Sensory and motor
People with an ASD are often highly sensitive to sensory stimuli. They can also experience difficulties with handwriting.
Sensitivity to sensory stimuli
Many ASD students are over- or under-sensitive to certain sensory stimuli. For example, some students cannot function well in noisy environments. This may impact the students’ ability to cope within tertiary education settings.
Parent: My son is very sensitive to noise. If he’s trying to study and there’s a bumble bee, he will get distracted. Quiet rooms are very, very much preferable, but not always possible. Walls without too many things, too many distractions is preferable because he gets distracted, which leads to anxiety.
Student: Special provisions for exams were made so I could be in a room on my own. I've got special ear phones which cut out all noise.
Students may use strategies to reduce the external stimuli, including not directly looking into the eyes of the other person while having a conversation.
Student: Those block out strategies can appear as though you're vacant and not taking it in. This can be quite distracting for lecturers and tutors because as a lecturer or tutor, you can be looking at someone and you can think 'oh that student's spaced out' when in actual fact they're reducing the stimuli.
Difficulty with handwriting
Some students with an ASD have difficulty with fine-motor skills and have slow or poor handwriting.
This may impact students in a number of different ways, including not being able to write class notes down fast enough, unable to complete exams in the time allowed, and the examiner not being able to read his/her handwriting.
Student: My hand writing is of really poor quality, so uni gave me a computer to type. I used to get marked down on that in high school because they weren’t able to read it.
Student: They’ve let me use a computer for typing for exams, which helps me massively because the handwriting is difficult, because I can always feel like I need to go back and swap things around.