Disclosure of ASD diagnosis
Letting your university/TAFE know about your ASD diagnosis can be a good idea, despite any initial concerns you may have.
I have not disclosed
You may have your own reasons for not disclosing your ASD diagnosis to your university/TAFE. It might be because you fear you may be alienated or judged. A tertiary student diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder talked about how he did not want to write down his diagnosis on the enrolment form:
Student: For me. I didn't want to write [my ASD diagnosis] down [on the enrolment]. I thought that I would be judged for that, and I didn't want to be judged for that so I didn't write it down on the form.
It is your right to have additional help if you need it
Australia has legislation that states the obligations of universities and TAFEs to ensure that students with disabilities (including autism spectrum disorders) are able to access and participate in education on the same basis as those without disability. So you have certain rights to access additional support services to help you achieve your educational goals.
Benefits of disclosure
The key benefit of disclosing your ASD diagnosis to your university/TAFE is that staff can provide you with tailored support. That is, staff can work with you to help you succeed in whatever course (program) you are studying.
Here are what some ASD students say about seeking help:
Student: I spent the next eighteen months struggling with my course because I haven’t gone to the [disability support unit]. When I finally went to [the disability support unit], it was on the recommendation of one of the lecturers. And she said to me, go and talk to this particular person in the [disability support unit]. She said 'I know you know the work, we just have to get the answers out of you in some way'.
Student: Well I had the problems at [the old tertiary institute] where no one knew I had the condition. My parents insisted I register with the [current institute] so I found out about [the disability support unit] and set up an appointment.
Disability support staff can help you with issues such as:
- time tables
- choosing subjects (courses)
- time management skills
- special arrangements for exams such as a separate room or use of a computer
- extensions for assignments
- lecture/classroom aids
- note taking for classes.
Many students with ASD have had help from the disability support unit:
Student: [For] exams, they gave me a bigger print, A3. I lose track of sentences quite easily, so that was good. Also, they gave me audios of readings. Extensions were really good. I was given a separate room for exams. I can tell you from my high school experiences, I was very distracted.
Student: [The disability coordinator] stopped me from being thrown out of uni when I had an attack of stress.
Student: At first when I got involved with the [disability support unit], after I got the diagnosis, that was very helpful because I was so stressed out that I couldn’t be in [institute] anymore. So I had to go and do the rest of the semester from home and so, it was too hard for me. I had to get extensions on all my assignments and I had to get extensions on my extensions, that was very helpful because the person I was working with, although she wasn’t that good, she could email the lecturers and ask and I didn’t have to deal with that, because I hate all the paper work and filling out forms.
Student: I’m painfully slow at hand writing. And I’m much faster at typing. Therefore when this lecturer said go to this particular person at [disability support unit] and things were put in place, I actually sat in an exam, by myself, with a computer. She said to me 'if you want to draw the answer, draw the answer'. So this particular lecturer was fabulous. She said 'I don’t care how you give me the answer. Give me the answer'.
Disability support staff can also link you to other support services such as counselling and the academic skills unit.
Student: [My disability coordinator] set me up with this [Academic Skills Unit] guy which was really really helpful because he could just help me go over my essays and that sort of thing. It gave me motivation to finish them a few days ahead so that he can edit them and that helped me get my confidence up again. And then I went to him maybe once a week or once every two weeks for that first semester. Then second semester I just went a few times. This year I haven’t seen him at all.
Should I disclose?
Disclosure is a personal choice – you are not obliged to disclose your disability. However, if you choose not to do so, staff at your university/TAFE may not be able to meet your specific needs, as they will not know what your needs are.
If you are doing very well at university/TAFE and do not want to disclose, then disclosure may not be necessary. However, if you are struggling with your studies and finding it difficult to complete your subjects (courses), you may want to consider seeking help.
How do I disclose and get help?
To get additional support, you can either speak to your teacher/lecturer or contact the disability support unit at your university/TAFE.
Sometimes parents can provide extra support, but they cannot speak to the staff at your university/TAFE about you without your permission. Thus, you can invite your parent(s) to a meeting with your teacher/lecturer or disability staff. And you can give the staff permission to contact your parents should they need to.