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Living with autism at uni: adjusting and settling in

You've applied to uni, made the grades - now it's time to jump in. Read 10 top tips from university students with autism on settling in during those first few weeks.

Like any transition in life, the first few days can be the hardest. But there are plenty of things you can do to help prepare. These 10 tips will help you get set for a great time at university.

1. Ear plugs

The range of new, noisy sounds may be overwhelming. Take ear plugs or headphones to block these out, especially if you're living in communal accommodation.

2. Cue cards

Social situations where you'll be meeting new people can be uncomfortable for everyone. Some preparation can be helpful here - write down conversation starter questions and keep these close at hand.

3. Use a dictaphone

Taking notes and following the range of content discussed can make lectures difficult to keep up with as you're processing information. Take a dictaphone with you to record everything to listen back to later, or use your note-taking software.

4. Join a support group 

Look for a support group where you can meet other autistic students or adults – this could be within your university or a local group.

5. Coping strategies

Think about some coping strategies for situations where you feel anxious. Some relaxation techniques or thinking of things you can say before leaving a social situation, for example, can be helpful to plan ahead of time.

6. Get to know your surroundings

Familiarise yourself with your living and university surroundings, so you know your way around and feel comfortable with your local area. It might be that something visual, like a map or photos, can be helpful to refer to.

7. Meet with your disability adviser

Your university will assign you with a disability officer and personal tutor at the start of term. They will be your points of contact throughout your time at university and are there to support you.

8. Create a travel plan

Keep a note of the route that you need to walk or travel to get to university, plus an alternative in case you need it. Bus and train timetables can be useful too. 

9. Get socialising

Look at the social events calendar at your university or students' union and see which ones you would be interested in attending, especially during freshers' week, when there will be lots happening.

10. Clubs and societies

Find out what your university offers in terms of extracurricular clubs and societies. This will help you to participate in something you enjoy, learn or develop a new skill and help you to meet people with similar interests.

More from our autism and university series:

About the authors

This article was created in partnership with Carol Povey, Director of the Centre for Autism, at The National Autistic Society, Tina Sharpe, Head of Disability at DeMontfort University and Heather Cook, Client Director at Brain in Hand.

All contributors have an extensive knowledge of supporting students with SEND using a combination of best practice and technology.

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