How adjustments for neurodiverse university students work

As we step into the realm of higher education, the journey can be both exciting and daunting. For neurodiverse students, this adventure may come with its own unique set of challenges. For some, concerns about how to navigate these challenges can prevent them from even starting the journey. All minds deserve an opportunity to learn and grow, to expand and to be fascinated by new information. As such, it is crucial to remember that seeking support to help you learn and study is not only acceptable but also an essential step towards ensuring equitable access to education. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the process of asking for accommodations at university as a neurodiverse student in Australia.

1. Reach out to student support services

Universities across Australia are committed to fostering an inclusive environment where all students can thrive. Student support services are designed precisely for students who may require accommodations to support their learning needs. These services often include student inclusion or equitability units or offices dedicated to providing assistance and accommodations for students with diverse needs.

To get started, reach out to the student support services at your university. You can usually find their contact information on the university’s website or in the student handbook. Do not hesitate to send them an email or give them a call to schedule an appointment to discuss your needs.

2. Know what to ask for 

When requesting accommodations, it is essential to be clear about your specific needs. Think about your strengths, but also the challenges you face and how accommodations could help mitigate those challenges. Accommodations can vary widely depending on individual needs, but here are some common examples:

  • Extended time for exams or assignments
  • Quiet or distraction-free testing environments
  • Note-taking assistance or access to lecture recordings
  • Flexible deadlines or alternative assignment formats
  • Access to assistive technology or software
  • Increased access to tutors or lecturers (and different means to do this e.g., email or telephone versus in-person) to discuss assignments and course content that is not being understood

Remember, accommodations should be tailored to your unique strengths and challenges, so do not hesitate to advocate for what you need.

3. Gather supporting documentation

In many cases, universities may require supporting documentation to verify your neurodiversity and the need for accommodations. This documentation could include:

  • Diagnostic reports from qualified professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or educational specialists
  • Previous accommodation plans or Individual Education Plans (IEPs) from high school, if applicable
  • Letters from healthcare providers or specialists familiar with your needs and their impact on your learning
  • Be sure to check with your university’s student support services to understand their specific documentation requirements. They can guide you through the process and help ensure that you have everything you need to support your accommodation requests.

4. Advocate for equitable access

Seeking support as a neurodiverse student is not about seeking special treatment but rather advocating for equitable access to education. Accommodations level the playing field, allowing you to learn in ways that best suit the needs of your neurotype. By embracing neurodiversity and providing necessary accommodations, universities uphold their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As you embark on this journey, don’t hesitate to reach out, ask for help, and advocate for the accommodations you need to succeed. There are millions of great minds out there that when given the appropriate forum to learn, learn well, and do great things in this world. It is important to empower all students to reach their full potential, regardless of their neurotype.

Written by Kim Eaton, Senior Clinical Team Lead

More information

If you  would like to learn more about navigating university with neurodivergence, or would like to book an appointment with Kim Eaton, call 6143 4499 or email via our contact page

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