Supporting people on the autistic spectrum

Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that although there are some difficulties which all autistic people share, the condition manifests itself in many different ways. Individuals will have highly personal needs and preferences so there is no single solution to their support.

Potential issues

People on the autistic spectrum may have difficulties with one or more of the following: 

  • Making sense of the world. 
  • Understanding and relating to other people. 
  • Understanding non-literal language. 
  • Communicating. 
  • Over or under developed sensory awareness. 
  • Changes to routine. 

Asperger’s syndrome is one form of autism. Students with this condition tend to be of average or above average intelligence but may struggle with processing language and communicating. 

Many students on the autistic spectrum can only interpret language literally, so avoid using slang, sarcasm or even humour to explain concepts. Information needs to be given in a clear, unambiguous way that does not use idiomatic language. Often images or symbols may help in explaining more abstract ideas.  

They may have significant difficulty understanding what others may know or be thinking and do not pick up social skills automatically. 

Autistic students may find face-to-face communication difficult and may prefer to collaborate with others using technology. Enabling students to use their own devices ensures that they can communicate, work and learn in their preferred way. 

Key adjustments

Adjustments that may help autistic students in an educational setting include: 

Designing for users on the autistic spectrum


  • use simple colours. 
  • write in plain English
  • use simple sentences and bullets. 
  • make buttons descriptive - for example, Attach files.
  • build simple and consistent layouts. 


  • use bright contrasting colours. 
  • use figures of speech and idioms. 
  • create a wall of text. 
  • make buttons vague and unpredictable - for example, Click here.
  • build complex and cluttered layouts. 

View designing for users on the autistic spectrum poster

The above Do’s and Dont's contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. 


All the information you need to contact Student Support and Wellbeing.

If you would like specific advice about the support we can offer you at Kent or have any questions please email 

Further guidance

  • Autism&Uni is a European-funded research project that works with young people on the autism spectrum to help them navigate the transition from school into Higher Education (HE). They have published a set of Best Practice Guides on supporting students on the autism spectrum in Higher Education. 
  • The National Autistic Society web pages contain lots of useful further information. 
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