Supporting Autistic Students: Understanding Drop Out, Camouflaging and First Impressions
Autistic students are at higher risk of dropping out of university, yet this risk is little understood. In this research, quantitative and qualitative methods were used to examine (a) the different factors that may relate to university completion for autistic people and (b) the experiences of autistic people who had dropped out of university. Quantitative findings indicated that social and academic challenges, and in particular finding the transition to university difficult, contributed to the risk of dropping out. Qualitative findings identified several systemic issues – such as difficulties accessing diagnosis and poor autism understanding – as well as specific challenges within university – such as culture shock and a lack of proactive support. This talk will also touch upon other research findings regarding camouflaging (hiding or masking the fact one is autistic) and first impressions (how autistic people are perceived by non-autistic people on first meeting), and how these apply to the Higher Education context. Together, these findings suggest there is still a long way to go to ensure equal opportunities for autistic students.