Neurodiversity celebration week

Autism: understanding, embracing and celebrating different ways of thinking

There is a widely reported increase in awareness about autism around the world, probably because there is a long-awaited increase in awareness, identification, diagnosis and capacity to serve the autistic community. At Kent we want to nurture the culture of discourse about different ways of thinking and being, in order to better understand one another and create a supportive atmosphere for everyone to thrive in our diverse university community.

What does it mean to be autistic?

Autism is not an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life: it’s something you’re born with and is often first noticed when you’re very young, although many people don’t know they are autistic until they’re older. Autism can affect the way a person communicates and how they experience the world around them. It is considered a spectrum condition, meaning the way one person experiences their autism can differ a lot to another person with the same diagnosis. Some well known people from all walks of life are autistic, for example, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, actor Anthony Hopkins, writer and outspoken poverty issues campaigner Jack Monroe and film maker Tim Burton. 

Every experience of autism is unique, and no one person will identify with every negative or positive feature of autism. Some autistic people need little or no support, while others may benefit from help from people who know lots about the condition. 

Some difficulties often experienced by autistic people are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by social interaction
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Specific sensory needs (noise/ light/ physical sensation)
  • Struggling with changes to routine
  • Difficulty processing lots of information

Some positive features of autism*:

  • Attention to detail (thoroughness, accuracy)
  • Deep focus (concentration, freedom from distraction)
  • Observational skills (listen, look, learn approach; fact finding)
  • Absorb and retain facts (excellent long term memory; excellent recall)
  • Visual skills (visual learning and recall; detail-focused)
  • Expertise (in-depth knowledge; high level of skills)
  • Methodical approach (analytical; Spotting patterns, repetition)
  • Novel approaches (unique thought processes; innovative solutions)
  • Creativity (distinctive imagination; expression of ideas)
  • Tenacity and resilience (determination; challenge opinions)
  • Integrity (honesty; loyalty; commitment)
  • Accepting of difference (less likely to judge others; may question norms)

Support for autistic students at Kent

Whether you are autistic or think you might be, looking at strategies to help you, or peers to explore this journey with might be really helpful. SYA? is an 8 week support programme to help students who have an autism diagnosis, or who are seeking one, to explore what being autistic means for them. If you would like to participate, please email

Student Support and Wellbeing

Student Support and Wellbeing provide assistance to autistic students with transition into university life, peer support and 1:1 guidance on managing academic work, accommodation & socialising. Find out more about autism support at Kent, including how to be supported getting a diagnosis if you think you’re autistic.

Autism social clubs at Kent

As well as support from Advisers and Mentors, autistic students at Kent can take part in various peer support groups. These are facilitated by Student Support and Wellbeing staff, and range from groups specifically for autistic students to explore what it means to be autistic, to social groups which are designed to be accessible to autistic students.

Have a look at the Student Support and Wellbeing events calendar to see what’s on this term, including the autism social club, modelling club and board games club, or attend the university-wide neurodiversity cafe on Monday 13 March from 12:00 – 14:00.

If you have an suggestion for a new group or have feedback on an existing group, please email

Get tailored employability support:

  • Finding disability confident employers: Online workshop for Kent students on Tuesday 14 March 12:00-13:00 – book online to receive details of how to join.
  • How to manage the uncomfortable when looking for employment or navigating challenges at work: Online workshop for Kent students on Thursday 16 March 11:00 – 12:30 – book online to receive details of how to join.
Written by Natalia Crisanti and Siobhan Mcghee, Sudent Services, 01.03.23