Autism/Asperger Syndrome

What support is available?

Starting at university is a major change. It can mean moving away from familiar surroundings and people. The environment at University can be noisy, busy and crowded. There are lots of new things to get used to in a short space of time, but with the correct support in place, you can be successful. 

If you live with a non-visible disability, it can be hard to communicate your need for special requirements in a quick way. We want to help our students and staff overcome this challenge, and are introducing the sunflower badge to the University. 

Types of support you may be eligible for

Organising your support

We provide a wide range of support for our students; this will vary according to need. To enable us to put support in place we need you to provide us with evidence of your disability. This is usually in the form of a doctor's letter or psychologists’/diagnostic report.

Please send your evidence together with the completed Evidence Return Sheet (Derby students) or Return Sheet, Buxton (Buxton students). If you would like advice about acceptable evidence please contact us.

Disabled Students' Allowance

As well as reasonable adjustments you might also be eligible for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). DSA is available from your funding body and pays for the additional support that students need for university. Our experience shows that students really benefit from the support of DSA. For help with applying for DSA, please contact the Disability Officer at your university. It can take up to three months to get your DSA, so you should apply for it as soon as you have applied for a course.

Mental Health

People with an Autism/Asperger syndrome can be vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. This can be caused by a range of things.

If you are concerned about your mental health and wellbeing you can talk to our Student Wellbeing team.

You can also look after your mental health by following these tips:

Travelling to the University

You can get on a bus to the University from bus stops in the city centre and near our halls of residence. These buses run every day during the week - a timetable will be available at the University reception and in your hall of residence common room.

At the beginning of term and early in the morning for the whole year, these buses can be very crowded. If you find crowded and busy environments difficult then you may instead prefer to walk or plan to come into University early and work in the library until your teaching commences.

Many students also walk to university. Walking is good exercise and it is important to spend some time in the fresh air every day. You can walk to the university buildings from the city centre halls of residence.

The Britannia Mill and Markeaton Street buildings are very close to our halls or residence - you will probably be able to walk to them from the halls of residence in 5-10 minutes. Kedleston Road is further away and it will normally take 20-30 minutes to walk here from the halls of residence.

If you are not good at remembering new routes, however, it may not be a good idea for you to attempt these walks on your own until you know the area better. A map with a walking route is available. The summer school as well as the Get Ahead event will be a chance for you to become familiar with the routes.

If you cannot catch a bus because your autistic spectrum disorder or another disability makes this difficult you may be entitled to some funding to pay for taxis to take you to the University and back. This funding is provided by the Disabled Students Allowance.

What to expect during the first week of term

During the first week of term there will be a lot of things happening and there will be lots of things that you will need to do. However, for most courses teaching will start at the beginning of the following week.

The main university buildings will be very busy most of the time and some people can feel a bit overwhelmed by the crowds. If you are concerned about this please speak to us in the Student Wellbeing Service. We can usually organise for you to complete some of the things that you need to do when it is less busy.

Students who come on our Get Ahead programme will already have:

  • Enrolled and registered with a GP
  • Organised their support and been shown round the campus

Get Ahead is a great event that can really help students with an autistic spectrum disorder and if you want to join the programme all you have to do is let us know by emailing us at:

If you have not been on the Get Ahead programme then during your first week you will need to:

  • Enrol with the University
  • Register with a GP
  • Organise your support and complete a support plan

All students will have to attend induction classes where you will get lots of important information about your course and the university.

The Union of Students and the University together will be running an event called Freshers' Fortnight.

During this Fortnight there will be lots of fun and interesting events organised that will help you meet new people and try new things. For some of these events you will need to buy tickets in advance.

During Freshers' Fortnight we hold a Fresher's Fair in the main atrium of the Kedleston Road building. This is a chance for the university's clubs and societies to recruit new members. There will be set times of the day when you can go along and visit the students who run these societies, and they will have a stall displaying information about their society or club

You can find details of the clubs and societies that you could join here so that prior to the Freshers' fair you can decide which ones you feel may be of interest to you. Freshers' fair can be a busy, loud and crowded at times but you are still able to join societies and clubs after that event.

Joining a club of interest to you is a good way of meeting other students with similar interests. It may be daunting for you to join a new club, but remember that it's OK to leave if you decide, after attending one meeting or more, that you no longer wish to be a part of the group. You also have the opportunity to join a society later in the year if you want to.

Staying healthy

There are some basic things you can do to stay healthy while at university:

A healthy diet is important not just for our physical and mental health. It also allows us to maintain concentration and energy - which are vital for studying and surviving the busy student lifestyle.

