Managing ASD at university: simple steps can reduce anxiety and confusion

Lauren Gilbert - Public Services - living with Autism / ASD at University

Lauren is a final year student on the Public Services degree. She had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the age of three.

"I don’t see myself as academic, so never thought university was a possibility. After studying public services at school, I went on to Coleg Gwent to study a BTEC.

"This led on to a HND and now I am at USW to complete my final year and gain a degree. I’ve also just been offered a place on the MSc Crime and Justice. I'm really proud of what I have achieved.

"University can be a hard place if you have autism because socially there’s an expectation of you to go to nightclubs and different events and that’s difficult for me. But academically I am enjoying it very much because I enjoy finding out facts and my subject is very interesting.

Amazing support

"The support I have is amazing. Having a support worker has helped me massively because it allows me to attend university without anxiety. It also helps me because I have learning difficulties so to have someone who is there to assist me with my work but also help me walk to class, ask questions and take notes allows me to get more involved in group activities and be able to focus on the lesson.

"I also have a mental health mentor who I meet once a week to talk through any issues I have had in that week at university or at home. We work together to come up with a plan to try and improve things, and goals for the week. For example, this week I need to make one phone call, and go to the library. It helps me become more independent but also work on barriers to education.

Simple steps to reduce anxiety

"The thing I find most difficult is working in groups. I find it difficult to contribute when everyone is talking and I have anxiety to give them my answer so I feel overwhelmed and don’t say anything. I am given the opportunity to work by myself instead of in a group, but it helps if my support worker sits with me and tries to involve me in the conversation.

"I find noise and bright lights overwhelming which is something that not many people understand. In some classrooms the lights can be dimmed, which the tutors do for me but if it is too much I leave the room and listen to my music to calm myself.

Transition event built confidence

"My transition from college to university was easy. Just before I started at USW, I attended a transition day to prepare me for university; this told me and my mum about all of the support I could receive, which was really helpful.

"I had a tour of the campus, met my tutors and people from the services that were available like mentors, support assistants and student union. It was a really good day and very helpful.

"My mum emailed my lecturers and outlined my difficulties with noise and groups etc, so they check in on me before the lesson starts to see how I am and allow me time to myself. If I need anything I can ask, and they are happy to help.

Advice

  • "My advice to other students with autism is to do what’s best for you. Everyone’s experience of Autism is different, so you need to do what feels right and comfortable for you.

  • "Don’t feel pressured to go on nights out if that’s not your thing.

  • "Ask for help if you need it - nothing is too big or too little, the University will help.

  • "If you have the opportunity, attend the autism transition day. Knowing my way round campus and the people who were there to support me made me more prepared for my first day in uni."

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