Autism and Studying

Greetings Earthlings! 😀

This week I’d just like to write a quick post about studying and autism.


Knuckling down and studying can be hard at the best of times, but even more so for an autist. There are often learning challenges such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and concentration issues with ADHD which can make studying quite tricky. Frustrated meltdowns when things aren’t clicking can also be tough to navigate (can’t tell you how many times I chucked my maths book at the wall trying to study!😂).


So here are some of my top tips for studying on the spectrum:

Stimming-Self stimulatory behaviours can be a useful way of channeling excess brain activity. By having a stress ball, a pen to chew or something to fidget with can help to free up your mind and allow you to better concentrate on the topic you’re studying.

Make it Visual- Autists are often very visual and highly creative, many operating between both the logical left and creative right hemispheres of the brain at the same time (due to the absence of a connecting bundle of nerves that splits the brain in two). Making things visual using graphs, videos and images can help to improve concentration by stimulating the creative right hemisphere of the brain instead of the usual logical left.

  • Aoife’s top tip: Use coloured pens for note taking. This was one of the best pieces of advice that my art teacher gave me as it really helped my concentration and retention levels by manipulating neuroscience! However, be careful with the colour choices as some autists can be hypersensitive to certain colours like yellow. Find the colours your child likes and buy lots of pens in those colours for them to write out their notes. My friends in college often told them how happy my notes made them as a rainbow of colour waved back at them every time I opened my notebook 😂

Bribery– I know this is one of my more common tips for managing numerous autistic traits, buuuut bribery is one of the best motivators! Concentration wasn’t always an issue for me when studying, but motivation was. When it came to boring subjects I just tuned out, so my mother traded me gaming hours for hours spent studying- 2 hours study meant 2 hours on the Playstation! It proved highly effective! 😂

Set small goals and take frequent breaks– This can be tricky for the all or nothing autistic mind, as once you get going, you tend to want to get it all done at once, which can often lead to frustration when you’ve pushed your brain past it’s limits. Setting small goals and taking regular breaks can be one of the best ways to study, especially where concentration levels can be an issue. Focusing on one small task at a time can build up a sense of achievement and encourage you to keep going without getting overwhelmed and frustrated. To this day I still do this at home or in work when I get overwhelmed by the volume of tasks that need to be completed.

Focus on what you can do before tackling more challenging subjects– One of the most commonly advised exam strategies is to complete the questions you do know first before going back to the harder ones to avoid getting overwhelmed and to build up your confidence. The same goes for studying- I’ve used this mantra several times of late when I’m writing to get me started on a task and keep from getting overwhelmed and it never fails! It’s not the easiest habit to form for an autist (as logic dictates everything should be done in exact order), but once you get in on it everything becomes so much easier 🙂

Take advantage of all available aids– when it comes to exam time, accept the help of a scribe or a reader (if you’ve dysgraphia or dyslexia) and take any extra time offered to you. Educational departments understand that autists often need a little extra time and help during exams, so if you need it take it- there’s no shame in asking for it. I was past my schooling by the time I got my diagnosis, but it would have been nice to have had a little extra time for exams when awkward questions threw me, or at least the comfort of knowing it was there if needed.

If you follow these tips you’ll be studying like a pro before long!

And always remember- it’s just temporary! We all have to study at some point (unless you’re one of the lucky few with an eidetic memory) to get to where we need to go, but it’s not forever, just keep focusing on the finish line and you won’t go wrong 🙂


Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 😀

Enjoy the weekend!


2 thoughts on “Autism and Studying

Add yours

  1. Dear Aoife,
    Studying was easily my number one concern after finishing high school. I had a well thought-out plan (one year of social work during which I’d renovate my first apartment before finding a major) and it started off great. I was instantly recognised as the most talented student of 75 people there and the satisfaction was so dense that one could float on top. Since I can remember, my special interest focused on language and communication and so that’s what I studied! But right at the start of the second semester, my grandfather (who was deemed so horrible that I’d never meet him) had passed away, sending my father into a depression spiral, while my student loan didn’t come for three months and basically, figuratively speaking, everything flammable caught on fire.

    It took me down hard, taking everything from me including two jobs, a steady girlfriend of four years and in the end, I’d lose my spot at the university due to being completely burned out (during this time I’d find out about my autism). To this day I feel completely overwhelmed by the idea of studying for university again and I doubt that I’ll ever go back into academia in that way, but reading your post did give me a tiny speck of confidence, thinking, now that I know I’m an autist, I could use that to my advantage. I’m 28, so I still have time to make up my mind, but since my brain never ceases wanting to learn more, I will nourish the thought and see what happens.

    What a lengthy reply! I’m positively delighted to have found your blog today, it’s very much worth a continuous read!

    So thank you for your thoughts on colour coordination (and colour hypersensitivity!! I HATE bright yellows, they give me a headache! Now I know why!) and bribery, your way of thinking is new to me and I’m very much inclined to try it all out. Lord knows I’ve tried a lot, but these tips come from a fellow spectrum strider ( I just made that up 😅), so I feel like there’s a better risk-reward ratio.

    Thank you again. If nothing else, a lot of your posts gave me big smiles today.


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