If your diet is poor you will end up feeling sluggish, tired, and struggling to concentrate and you may also find your mood becoming lower. We have lots of tips on how to maintain a healthy diet and on how to eat well cheaply.

If you aren't used to cooking regularly for we've some .

There are also several websites with great recipes for students to try including BBC Good Food and Student Recipes.

Eat well cheaply

Plan your budget - Work out how much you're going to spend on food each week and stick to it. Otherwise, you could be eating like a king at the start of term and recycling your teabags by the end.

Cook with friends - if you each take turns buying and cooking a meal you will all save money

Get back to basics - Processed food is a pricey option because you're paying for the processing. It's much cheaper and often more nutritious to buy basic ingredients and make your own meals.

Compare prices - Remember to shop around. Find out whether your local greengrocer or market stall is better value than the supermarket. The University often has a fruit and veg stall in the Atrium. And you'll often save a few pence by buying a supermarket's own products, rather than the big brands.

Shop seasonally - It stands to reason that in the middle of winter you'll pay more for strawberries flown in from a distant corner of the world, so save by buying your fruit and veg when it's in season.

Don't be seduced by special offers - Getting 20p off, three for the price of two, or 15% extra is great if it's something useful. But don't fill the cupboards with Battenberg cake just because it's on special offer!

Cook batches - It can be expensive buying a different set of ingredients for every meal, so it's a good idea to cook up a batch of food. After cooking, cool the food quickly (within one to two hours), then freeze in serving-sized portions. Make sure you reheat the food until it's steaming hot all the way through.

Watch your waste - If you buy food that goes off quickly, plan your meals so it all gets eaten or frozen for future use.

More information: The Eatwell Guide

Student life can seem to revolve around alcohol. Drinking in moderation is an enjoyable and usually harmless feature of student life. Many students drink while at university and it is good to enjoy yourself but don't overdo it.

Getting drunk regularly can have potentially serious physical, social and academic effects. Even drinking to excess just occasionally can be damaging.

In the short term, drinking too much can impair academic performance because your concentration will be worse and you're more likely to miss classes, hand in your work late and do badly in exams.

But it can also put you at immediate risk of serious situations ranging from date rape to car crashes. If you're drunk, you're also more likely to be a victim of violence or to have unprotected sex, which carries all the associated risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

In the longer term, regularly drinking too much can cause liver disease, an increased risk of heart attack, weight gain and a number of different cancers. Such problems are now occurring at younger ages as alcohol use has increased.

The healthy choice in the short-term is to take just a little extra care to protect yourself and your friends when you are going out drinking (for instance, know your own limits and make sure you know how to get home safely). If you have had a heavy drinking session, you should remain alcohol-free for a full 48 hours to give your body tissues time to recover.

In the longer-term, you do need to have an idea how much you're drinking on a regular basis, in units of alcohol, so you can keep your risks low. The NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day.
  • Women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day.

If you are concerned about the amount you are drinking or feel that you cannot perform regular tasks without drinking you may want to speak to someone about this.

You can make an appointment to see a University counsellor by calling 01332 593000.

More information: 

We cannot underestimate how important good sleep is for academic performance and our physical and mental wellbeing. If we get less sleep than we need then we become tired, irritable and less able function. Lack of sleep also reduces our ability to concentrate, remember and think creatively - all of which are vital for academic work. This in turn can impact on our mood as we feel less able to cope with life, which in turn increases anxiety and disrupts our sleep further. All of this usually stops once the 'sleep debt' is repaid.

It can be difficult at the start of term to establish a good sleeping pattern. There are lots of parties or conversations in people's rooms that go on late into the night. You may also be sleeping in a new room in halls or a student house and your sleep may be more disturbed while you get used to your new environment.Don't worry if you find this happening to you. Student life does settle down after the first few weeks and once you catch up on your sleep you'll be fine.

Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep and establish a good sleeping pattern:

Environment

Make sure your bedroom is an ideal place for sleep. Remove any sources of stimulation, use heavy curtains to block out light and make sure your bed is comfortable. Many people find that laundering their bed clothes more regularly at times of stress can make their bed feel more welcoming and can improve sleep.

Times

Go to bed and get up at regular times, 7 days a week. This will help to condition your body to sleep properly at night. Avoid napping in the day even if you feel tired.

Diet

Don't eat late. Avoid rich foods high is sugars and fats and drinking caffeine late at night. Some people find that hot milk and honey can encourage sleep.

Study

Studying before an exam or assignment deadline is of course important. However, studying just before you go to bed will stimulate your brain and increase your anxiety levels just when you want them to be lowered. Leave a two hour gap between finishing study and going to bed.

