Focus on the strengths and attributes of autism


Date: 3rd Apr 2019

For World Autism Awareness Week, Disability Service Manager Maureen O’Brien highlights how Buckinghamshire New University values difference and diversity and celebrates the positives of autism.

“Teaching and working with someone with autism or Asperger's Syndrome can be an enriching experience,” says Maureen.

“Too often the ‘deficits’ of autism are highlighted but as with all individuals it is more inclusive to focus on their strengths and attributes.Maureen O'Brien

"At Bucks New University we look to value the difference and diversity that people with autism have and celebrate the positives of their personalities." 

Using sources from the University of Leeds and the National Autistic Society’s Autism Awareness Week, Maureen has highlighted the following areas she wants people to consider for individuals with autism.

Positive attributes

Great attention to detail. People with autism pay accurate and close attention to detail. They are meticulous.

Deep focus. People with autism can focus exclusively on one issue and can block out all distractions around them. They have 100% concentration, which can be hugely beneficial when studying and in the work environment.

A listen, look, and learn approach to learning facts. They absorb and retain facts and have an attraction to fact-based subjects. This in-depth knowledge and expertise can result in a high level of skills and excellent long-term memory and superior recall.

They are accepting of differences and less likely to judge others and more likely to question norms and challenge opinions. They adopt a considered and reflective approach.

People with autism have integrity, honesty, loyalty and commitment.

They are creative thinkers with distinctive imagination and expression of ideas.

Every person with autism is unique. We all have individual skills, attributes, and characteristics that are as unique as our personalities, this is the power and richness of neurodiversity.

Here is how to support students and colleagues across Bucks with autism

Clarify expectations and set boundaries

Provide training, monitoring and mentoring

Use clear concise specific language, and avoid ambiguity

Ensure the study/work environment is well organised with a structured obvious routine and give warning if possible about changes to routine

Review performance regularly and provide feedback which is direct but sensitive

Sensory overload. Ask about sensory distractions. Allow for use of resources such as noise-cancelling headphones. People with autism may have a preference to work alone at a corner desk

Allow anxious or agitated students or colleagues space and time to recover. During this recovery period keep verbal language to a minimum

Group work. Students may be concerned about who they will be expected to work with and may need support. Other students, too, may need advice on good practice

Pockets of good practice are celebrated. Some departments have implemented their own initiatives, including peer buddies for students with autism

Co-occurring difficulties are common, for example autism and ADHD, which may add to individualised strengths as well as challenges

If in doubt on what to do just ask! The University can offer advice on how to support students and colleagues.

The Disability Service has offices at the University’s High Wycombe and Uxbridge campuses. Call 1494 605 049 or email the Disability Service Manager, Maureen O'Brien, at

For more details go to the Disability Service page on the University's website.


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