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Disability and Dyslexia Service


Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has two dedicated Disability Advisers (Mental Health and Autism) within the Disability and Dyslexia Service who are the first point of contact for students who have an autism diagnosis or who think they might be on the spectrum.

If you would like to discuss support for Autism Spectrum Condition and the impact of this on your studies, please contact DDS to make an appointment to meet with a Disability Adviser (Mental Health and Autism).

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder (DSM-5, 2013; ICD-11, 2019) and is a spectrum condition that affects people in different ways. Like all people, autistic people have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Video credit: National Autistic Society

" Autism is a “dynamic disability”.  What this means is capacity and functioning are not concrete and may fluctuate dependent on factors such as environment, cognition, executive function, processing capacity, Interoception/exteroception, neuro-fatigue, anxiety, communication differences, burnout and sensory overwhelm.  This means Autistics may be capable of a task one day, but unable to perform the task at another. "

Credit: Neurodiversally Unbroken, 2021


While people on the autism spectrum differ, there are some threads that link characteristics under the autism umbrella:

Please see below for further information about how these can impact people on the autism spectrum and strategies for supporting difficulties.

Social Communication Strengths:

  • Following instructions
  • Abiding by rules
  • Being direct, open and honest
  • Excellent memory
  • Attention to detail
  • Clear, concise and accurate communication

Identifying and Supporting Social Communication Differences: 

  • Identify how you/the student prefers to communicate (face to face, in writing, use of visual aids, email, telephone, video calls)
  • Identify what you/the student require/s before communicating with your/the student’s school, e.g. email introduction, what will be discussed, questions asked, who will be present in the meetings, a written copy of questions/instructions
  • Ask for clarity if you/the student are unclear, to avoid misinterpretations
  • Ask for processing time between instructions/questions
  • Request for written text of questions/instructions being asked of you/the student
  • Request your/the student’s name being used when in a group workshop to gain your/the student’s attention

Rigidity and Repetitiveness 

With its unwritten rules, the world can seem a very unpredictable and confusing place to autistic people. Change to routine can also be very distressing for autistic people and make them very anxious.   

Strategies for supporting rigidity and repetitiveness:

  • Self-regulating skills - identify activities that help you/the student to manage their own emotions and behaviours. e.g. reading, listening to music, drawing, a specific space, deep pressure etc.
  • Use a timetable/schedule planner
  • Structure tasks to manage expectations
  • Provide as much notice as possible to the student of any changes
  • Help adapt to unexpected changes by gathering information available and planning alternative routes/timetables/routines
  • Where possible, generalise special interests to learn new skills/try new experiences

More information on repetitive behaviour can be found on the National Autistic Society's website. 

Sensory Processing Differences 

People on the autism spectrum may experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain if the sensory difference is not addressed, resulting in sensory/information overload that often presents as withdrawal, distressed behaviour or meltdowns. For this reason, many autistic people may avoid everyday situations because of their sensitivity issues. 

Strategies for supporting sensory processing difficulties include:

  • Being aware of the setting and identifying possible difficulties
  • Use of sunglasses
  • Use of noise reducing ear plugs
  • Avoiding wearing uncomfortable clothing materials

More information on sensory differences can be found on the National Autistic Society's website. 

Below are examples of support that the Disability Advisers (Mental Health and Autism) can offer students on the autism spectrum.

Please note that reasonable adjustments may be unique to an individual and may not be included in the list of available access arrangements.

  • Academic Access Arrangements (AAA) and Exam Access Arrangements (EAA) - making reasonable adjustments to ensure that you are not at a disadvantage compared to neurotypical students. Book an appointment to see a Disability Adviser (Mental Health and Autism) to generate a Student Support Summary (SSS).
  • Support with communication with Student Support Officers (SSO)/academic staff/other staff on your behalf
  • Applying for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA)
  • Finding/changing a specialist mentor or other non-medical helper
  • What to do if you think you have a Specific Learning Difference e.g. dyslexia or a mental health concern
  • Advice on Extenuating Circumstances (EC) and the 'fit to sit' policy
  • What to do if you have accommodation problems
  • Social aspects of university
  • Other queries or concerns you have but feel unsure with whom to ask

We offer a ‘drop-in’ session for quick or urgent queries, where you do not need to book an appointment in advance. These take place on Thursdays between 2-4pm. Please come to Room 3.06 in the Francis Bancroft Building, Mile End Campus for a slot, on a first come, first served basis.

Please note: at times, this may need to be adapted to an online same-day 20 minute appointment on MS Teams, depending on government advice relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, to minimise the number of people in our office. To reserve an online slot, please email or call 0207 882 2756 on a Thursday morning to put your name on the list.  Slots are available on a first come, first served basis. 

For longer or less urgent queries, you can book a regular appointment.

Specialist Mentoring

Access to specialist mentoring can support with a student’s mental health alongside supporting their studies. Key focus areas are usually building self-esteem, building resilience, self-care, coping with stress and anxiety triggers alongside time management, revision techniques and notetaking, changes in routine, communicating effectively etc. 

Specialist 1:1 Study Skills Support

The sessions are designed to provide students with tools to develop their independent skills to organise and manage their time and be able to produce coursework and assessments which are commensurate with their underlying ability.   

Please see the diagram below which outlines the two different strands of support and where they crossover.The similarities and differences between study skills and specialist mentoring

Social Circle

Social Circle is a module on QMPlus intended for students on the autism spectrum. Any Queen Mary student can access the general information within the Social Circle module using their QMPlus login.

*The module is currently undergoing a reshape, to best meet the needs of our students on the autism spectrum. Watch this space for more information.*

PASS - Peer Assisted Study Support (for first-year undergraduates)

PASS is a course-based mentoring scheme, run for students by students. It gives first-years the opportunity to discuss study-related problems and get general advice from higher-year undergraduates in their subject. The scheme is firmly established at Queen Mary with 14 departments/schools running regular sessions. 

Buddy Scheme

Starting university can leave you with a lot of questions, many of which current students are the best equipped to answer!

Buddy Scheme mentors are trained to support new students settle into university life, unburden some of your worries and help you to integrate into Queen Mary life, making sure you truly enjoy your time here.

Why have a mentor?

Feeling positive, happy, and knowing that you have someone you can rely on can have a major impact on your academic performance – having a mentor can play a huge role, as it can help you:

  • Meet new people from your course and the university
  • Learn more about the university and local area
  • Gain practical advice, encouragement and support
  • Help you to get involved with Students' Union activities such as events and societies
  • Signpost you to services on campus

How does it work?

To be matched with a mentor, you will need to spend no more than 5-10mins completing the online mentee application form via this link.

The National Autistic Society has advice on starting university and support and strategies for managing the change available here

The Disability and Dyslexia Service can offer an initial assessment with a Disability Adviser (Mental Health and Autism). Please note that an adviser cannot diagnose autism within DDS.

Advice will be given about how to access a full diagnostic assessment externally and, in some cases, DDS can make a referral directly to your local NHS service.  

Before requesting an initial screening, some questions to consider:

  • Why do you suspect that you/the person you are referring is on the autism spectrum?
  • Can the person recall differences experienced dating back from early childhood?
  • Beyond diagnosis, what kind of help/support might you/the person want? 
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