Adjusting to university with autism and anxiety

Bill was diagnosed with autism at a young age, at university it affected his social life and learning. He discusses how reaching out for help, finding quiet spaces and planning in advance eased his stress. He also reflects on the tools he learnt from his counsellor to understand and better manage his anxiety.

Bill’s time in education was affected by his autism and anxiety, he talks through the things he found challenging as well as the things that helped.

Video transcript

Hello. I'm Bill Harrison and I'm a recent graduate from SAE Oxford. I studied visual effects and animation. I'm 22 years old. I'm going to be talking about how my anxiety and autism affected my time in education.

I was diagnosed with mild autism when... when I was born which makes talking to people difficult for me. Because of this alone time is very important for me. I also find loud noise... loud noise difficult too. Either one loud noise or lots of noise. These include fire alarms, jet planes, crowds, shouting and so on. I also find crying children and babies difficult.

Due to my autism, my education was slightly different. Since primary school, I was part of a base with other auti... autistic students. Instead of teaching us like... like the school's majority, we would be taught things in fun ways. For example, finding sweets in the playground to understand navigation or preparing... or preparing toast with the required toppings. In secondary school I was with a teach... with a teaching assistant in lessons to to help understand the lessons topic, give me... give me breaks when required and to help with team sessions. I had these until year 11 when I wanted to become more independent.

Being autistic meant I sometimes found the social life of university and independent travel difficult, despite living at home. I was usually quiet when working or when on breaks. I would find university presentations difficult due to the pressure to get a good grade. The time limit would... would mean I would rush the... the presentation. What helped my autism was seeking support from the university if... if I felt stressed or upset or finding a quiet space if noise levels became difficult. Also planning any work or... or travel ahead in time so I could be ready for any changes.

As well as... as my autism I also had anxiety attacks before and during university. I would usually get the butterflies in the stomach feeling, my stammering would increase and I cried... I often cried more than usual. I did seek help with this. However, I often... I often restrained myself from this because I didn't want to show weakness. Since then, my... my anxiety often spikes around autumn and the winter time.

Another reason for my... for my anxiety to... to spike was... was the deadlines for college and university. I would often rush a project or homework to meet the deadline and hand-in work early as a result. This meant I never failed a module. However, the grade would be lower than I hoped. I spoke to my college about this and they offered me... offered me time slots with a counsellor. The sessions worked very well. The counsellor understood what... what made me anxious gave me methods for when I'm anxious and gave me time to explain how I felt. I sometimes use these methods today when I'm feeling anxious.

I hope my stories about autism and anxiety can help you or someone you care about deal with the issues they might have, whether it's... whether it’s teaching them breathing excer... exercises or offering them quiet spaces, I want to show them they aren't alone. I would feel very happy if people were inspired by my story. Thanks for watching.

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