TV, Games, The Internet

TV and computer screens stimulate the part of your brain (the amygdala) that controls anxiety. You should leave a gap of at least one hour between watching a screen and going to bed.

Exercise

Exercise helps to get rid of the adrenaline that anxiety stimulates; it also regulates breathing and encourages muscles to relax.It is tempting during busy periods to cut out other activities such as exercise. But in doing so you will reduce your ability to function and perform academically. Find time to exercise regularly during the day and make sure you are getting at least 2 hours of cardio-vascular exercise each week. However, you should avoid exercising late in an evening. Allow time for your body to recuperate and relax after exercise before going to bed.

Socialising

Again it is tempting during busy periods to stop socialising so you can focus on study and it certainly wouldn't make sense to party every night. But we all need social contact with other people and spending time with friends and family can help to reduce anxiety. Plan to meet up with people whose company you enjoy, for a sensible period of time, without it impacting on your studies.

Go outside

Sunshine is a natural anti-depressant and fresh air helps to stimulate our senses. A brief walk outside can help raise mood and lower anxiety.

Music

Music has been found to alter mood more quickly and effectively than anything else. Find some music that raises your mood and helps you relax and listen to this shortly before going to bed.

Showers / baths

Having a shower or bath 20 minutes before you go to bed can help your body to relax and make it easier to fall asleep.

Alcohol and drugs

It can be tempting if you struggle to get to sleep to use alcohol or drugs. While this may help you fall to sleep, as your body metabolizes the alcohol or drugs later in the night, it will wake you up and make it more difficult for you to get back to sleep. Using alcohol and drugs in this way is also likely to impact on your mood and ultimately raise your anxiety levels further

Exercise helps us to sleep and relax; it increases our energy levels and improves concentration and memory. Exercise also helps to get rid of the adrenaline that anxiety stimulates.

Student life can seem very busy and in stressful times like exam periods it can be easy to stop exercising, but in doing so you will probably reduce your energy levels and your academic performance.

Limit the number of hours you spend on the computer each day - spending many hours every day on a computer without a break is very bad for our health. Take a break every two hours and make sure you are doing other things every day (like walking or talking to friends in person), not just using your computer

Find time to exercise regularly during the day and make sure you are getting at least two hours of cardio-vascular exercise each week. However, you should avoid exercising late in an evening. Allow time for your body to recuperate and relax after exercise before going to bed.

Team Derby

Team Derby Fitness offers a range of services and facilities for all, from those totally new to exercise to the dedicated athlete. TDF aims to provide all its members with realistic opportunities to enhance and support a healthy lifestyle. Team Derby Fitness aims to inspire and empower people to develop their energy, vitality and performance and to be passionate about enabling people to live happy, healthy and productive lives.

The Athletic Union (AU) is an integral part of the Students' Union. It has one of the biggest membership bases in the Union and offers anything from your traditional sports, such as Rugby, Football, Hockey and Netball to less traditional alternatives such as Dodgeball, Archery and American Football.

Any University of Derby student can be a member of a sports club by joining the Athletic Union, whether you are trying a sport for the first time or you are an experienced player. Each club trains or meets up every week meaning they are a great way to keep active or just to meet students who all share the same interest.

Staying safe

Derby is a relatively safe and friendly city but as with any city you do need to take care of yourself and keep safe.

To keep yourself safe when out and about, follow these tips:

  1. Walk confidently and be aware of what's going on around you when you are outside
  2. If you are planning to drink alcohol when you are out, make sure you know how you're getting home before you go out. Book a taxi or make an arrangement with a friend to get home together
  3. Keep bags closed, zipped up and buckled. Be extra careful with rucksacks. If someone grabs it, let it go. Bags and their contents can be replaced
  4. Carry your wallet out of sight
  5. When using a cash machine, go in daylight or choose a well-lit one
  6. If you're taking your laptop somewhere, keep it hidden in an anonymous bag like a rucksack. If you take your mobile out with you, keep it hidden and keep calls brief
  7. If you suspect you are being followed, cross over the road to see if they follow. If they do then go into a pub or shop to call a friend or the police
  8. Have your house keys ready before you reach the door - and carry them in your pockets, not in your bag. Rummaging around for them means you're not looking at what's around you
  9. Remember if you're chatting on the phone or listening to your personal stereo, you won't hear someone come up behind you. Your hearing is your best protection; your voice is your best defense. If you're attacked, shout and run
  10. If something does happen to you, report it to the police and campus authorities. You could stop it happening to someone else
  11. Personal alarms are available from all UDSU reception points, charged at a minimal cost but well worth investing in for your personal safety and peace of mind
  12. Do not tell anyone your PIN number for your debit or credit card, always keep your card safe and in your own possession

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