Well done on getting your place at university or considering it as an option. There is every possibility it will be a successful step to a fantastic future life and career. You’ve got this far through the education system so why not and why not now? Good luck.
I started mentoring autistic young people just a few months after my graduation in 2010 and was glad I went as a mature student. Not being diagnosed until 18 months before student life began, it would have been so much harder and it was difficult enough as it was.
Like you may well have experienced, I never really fitted in anywhere and went through school, colleges and work often not having a clue what was expected of me. If my experiences as a mentor and student can help you, then fantastic and I’ve got some tips that might help. They aren’t in any particular order because what mattered to me or other students might not be important to you:
- Mentoring; I had one of these and they’re very useful but rules change from time to time. As a student and as a mentor, we met wherever we chose. Sometimes it was on uni campus or could have been in a local pub over lunch and a beer.
- You don’t get to choose your mentor but you can change them. I wish somebody had told me that because I didn’t really get on with the one I had in my first two years but the guy I had in my final year was fab. He once came to meet me because I was sitting on the pavement outside the library and crying.
- With a mentor, you are allocated a certain number of hours a year. Use them because if you don’t they might be cut back in the years when you really need one.
- They might not have a particularly great understanding of autism/Asperger’s so be prepared to teach them what works for you.
- Get them to go with you if you have any issues you need to speak to faculty staff about.
- They can help to mediate between you and staff.
- They can help you to get to know the University City. This can help to make you comfortable and confident in a strange environment.
- Remember your mentor is there to help you, not do it for you.
- With academic support, make the most of note takers. They don’t sit with you unless it’s what you want. Use them to help you revise for exams.
- If help, support, equipment is offered, take it. You might not think you need it and you could be right but it’s easier to change your mind and drop the help than try to get it later.
- Look after your mental health; if you’re getting stressed, tell somebody. Your mentor can help with this.
- Get enough sleep.
- Try to eat healthy food and get fresh air and exercise every day.
- You don’t have to do what you think others are doing to fit in. Some people are born to stand out.
- Join in with activities; they don’t have to be based around students, student life or uni but try to get involved with something that has nothing to do with study.
These are relevant with or without the autism diagnosis and worth thinking about.
Apart from following a course of study you want to make a career out of, you learn other important life skills at uni.
Structure, discipline and work might be what you’re great at but there’s other stuff to think about.
Going out into the bigger world as an adult can be either terrifying or the best adventure you’ve ever had.
The students who leave with that graduation certificate and go on to do best in life are the ones who have built confidence.
They’ve gone out and given something a go.
They have learned how to fall down, fail and bounce back bigger.
Remember it’s your life so learn to make your own choices.
If something doesn’t work, try something else.
The world needs you, your talent and your skills. Enjoy.
Laurie Morgen is an autistic author, trainer, mentor and pubic speaker. She has three children, two of which are autistic.
Laurie has many years experience of mentoring autistic young people in further and higher education. Her book, Travelling by Train – the journey of an autistic mother, can be ordered from Amazon and other outlets.
Here are some useful links: