Disability and Learning Support Service

Case study: supporting a student with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC)

Case studying illustrating the support that can be provided to students with an Autism Spectrum Condition.

Students with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) are often some of the brightest students, yet can experience a variety of barriers affecting their progression.  ASC is a highly individual condition and the student’s supports need to be carefully co-ordinated as a result.  Some of the challenges faced by students with an ASC include:

  • Difficulties with communication and social interaction
  • Literal thinking which can cause misinterpretation and misunderstandings
  • Hyper sensitivities e.g. noise/light. For many students this can be a source of extreme discomfort and/or distraction and can affect learning and attendance
  • Concentration issues, where students may ‘hyper focus’ on a task, or struggle to concentrate at all
  • Anxiety and frustration often leading to depression.

Mark was recognised as having an ASC after starting his University course.   A schedule of adjustments was created in discussion with him, taking into account the specific difficulties he was experiencing.  Mark was also referred to an AS Mentor for regular 1:1 specialist support and in addition, he meets with his Disability Advisor every couple of weeks to review his support.

One of the main challenges experienced by Mark on a daily basis is hypersensitivity to noise and lighting; this causes him extreme discomfort and makes it difficult for him to concentrate as he is unable to filter out the distractions.  Mark has developed many strategies to help him to manage this issue such as sourcing quiet locations to study and wearing ear plugs in exams.  However in some situations these strategies are not practical. 

Mark was experiencing particular difficulties in relation to the set-up of the open plan tutorial delivery for one of his courses and the associated noise levels.  This was causing Mark to become increasingly anxious and frustrated and he stopped going to the tutorials.  As attendance and submission of the tutorial solutions are assessed components of the course it was essential to explore possible solutions to alleviate the barriers Mark was experiencing and prevent him from being disadvantaged.  In discussion with his Student Adviser and colleagues within the school it was agreed for Mark to have 1-1 tutorials for the remainder of the semester.  This enabled him to participate in the tutorial elements of the course and complete the necessary work whilst options for longer term solutions were discussed. 

It was ultimately agreed that a separate, quiet room for small group tutorials would be an acceptable, viable and appropriate long-term solution.  Collaboration between the Disability and Learning Support Service, academic colleagues and Mark was essential in making these arrangements to ensure that he received appropriate support in as timely a manner as possible thus enabling him to participate fully in his course of study.