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What students wish you knew about Autism

We sat down with some autistic students here at Leeds Beckett and found out exactly what they would like Lecturers (and everyone here really!) to be aware of to make their time studying here more accessible and welcoming.

Photo of the James Graham Building on Headingley Campus on an autumnal day

We sat down with some autistic students here at Leeds Beckett and found out exactly what they would like Lecturers (and everyone here really!) to be aware of to make their time studying here more accessible and welcoming. 

How you can help students to better prepare for lectures
Planning is key here. Notably, giving students a heads up before a topic is discussed could go miles in helping us to form some thoughts and better contribute to the class. Getting hand-outs in advance would be ace and overall better notice, particularly if it is on our reasonable adjustment plans (more on that later!) Also, better signposting of practical things shouldn’t be neglected. This includes PLENTY of notice if there is to be a change of venue for the class, or when breaks are going to be in the middle of a particularly long seminar.

Manage expectations and be clear
This one speaks for itself but there are a few things important things to note. Trigger warnings are important for some people, particularly for weighty topics or the use of harsh or explicit language – hey, it’s life but we don’t need the extra stress of being caught off guard! Also, if you could minimise the use of ambiguous or implied language, we have a better chance of keeping up and being on the same page. This isn’t to vilify you or tell you how to conduct your lecture – just know your audience (have we mentioned the reasonable adjustment plans yet??)

Reasonable Adjustment Plans
Right, it’s important to note that not all autistic students need the same things and their plans are set up with disability services in accordance with those needs. However, even the smallest things can be a BIG DEAL so please read the plans and adjust accordingly! It might not always be feasible for us to raise an issue with you, or to ensure your adherence to our plans so we would ask that staff take responsibility for ensuring we are not left out. Also, come and chat to us about our needs, we won’t bite

Adjustments the Uni and its representatives can make
Okay, so a bunch of us just got together and put these into a list so it’s probably better just to bash through them as such:

  • Space out your deadlines! Anticipation of a submission date or an exam is a killer, never mind having three in the same two week period…
  • Get creative with your teaching style – We are adjusting to you, why not adjust to us a little?
  • Could we get some assistance with choosing our modules and the questions for our assignments? It’s not always easy to ask outright.
  • How about showing us some examples of previous submissions to give us a target and to set our expectations against?

Be aware of stimming!
Here’s just a final note, but we are all unique and some of us like/need to stim (ulate) in some way! We could be humming, rocking, nodding, blinking, scratching… whatever. Knowing our stims and when it is a reflection of anxiety could be a game changer for us.

Thanks for reading! If you already do some of these things then that’s brilliant and if not then its something to be mindful of in your practice. If you want to find out more about autism at university and autism awareness week then get involved in some of our activity throughout the week! 

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