Anna-Louise 

It can be very overwhelming having to deal with daily struggles of social communication, unexpected changes and severe anxiety. It can make everything feel louder and brighter in one claustrophobic room, especially when you’re alone.

Anna-Louise, an Education Studies student at the University of Winchester, tells us about her experiences of autism whilst in education, and the role positive experiences play in achieving your goals

My experience of autism has its positives and negatives. I used to get extremely overwhelmed from a baby or doll crying – a common symptom of sensory overload for autistic people. The sound used to make me cringe and my insides would practically scream.

My mum helped me get to where I am today by supporting me when I needed her. She gave me strategies to deal with the sound, like deep breaths and spending short periods in the baby unit at a time to get used to it. Taking any situation one step at a time in short periods makes it less scary and it is important to understand that the negatives cannot turn into positives without help. I am now a qualified Level 3 Nursery Practitioner and absolutely love the baby unit.

Anna-Louise

It is so important that the public understand autism and are most importantly, empathetic. When people are empathetic, I was able to see that things were not as bad as they first seemed, and I was helped along towards independence. My karate instructor, Stewart, gave me confidence in myself to stand up and fight and, if I failed, to pick myself back up again. I am now a 2nd Kyu Brown belt with a National Silver medal in Kata. It is this kind of support, acceptance and empathy which is needed constantly, and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

I still struggle everyday - although it’s a little easier with experience and constant self-education.

The biggest step I ever took was going to the University of Winchester to study Education Studies. I didn’t think I would have ever experienced something so amazing but so nerve racking.

 At first, I thought it was a big step too far. I went to about five open days to deal with unexpected changes, and the University was very accommodating in this. They allowed me to stay in halls of residence for the duration of my degree.

However, at University I found that it is important to talk to someone. When I told the university about my autism, it was one of the best choices I ever made because they provided me with help. My experiences at university have been incredibly positive so far. I am conducting a Student Fellowship Scheme to develop further support for autistic people as I feel there are still areas of improvement. Teachers don’t understand how to deal with student meltdowns, I can’t go to anyone immediately when I am having a meltdown at university, which can be extremely worrying for me. However, I feel this is the same outside of education.

The world can seem a busy place for people like me and I need quiet places to de-stimulate. The best thing someone can do to help a person having a meltdown is speak quietly, calmly with simple language in a low stimulated place. I feel the world lacks these places and more of these are needed - not just at schools and universities but in public places. Empathy is needed. There is so much awareness, but action is needed to change lives. While it’s still an ongoing process, empathy changed my life.

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