectrum of human abilities and the need for tailored support.

 

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Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia affects both fine and gross motor skills, significantly impacting writing, typing, and self-care activities. Dyspraxic individuals may also face challenges with memory, attention, perception, and processing, leading to difficulties in planning, organisation, executing actions, or following instructions in the correct order.

 

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Dyscalculia

Individuals with dyscalculia struggle with mastering arithmetic skills, calculations, number sense, and mathematical reasoning. Challenges often extend to understanding quantities, time, and abstract numerical concepts. Dyscalculia is frequently accompanied by working memory difficulties. Approximately 50% of individuals with dyscalculia also face reading challenges, and many experience significant maths anxiety.

 

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Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects the ability to develop automatic and fluent word reading and spelling skills. It is often associated with challenges in phonological awareness, which involves understanding and manipulating the sounds in words, and may also impact orthographic processing—the recognition of whole words, letter strings, or spelling patterns. Dyslexic individuals might be self-conscious about reading aloud, which can also hinder comprehension, and may avoid using complex vocabulary in writing to prevent spelling errors. Though not officially part of the diagnostic criteria, dyslexic individuals often struggle with organisation, sequencing, and may have low academic self-esteem. A notable discrepancy exists between their confidence in verbal tasks versus written tasks.

 

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Autism

According to current diagnostic criteria, autistic individuals face challenges primarily in social communication and exhibit restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour. The severity of these challenges can vary significantly. Many autistic individuals have sensory sensitivities that are particularly challenging in new and unfamiliar environments. Furthermore, they often prefer structured and predictable settings, benefiting from ample time to process information and adapt to changes. Social anxiety can pose a significant challenge in unstructured and unpredictable social situations. While the challenges of autism might be less visible in certain settings, they can still have a profound, cumulative effect on mental health, well-being, and may lead to burnout.

 

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