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The Student Experience: Autism

In considering the student experience we first need to accept that this will differ from individual to individual, as we have seen with the examples above. And at the same time the student experience will vary depending on the context where the student may find themselves. For the purposes of this case study, we have broken these contexts down to:

  • General organisation, timekeeping, attendance etc – Overwhelmed by the volume of work or the desire to focus on each task in turn (monotropic learning), perfectionism, attendance where changes have been made to routines (e.g. rooms, timings).
  • Student life / social activities – Social anxiety, Depression/low mood from changes to routine, transition and adaptation to a new environment and new experiences. Settling into University life e.g. accommodation, getting to know new people. Understanding other people. Sensory overload.
Student in shadow facing away form the camera, stanidng in an aisle in the university library
  • Research and reading – perfectionism, distraction, hyper-focus on topics of interest at the expense of other less interesting subjects, difficulty getting to and/or working in communal environments (libraries, study centres).
  • Online learning – not asking for technical help where required, not understanding the system so avoid using it (miss out on learning, access to resources), disengagement, impacts on motivation and attendance, anxiety about being on camera and/or peers being off camera, lack of face to face peer support, lack of clarity and misunderstanding the task.
  • Composition, referencing and proof reading – Overly critical of own work – perfectionism, literal interpretation of instructions, not inferring, don’t know what’s expected (ambiguity in assignment brief), referencing (where a guide might seem unclear or confusing), overwhelmed by all the above.  
  • Exams and timed assessments – anxiety about sitting in a large group, over sensitivity to noises/ distraction in an exam hall, anxiety about what is expected of them, distracting behaviour for other students, concern about their own behaviours and how they might be construed by others.  
  • Placement, work experience and field trips – concern about feedback, managing an unfamiliar environment, new people, not knowing what is expected or where to go, understanding workplace cultures etc.  
  • In class
    • Lectures -attendance affected, disengagement, poor note-taking. Desire to sit apart. Lack of confidence to engage.
    • Seminars/Tutorials – attendance affected, fear of how others will view them, not being able to get point across. Unfamiliar people.  
    • Group work – Social anxiety, not feeling able to speak up/contribute
    • Presentations – anxiety about presenting to groups, performance impacted by nerves/anxiety, non-attendance/avoidance
    • Lab work – Fear of being put on the spot, not knowing answers, having to speak in front of class.
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