Some time ago I wrote about the trouble that I was having with Royal Holloway University and how they mismanaged the course that led to my failing the modules. As much as I still feel disappointed by their lack of effort to support me I am not giving up my place. I have already dropped out of two courses of full time education because I didn’t choose the right course. But on this occasion it’s the university itself that is in the wrong. What I think I need to do is to stay on at Royal Holloway and teach my department how to eliminate the inefficiencies and mismanagement that led to my failings.
Let me tell you why. The answer will also be of benefit to autistic students and other intellectual disabilities to ensure that they are putting adjustments in place by law to ensure that I am not deliberately put at disadvantage that they fail their courses.
In the years that I have been an advocate for autism and the conservatives, I have fought with a positive and constructive vision to make sure that neurodivergents are accepted and valued for their intelligence and abilities. Self publishing my book brought a message of autism as a force for good in the world and to shine a bright blue light on the world and open people’s minds to a better way of living. One thing that my department didn’t have was a decent level of standards to work well for people with intellectual disabilities. Whereas some of my fellow students feel failed and let down, I see an opportunity to improve the efficiency and better the department.
Some of my other fellow students feel that I am cursing on the course that they are on and that I should just leave if it need be. Claiming that even though I failed I should be let through to the next year anyway. But that would be defeatist. Besides you should be thinking long term about the future. When you eventually graduate and go into work the bosses will not only expect you to do a good job but challenge yourself to do something meaningful for the company. Your not just there to learn, you should do something for the benefit of the university. In taking this challenge I am going to make sure that the department can improve it’s teaching standards for neurodivergent students.
Let’s move onto something constructive now. What do you do to improve the teaching and the content of the course? First there is the course module content that is available to students on our education service website Moodle. From here you can download the slides used in the lecture and any other material. The content that Moodle has for students, which is written by the tutors is not very good as learning material for revision purposes. Slides are not good as revision material.
If Moodle is supposed to be an effective e-learning resource then there needs to be something more efficient available. When I was at the Open University my course supplied textbooks for studying to save time on finding an appropriate library book that would be difficult to find. I would like campus tutors create e-books of the slides and course material to supply to students so that they can save time on high demand textbooks in the library.
A lot of the students in my course were making copies of the slides for their course. It would have been more convenient if they had made e-books instead of having to rely on the slides for reference. A lot of disabled students including autistics use tablets for e-book reading and as a study tool. So it would be worthwhile to have a supplementary e-book for students.
Clear Instructions in Practical Work and Assessments
As a first year student you are not expected to rely on academic reading outside the lectures. The lectures themselves provide sufficient materials to study the content that you are expected to know to pass the course. But in this course some of the practical work that I undertook lacked clarity. This is not right when your not expected to have a geology background for this course. They should provide sufficient instructions in the course.
Autistic people struggle with some instructions. It takes a bit of time to process them and carry them out in the right order. I get stressed and wound up when things are not properly organised. Some autistic students tend to get very mentally disturbed by things like this. There were moments when I would leave the lecture halls feeling drained and broken because of the tutor’s lack of clarity and foresight. To come to the lectures was almost unbearable.
If you have an issue with the practical work then a teacher is obliged to give clear instructions on how to understand it. With a course costing a lot of money you deserve some value in return for what the teacher is giving you. Sometimes a tutor will give you some instructions for a task that the rest of the class will be able to do but as someone who is one special circumstances you need special provisions. I managed to get one tutor to provide me with an advanced copy of an assessment before a field trip. He was very helpful to me. The other two tutors who failed to give me any special treatment before were not so helpful. Hence I ended up failing those two modules.
Disability and Special Circumstances
I had a friend on my course who had ADHD and she felt very distressed by the way the course was run. I found out that she consoled with friends as she had a meltdown over the lack of support the course was being improperly run.
Another student told me that she had similar circumstances to my situation. She had got the same exam results as me, had five different medical notes supplied, applied for extenuating circumstances and had anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder. Eventually she left the course and went to take her second year at another university. I told my tutor about this matter and he was very concerned about this.
If the university can’t manage an effective strategy to make the experience good then what chance of they got of getting an effective pass rate. They obsess about us getting good grades, but they don’t bother to tackle the underlying causes of the problems of individual students.
I am an active supporter of mental health and the needs to tackle the stigma of living with this issue. One thing that the university departments need to do is to collaborate more often with their Disability and Dyslexia Service (DDS) to ensure that disabled students with mental health problems are not put under strain that can affect their wellbeing. I once went for a mindfulness session at the DDS when I got stressed and I actually felt a lot better when I started to take this as a self care measure.
For all neurodivergents to succeed in their academic career they must practice self care and collaborate with their tutors to better themselves. I have now lost a year out and I am now working on improvised self learning to make up for the lost time. I am no longer downhearted about losing out and holding back down a year. My only regret is not taking action quick enough to keep up with everyone. Don’t be downhearted by failure, take it as a learning experience. Be positive and persistent.