The professional’s view on sharing an autism diagnosis

Many students are reluctant to share their autism diagnosis. Here’s what Kate Dean, Head of the Disability Assessment Centre at Leeds Beckett University, advises.

Background

Sharing your diagnosis with others means that you can explain how autism affects you and how staff and students can help.

Photograph of Kate Dean

What a student said:  I avoid telling people when it could be perceived as an excuse for certain behaviour, or for getting out of work somehow.

Kate’s advice: You may not need to tell anyone that you have autism (including Asperger’s) unless your course is aligned to a professional body that requires you to make a declaration. You can get more information about this from your chosen University.

If you do decide to declare, this will help to make your tutors aware of any barriers you may face and the impact this may have on your studies; it will also enable them to offer any support you may find beneficial.

Any support you are offered won’t place you at an advantage over your peers or excuse from completing the required work. Instead, the aim is to assist you to manage any difficulties you may face and to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you are not at a disadvantage. What is reasonable depends on your individual needs and your chosen course.

Tutors are already over-stressed and over-worked. Add to that the fact they simply lack the specific knowledge to understand the problem.

I find it very hard to explain my needs and even more so to persuade to help me with them.

You may find it useful in the first instance to speak to your Disability Adviser, they are experienced in supporting students with a wide range of disabilities including autism and Asperger’s, and they will assist you to explore any difficulties you may face in a higher education environment. You will also be offered assistance to explain your support needs to your tutors and your Disability Adviser will make recommendations for adjustments that would be reasonable for your course team to offer.

They will make assumptions.

Talking to your Disability Adviser about your individual needs may help to alleviate the impact of the assumptions and instead assist your tutors to understand more about you.

I fear I will not be taken seriously as I do not look ‘disabled’.

The majority of disabilities are unseen but this should not affect the way you are treated; all disabled students are taken seriously and the support you are offered is tailored to your individual needs. The recommendations made by a Disability Adviser will help communicate your needs to your tutors on your behalf so you do not need to worry about trying to explain yourself or articulate your needs.

It’s too personal. People have false perceptions or do not know. It’s hard to understand, and I feel embarrassed to tell.

I am afraid that I would be challenged about it, because there is no visible disability.

The majority of disabilities are unseen but this should not affect the way you are treated; all disabled students are taken seriously and the support you are offered at university is tailored to your individual needs.

I can never seem to explain exactly what my needs are – people dismiss me or misunderstand.

You may find it useful in the first instance to speak to your Disability Adviser, they are experienced in supporting students with a wide range of disabilities including autism and Asperger’s, and they will assist you to explore any difficulties you may face in a higher education environment. You will also be offered assistance to explain your support needs to your tutors and your Disability Adviser will make recommendations for adjustments that would be reasonable for your course team to offer.

Some people dismiss me and think I’m just wanting to be different / lazy because they think I’m ”smart enough” to overcome my difficulties.

I’m just not very good at explaining my needs or asking for help or fighting for it when I’m turned down.

Disability Advisers are experienced in supporting students with a wide range of disabilities including autism and Asperger’s, and they will assist you to explore any difficulties you may face in a higher education environment.

The recommendations made by a Disability Adviser are intended to assist you in developing strategies to manage any difficulties you face in a higher education environment and to help you communicate your needs to your tutors. You do not need to worry about trying to explain yourself or fighting for support as your Disability Adviser will assist you in coordinating your support.

Any support you are offered won’t place you at an advantage over your peers or excuse from completing the required work. Instead, the aim is to assist you to manage any difficulties you may face and to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you are not at a disadvantage. What is reasonable depends on your individual needs and your chosen course.

About Kate Dean

Kate Dean is Head of the Disability Assessment Centre at Leeds Beckett University. The Centre carries out assessments for any prospective or current students, whether you study at Leeds Beckett or not.

You can contact the Centre via:
Tel: 0113 812 3357
Email: assessmentcentre@leedsbeckett.ac.uk
Web: http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/studenthub/disability-assessment-centre.htm

Disability Assessment Centre
G01 Priestley Hall
Headingley Campus
Leeds Beckett University
Leeds LS6 3QS

Additional information and links

AuVision is an online resource created by the University of Birmingham which guides staff on how best to support autistic students.