Actually Aspling: Going to University as a Neurodivergent Adult
By Victoria Ellen| Published on August 10, 2021 | 5 Minute Read
When I was younger, I wanted to be a ‘pop star’. I would write poems and lyrics in my ladybird notebook, and although I didn’t have the best singing voice, writing was my creative and emotional outlet. As I grew up my career aspirations changed. I went through a whole variety of ideas, from teacher to therapist. One thing I was sure of though, I didn’t plan on going to university.
In both primary and high school I struggled academically, I was unsupported and alone. I didn’t ever feel smart enough to go to college or university. In high school I chose optional subjects which I enjoyed, rather than ones that suited my academic standing. I had one teacher, my drama teacher who saw my potential, who helped me to thrive. After high school I went to sixth form, where the same teacher offered self-belief and guidance.
I ventured into the world of work soon after, but I clearly wasn’t cut out for it, I was the odd one out, and although the work was manageable, the people weren’t very understanding of my then undiagnosed needs. I left work and attended higher education, enrolling on an Access Course. This is where my love of psychology began. My passion was evident, and my interest grew, so much so I applied to university.
I was diagnosed Dyslexic and Dyspraxic early in my second year of university, followed by an Autism diagnosis, and this made my life clearer. I was able to process the past, reflect on the present and explore the future. This is when I really began to flourish. I was given the tools and support to thrive. I no longer felt alone, like I was struggling, I felt capable.
University changed my outlook on life, it changed the way I saw myself. I was given a whole range of technological equipment, including a laptop with specialist software, this changed my work ethic. I suddenly could see my strengths and focused on them, rather than what I couldn’t do. My brain thinks faster than my hand can write, so having a laptop was absolutely monumental for me.
"I was diagnosed Dyslexic and Dyspraxic early in my second year of university, followed by an Autism diagnosis, and this made my life clearer. I was able to process the past, reflect on the present and explore the future"
University itself and the work was manageable. I had to plan every little detail, every single deadline and reading list. I was on it. ‘No time to be social there’s work to be done’ was my attitude, and it got me far, to the point where I’m now doing my PhD. My strengths of enthusiasm, determination and passion really work in my favour when it comes to studying. I’m able to hyper focus and get the task done.
I also have a wonderful supervisor who keeps me on track. I tend to need a lot of reassurance and clarification and although I’m given this, I’m also given a great deal of independence, which has really made me believe in my own abilities. I honestly believe that having the right support makes the difference. Having someone right the way through who understands, who gets you, who knows what you and your work is like – my supervisor is like that. He knows about Autism and is very supportive and encouraging.
There have been times on this journey where I’ve doubted myself because of my neurodivergency, but honestly I see it more of a positive, a ‘look at where I am and how far I’ve come’. And I truly believe that my journey has just begun. There is so much more I want to do, so many changes I want to make for the Autistic community, that is my aim.
I started off as a child with no prospects, no dreams, no chances, and now I’m here, studying psychology, an advocate, writing this. Everything and anything is possible, remember that.
About the Author
I am Victoria Ellen of Actually Aspling. I am a social media blogger and advocate.