For this year’s World Autism Awareness Week, a Football Business & Media student has bravely shared her experiences of being autistic while in higher education, and what can be done to help better understand the disability in general...

Prior to beginning my journey as a student at UCFB, I never properly considered the possibility of being on the Autistic Spectrum. I’ve always found certain aspects of life difficult to cope with and whilst trying to explain to others why, they could not process it. I always felt like these issues were just part of who I am and that was it. However, looking into it further and trying to gain a deeper understanding has helped create a clearer picture towards how I can feel less worried.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many difficulties to individuals in this past year, including towards students like me in higher education. One of the biggest adaptations I have had to overcome is a change to my routine. I am somebody who likes to have a structure in place – one of the common autistic traits is for somebody to follow a plan to the letter. Whilst undertaking assignments, this can be a strength as it gives you piece of mind whilst developing your work. It becomes a tick box exercise. I find it time consuming planning my work out so far in advance, but it makes me feel positive. The issue though is that when something does not go to plan it can cause stress and make you feel anxious. You are so fixated on one aspect not working as you hoped, it’s difficult moving onto another section. Learning that, at times, things can happen which are out of our control is a key skill which I have undertaken. I have still not fully grasped it, but it’s something I hope to improve over time.

I’m sure many students, like myself, love being on campus whilst undertaking studies. It’s a special environment which I find enables you to focus. Sadly though, the vast majority of us are restricted to currently working from home. Whilst having slightly longer in bed before a lecture is welcomed, working in a new social environment has been a massive step. For me, going into campus is where I put my thinking cap on and I can study. Then when it’s time to come home I like to switch off and relax. I will be the first to admit I was not the best initially when it came to striking the work and relaxation balance, but it’s something I’ve thankfully improved on. Now, we all face a challenge of working in a different setting. Having a dedicated area in the house to study has helped me, but some days I find it tough to do work. I look around and I’m not in the same environment, not hearing different noises to break up your day and looking at the same walls for a considerable period of time. I just try to take a step back, accept today is not the right time to do work and not punish myself. It is easy to feel anxious about not being able to do something which you had set out to do, but we are all going through a difficult period. Less productive days are to be expected.

I would say understanding how I am part of the spectrum has given me a greater piece of mind. Changing who I am as a person is something I would never consider, but knowing there is a reason why I find certain things difficult and that I can access support for it is a nice feeling. UCFB is not the biggest in terms of volume of students compared to other universities; I view this as a strength because I have been able to build up relationships with all types of members of staff. I know the support which I have accessed for my autistic traits will be in place for the remainder of my degree, part of which is my external mentor support. I am able to have a conversation on a weekly basis with somebody who focuses on the selective autistic traits that I find difficult which really helps me.

Everything I have listed above has not come to me naturally; a massive factor is the support which you get from others. I cannot speak highly enough of the encouragement and guidance I have received from the Learning Support Team at UCFB. At times, it’s not a matter of going over an assignment. Being able to speak to somebody about something which is bothering you in general can help release a lot of stress and anxiety. This then becomes a domino effect and puts you in a better frame of mind to undertake studies. Whilst I can’t have regular meetings on campus, being able to have a weekly meeting over Zoom enables that connection to continue. I would encourage any other student to reach out also if they are finding things difficult.

You can contact the Learning Support Team to discuss any questions related to autism or anything else on