Student-Lived Experience on Personal Tutoring and Their Recommendations
Animation created by Robyn Ellison
Welcoming Your Tutees
Transitioning to University is hard for all students, but neurodivergent students have other barriers that may make this transition even harder. For example, the change in routine, new experiences, less structure, new home, new people, and more onus on their own organisational skills.
What is your role as a Personal Tutor for a neurodiverse student?
- Seeking information about support needs
- Acknowledging (accepting) and support with academic issues
How can you help?
1. Introduce your role to tutees before meeting: the uncertainity about the university experience and navigating the support that the university can offer can be stressful for neurodiverse students. This can be eased by introducing yourself and your role before meeting your personal tutees.
2. Offer 1:1 meetings in alongside group meetings: this will give your students an opportunity to discuss their needs with you privately and for you to signpost to appropriate services
3. Signpost early to disability services: Students may not be aware of the support that Disability Services can offer. Also their support needs may change across their time at university, therefore regularly reminding about disability services support may be useful.
Dr. Gemma Gray uses Padlet to introduce herself before she meets her tutees:
Wider University Guidance: Personal Tutor Resources - Building Community (warwick.ac.uk)
Diversity in Neurodiversity
In neurodiversity, there is still diversity: people with the same diagnosis may need support in different areas, it is important to allow your students to direct and explain the support they need.
Establish Preferred Mode of CommunicationEnsure that you have a clear and consistent method of communication with your tutees, and that your tutees are comfortable with these methods. For instance, some neurodivergent students find video calls difficult, so would prefer in person meetings. Similarly, be mindful of your communication style in emails. Ensure language use is clear, concise and concrete language is used, and discuss with your student what helps them with email communication
ExpectationsDiscussing the needs of your tutee, how their condition affects them and what they can expect from you is useful to focus on in early 1:1 meetings.
For instance some neurodiverse students may have difficulty with planning and organisation, therefore reminders about meetings may be useful, or booking meetings on tabula so that they are put in the students calander can be helpful. Also ensure that meeting outcomes and actions are communicated clearly is helpful (Tabula meeting notes can be used for this).
Everyday language can have a significant impact on those around you. It is important to be aware of how the language around disability and neurodiversity should be used. It is important to understand the difference between intent and the impact of language.
- Avoid medical labels
- Avoid negative labels, "suffers from"
- Consider any assumptions you are making
It is okay not to know and it is okay to ask questions. It is how these questions are asked that is important.
- I am aware that you have disclosed a disability and I wanted to check in to see how everything is going
- How have you been finding learning online and face-to-face learning that you have experienced?
- Are you aware of the Disability Team in WSS, have you been in touch with them? If yes, is everything working for you?
- How are you finding reasonable adjustments in place, is there any support that could help?
Diagnosis and Disclosure
- Some students may have disclosed their condition on UCAS on entry, however, this does not mean that they will automatically have Reasonable Adjustments (RAs) in place, therefore encourage them to contact the Disability Service if they need RAs.
- Some students may be concerned about the confidentiality of their disclosure to you. Reassure your tutee that it us up to them who they disclose their diagnosis too and that you will not share this information
- Students may come to you with concerns about having a condition that they do not have a diagnosis for yet. You can signpost them to Disability Services who can conduct non-diagnostic assessments for ADHD, ASD and Dyslexia, and they can also provide further advise
- Waiting lists are long for some conditions such as ASD and ADHD, therefore consider the effect this may have on your tutee, seek further advise from Disability services and support them with their academic work where you can.
- Where a student has a diagnosis they should meet with Disability Services to discuss potential RA's that they may find helpful. Disability Services will then let the students department know what the student is entitled to. Students may then find it helpful to meet with their Personal Tutors to discuss their RAsand any area the student may have difficulty.
- Students may have concerns about what diagnosis means for them. For instance some are concerned about others peoples perceptions of their condition, or worry about making use of their reasonable adjustments. Encourage students to discuss their concerns around this.
- Views on disclosing: autism toolkit from Portsmouth universityLink opens in a new window
Identity in Diagnosis
Many students are diagnosed during their time at University. Each stage can be overwhelming for the student, from long waiting times to how to tell their family, there may be a series of difficulties. It is important to recognise the individual situation of the student and factors that may make diagnosis and this process daunting.
“I make sure to encourage a dialogue with my students. For example, I look up each tutee and check if they have disclosed a disability. I then reach out to suggest a one-to-one to chat. I also encourage all students to come and have a chat about how they’re getting on or if there’s any advice they need – I bring this up quite regularly in group meetings (especially at the start of term or in the run-up to reasonable adjustment deadlines). I try to make sure I have one-to-one chats with every tutee.”
This is a great example of good practice because:
- The staff member is taking the initiative to check student profiles and make sure they are aware of any disclosed disabilities.
- They are aware that not all students will have disclosed their disability (or necessarily even be aware of it), and make sure to extend support to all students rather than just those registered with the Disability Team.
- By engaging with students regularly and on a one-to-one basis, they are building rapport and encouraging students to be comfortable discussing their needs.
Common Areas of Support
- Organisation: e.g. Structuring the day, assignment planning, completing daily tasks, checking timetables
- Time Management: e.g. getting to university on time, spending appropriate time on tasks
- Advice on managing lectures: e.g. maintaining focus, dealing with sensory issues and distractions in lecture theatres, taking notes
- Contributing in seminars: e.g. support with group work
- Efficient reading: e.g. focus, taking useful notes, tools to support
- Asking lecturers questions: e.g. email etiquette, appropriate questions to ask, how to ask for more information in an answer
It is important to know that Disability at Warwick offers different accommodation support for disabled students at the university. For example, accommodation can be made available for a disabled student across the entirety of their studies. More Information Here.