Asperger’s Syndrome

This resource offers tips, strategies and advice if you are studying with Asperger’s Syndrome or another autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Strategies for Successful Study

Tertiary study is challenging and it is important to undertake a realistic study load. If you need ongoing support, you should consider discussing your needs with Student Equity and Disability Support, as we may be able to provide services to assist with your studies. You can maximise your chances of success by using the various services available to you and developing a range of study strategies.

You may find it useful to explain the effects of Asperger’s Syndrome to your lecturers and tutors and the possible impact on study. For example:

  • communication difficulties, such as: conversation skills, interpreting non-verbal cues, understanding sarcasm or metaphor, making/maintaining eye contact or inappropriate/insensitive use of language
  • social difficulties, such as: engaging with and relating to others, understanding humour, preference to be left alone, frustration and impatience with others
  • poor organisation and time management
  • difficulty prioritising and focusing on tasks
  • difficulty problem solving and understanding abstract thought
  • poor concentration and memory
  • difficulty adjusting to change
  • response to some subjects: lack of interest and motivation or distress and agitation.

Preparing for Study

  • Clarify reasons for study, overall objectives and goals, interests and strengths.
  • Be prepared for the differences between secondary and tertiary education. If you are not sure what these are, try talking to a Student Equity Adviser at the University or a teacher at School.
  • Consider studying by stages, for example tertiary bridging or TAFE certificate courses which lead to a university degree.
  • Consider on-line subject delivery modes and assessment methods.
  • Contact a Student Equity Adviser before the course begins to discuss possible study adjustments.
  • Set up efficient, colour-coded filing systems for each subject and lists of equipment required for each class.
  • Create a comprehensive timetable to map out assessment tasks (commencement and due dates) and exam dates. Student Equity Advisers can help set realistic goals and study plans.
  • Establish study routines: break tasks into manageable sections; alternate interesting with less interesting tasks; avoid distractions and focus on completion.
  • Organise a quiet, interruption-free study zone.
  • Get course outlines and booklists before semester begins and start any reading.
  • Maintain a life balance: allow time for socialising, exercise, relaxation and sleep.

Study Techniques and Tips

  • Lectures and tutorials

    • Attend all lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions, especially the first ones when most of the important information is given about the course. Find out what was covered in any sessions missed.
    • Arrive early and decide where to sit: at the front to maximise concentration as there are fewer distractions; at the back next to an aisle or an exit door if breaks or movement are necessary.
    • If concentration is a problem, consider attending repeat lectures and ask lecturers for copies of notes or other material.
    • Do preparatory reading for all lectures and tutorials.
    • If organising material or writing quickly is a problem, use a laptop to take notes or explore support options through the Student Equity Adviser.
    • Do not interrupt in lectures unless students are invited to do so.
    • Students are expected to participate but not dominate tutorial discussions. Learn and practise cues for taking turns in conversation and find a balance between contributing and listening to others.
    • Avoid behaviour that others will consider odd or rude, for example repeating questions/comments and speaking thoughts aloud.
    • Be fully prepared for tutorial presentations, such as practising and timing delivery, organising notes and highlighting key points, preparing questions to stimulate discussion and making eye contact with the audience. Source oral presentation skills information.

  • Preparing assignments

    • Clarify the required academic style for written assignments. Ask lecturers or Stop 1 for copies of model assignments.
    • Explore concept maps and software such as Inspiration and Endnote to facilitate organising ideas, planning, structure and referencing tasks.
    • Prioritise tasks and reading, determine and focus on the purpose of reading before beginning, and record main points and bibliographic details at the same time as reading.
    • Source information about study skills through the Academic Skills Hub or online, for example through Welcome to UniLearning.

  • Exams

    • Make arrangements early for any alternative assessments through a Student Equity Adviser at least five weeks before exams.
    • Select relevant material and gear revision to suit exam style. Seek explanations for anything not clearly understood.
    • Explore memory enhancement techniques such as Mind Tools.
    • Plan and adhere to times for each question in exams.
    • Use relaxation techniques during exams.

  • Dealing with stress

      You need to learn how to recognise stress factors and manage stress levels. Stress factors may include:

    • less flexible timelines or assessment
    • dissatisfaction with assignments or essays
    • negative feedback or low marks
    • unexpected changes such as cancelled, rescheduled or relocated classes
    • pace of course
    • absenteeism
    • unpleasant or uninteresting topics
    • social interaction.
    • Some suggestions for managing stress include:

    • talking to a counsellor or a Student Equity Adviser about triggers and management techniques
    • finding a space on campus to use as a quiet retreat
    • practising most effective relaxation techniques.
    • developing and practising social skills and managing personal interactions.
    • cultivate friendships: join clubs, study groups or online discussion groups.

Information and resources

The University of Melbourne offers student support services as well as opportunities for extra-curricular and social activities. It is the student’s responsibility to make enquiries and follow up any issues.

  • Study adjustments

    You should initiate any enquiries about study adjustments with a Student Equity Adviser. Possible adjustments include:

    • flexible attendance requirements
    • extended course completion time
    • extended exam time, breaks or alternative location
    • provision of note-takers on-going counselling
    • quiet retreat area
    • assistive technology, hardware and software
    • alternatives to group task requirements
    • assistance negotiating needs during fieldwork placements
    • study skills appointments.

  • Discussing your condition

    Some strategies can be implemented without discussing your condition. However, to provide ongoing support and specific study adjustments, the University needs relevant information regarding your requirements. You can contact a Student Equity Adviser to discuss appropriate adjustments while maintaining confidentiality.

    Advantages of disclosing Asperger’s Syndrome or other ASD include:

    • access to facilities and services including adjustments
    • better understanding from academic staff
    • greater emotional support.

  • Student rights

    Students with a disability have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act. If you feel your needs are not being met, you should discuss this with your lecturers or a Student Equity Adviser. If you are dissatisfied, complaints can be lodged through the University’s Complaints and Grievances procedure. If you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.

  • Resources

    Online resources are very useful and easy to access. Stop 1 and library staff can suggest and help source study-related information and references.You may also refer lecturers and tutors to a Student Equity Adviser for further information and advice.

    For a list of peak bodies and support groups, please visit preparing for study and community organisations.

Adapted from the original publication (the University of Melbourne and Australian Catholic University collaboration) funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs under the Victorian Co-operative Projects for Higher Education Students with a Disability Committee, 1997. 
Written by Reem Al-Mahmoud, Patricia McLean, Elizabeth Powell, Janette Ryan. 
Revised version funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations under the National Disability Coordination Officer Program, 2009.