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Autism is a condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment.

It is a lifelong disability that starts when a person is born and stays with them into old age. Every autistic person is different. This is why autism is described as a ‘spectrum’ and is often referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is most commonly diagnosed in children and young people, but sometimes adults can learn about their autism for the first time.

Some of the challenges that autistic people face are:

  • difficulties in communicating their needs and desires;
  • social interaction and interpreting other people’s behaviour; and
  • processing sensory or cognitive information.

But there are also strengths, such as being detail oriented and a logical thinker, maintaining focus on a task, and seeing things from a different perspective.

There are many myths about autism. All autistic people have a different lived experience and a different combination of skills and difficulties.

Adjusting to university is a challenge for all students, but it can be especially difficult if you have autism. It could make things such as understanding and completing your studies difficult, as well as making friends or planning your daily schedule.

What to do

If you have autism, it’s likely you are already working with a healthcare professional. It’s a good idea to talk to them as well as your support network about your studies and discuss what you might need to succeed.

If you think you might have autism, you could learn about some of the signs and characteristics of autism in adults. If someone in your life is showing signs of autism, you could encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor. Remember that diagnosing autism in adults can be a long and complex process, but if you keep an open mind and you’re looking to improve your (or their) quality of life, it can be a worthwhile process regardless of the outcome.

Getting support

If you have autism, you should be in touch with our Disability Resource Centre (DRC). They can organise an access plan for you that will support you for the entirety of your degree and may include alternative assessment arrangements and access to an academic support worker.

We also offer additional support for students through our NAVIGATE program. Once you’ve registered with the DRC, NAVIGATE will assign you a mentor who will help you get to know and use Deakin’s systems, spaces and support offerings.

If you are seeking an autism diagnosis, the best place to start is by making an appointment with Deakin Medical Centre.

If you are caring for someone with autism and it’s affecting your studies, we recommend you make an appointment with Deakin’s Counselling service.

More help and advice

You can learn more about autism from Autism Spectrum Australia and Autism Awareness Australia.

Amaze is a Victorian charity dedicated to creating an autism-inclusive Australia – their website has lots of helpful articles and resources.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call the National Autism Helpline on 1300 308 699. This might be helpful if someone close to you has autism and you have a question. They also offer live webchat.

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