Tips for working during this crisis for students with anxiety and Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs)

student with look of concernLyn and Tory in our Student Support team have developed this list of tips for coping with lockdown based on their recent work supporting students with anxiety and/or Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs).

  • Limit the amount of news coverage you see, watch or listen to. Access the news once a day for a limited period (30 mins to 1 hour). Turn off your notifications for news apps and ask those around you to support you by not discussing news with you throughout the day.
  • Consider your social media use, it’s very easy to stumble across unsettling stories. Take care and ask yourself, which social media sites do and don’t feel OK for me right now?
  • You’ll already have a number of strategies for maintaining your wellbeing and reducing your anxiety. Knowing what works for you and adapting that to what is possible is key. If you normally take a yoga class, find one on online and keep it up.
  • Recognise that change is hard. It is perfectly valid to give yourself some time to adjust.
  • When you are ready, give your days structure and routine. Change is particularly difficult for people with ASCs as you know, but if you set yourself small targets (don’t be over ambitious) you will know what you wish to achieve or need to do each day. You will then know what to expect and how to prepare for it.
  • We suggest you find yourself a suitable study area and create a ‘study timetable’ perhaps a colour coded plan for each day, week or each assignment, whatever works for you. This way, you may find creating a new routine easier and may avoid falling into the lull of sleeping all day and being awake at night.  Let those around you know your routine so that they can support you in sticking to it.
  • Try not to worry if things don’t go to plan. It’s okay, we all have days like that, especially at the moment, just try again tomorrow.
  • Plan in downtime too – just because online resources are available 24/7, you don’t have to be. It is okay to shut off from studies for a while, move away from your laptop or books and do something you enjoy instead – play with the dog in the garden, indulge in a hobby or take your daily exercise.
  • Identify and create a ‘safe’ space, where you can be alone when you need to be. Ensure this is a space that is comfortable, clear of clutter and unnecessary noise (if that’s what suits you).
  • Keep in regular contact with the person you are most comfortable talking to from University, be it from Student Support or your lecturer. This way you will feel as though you are still connected to your course and University. Everyone you normally work with is still available. Maintaining communications with the University will help you adjust to being off-campus.
  • Give yourself time to vent or offload if you need to. Your Student Support Tutor or Mentor can help you do this and can support you in all the usual ways – email them and ask for a ‘Teams’ meet or a telephone call.
  • Ask for help when you need to. If you need support from the disability team and you don’t already have this in place, or if you have lost your Tutor or Mentors email, contact disability@marjon.ac.uk and we’ll help put you in touch.
  • Keep a regular eye on Learning Space (just as you would normally do). This way you will be able to keep up to date with any new communication from your course tutors, including any revised assignment details and any proposed online lectures.
  • Look after yourself. Sleep, eating well, resting, enjoying hobbies and exercise are still as important as they always were. This crisis will pass but taking care of yourself is important every day.

If you’re a staff member, then here are some tips to help you support students with anxiety and ASCs:

  • See the Inclusivity Toolkit.
  • Use clear language. Get straight to the point. Use bullet points. No idioms.
  • Break down complex tasks.
  • Give prior notice around any changes if possible. People with ASCs tend to like structure and predictability.
  • Be aware that motivation may dwindle as people may have more time now to explore their obsession or routines.
  • Provide one trusted link person as point of contact for the student to ask questions to; this is needed due to the difficulty some students may face communicating with authority or others.
  • The best advice is, if possible, to talk to the individual and ask them what works for them.

The following advice on using Teams/Zoom with neurodiverse students was shared by Paddy Turner (of Sheffield Hallam University):

  • The problem with online conferencing with many neurodiverse conditions is that there are too many inputs with video, audio, slides, whiteboard, chat, Q&A etc.
  • It needs to be kept very simple; not all webinar programs are flexible enough to switch things off.
  • Some suggestions are to: Switch off audio for participants, switch off video for participants, leave the main screen set to slides as much as possible, give clear warning of changes to polls, advise people to keep to chat or Q&A but not both.
  • The Chair or their assistant can read questions from chat so people do not have to have that constantly changing feed on their screen.

Students and staff, please keep reaching out and keep talking. Tell us what works, and what doesn’t. Support is always available at Marjon, drop us an email at disability@marjon.ac.uk, we are here to help you.

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