Student at graduation

Our charity’s Student Support Service gives flexible support to autistic students during their studies in further and higher education.

Kieran was supported by Arvind, a learning mentor from our Student Support team, while he studied Graphic Design at De Montfort University (DMU).

In his blog, Kieran talks about the difference Arvind’s support made to him and how it helped him to successfully complete his degree.

My three years at university were the best times of my life (so far) and I am very proud to have graduated with a 2:1 last year.

Going to university is a massive thing for most people, but imagine that slight fear, nervousness, anxiety and excitement and times it by a hundred. Those were the feelings I had about starting university. I was worried that I wouldn’t make any friends or wouldn’t be able to complete the course without getting stressed out too much.

The help from Student Support was amazing and alleviated most of these concerns. I met Arvind, my mentor, during Freshers’ Week. At first, I was slightly shy about talking about my life and we spoke more about my academic stuff. For example reading a new timetable which initially seemed to make no sense whatsoever made sense once he explained what the numbers and initials meant. Arvind helped get me settled into the university experience, making sure I understood what I was learning and writing a timetable to help me know what I was doing and when.

When my dad had a heart attack, four weeks after I started university, he helped me through the process of getting an extension on my coursework so I could go home and be with my dad for a week. I felt so supported and able to take some time out without it negatively affecting my course. I probably would have dropped out if I didn’t have that support.

Arvind also helped me when I struggled with new friendships, a new relationship with a girl I met at uni who was also autistic, and with managing my time effectively. He used to text me to check how I was, whether I’d eaten and drank that day and how far I had got through my list of tasks. University is a lot of work even in the first year and if you don’t manage your time properly, it can all get on top of you pretty quickly. I would never have got through uni without that support.

University can be an emotional rollercoaster. I wanted to drop out a lot of times, but Arvind always made me feel that staying and working through what I needed to do was the best option and he helped me to do this.

I found that the stress of uni had taken a toll on my mental health at times, and Arvind could always tell when I wasn’t feeling great. He supported me by talking things through and trying to come up with solutions to the problems I was facing, or at least signpost me in the right direction if he couldn’t help there and then.

The National Autistic Society also set up a social group who met once a week in the pub after uni had finished. It aimed to help other autistic students talk to each other and socialise as uni can be quite isolating if you struggle to make friends, and this was a massive help with my confidence around people. We even went on a night out without the National Autistic Society staff a few times.

At the end of my third year, I started going to interviews for jobs, and Arvind helped me to practise interview techniques, write cover letters and checked over my CV. This was above and beyond what he was required to do for his job, but he helped me with it anyway.

I finally graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Design, which I never thought I would be able to do. This just shows that I can do whatever I put my mind to, and you can too!

Find out more about student support