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 overall solution to their support.
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.
- 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.
Adjustments that may help autistic students in an educational setting include:
- Embed inclusive teaching practices.
- Promote use of assistive technology to all.
- Ensure key learning materials are accessible: accessible documents and presentations.
- Consider how to deliver content in alternative formats.
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.
The above Dos 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 use our Autism Support Form.
- 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.