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news • 3 August 2023

My Experience at Escape Studios as an Autistic Student

Written by Kam Pranckunaite

Second Year 'The Art of Computer Animation (2D)

Studying a degree can be an exciting time and experience for many students! However, for some students with mental disabilities, such as myself, a lot more challenges can be presented. From academic demands, social interaction, and overstimulation, it can lead to days feeling more overwhelming than ideal. In this blog, I will be sharing my personal experiences as an autistic individual and some mechanisms I found helpful so I could make the most out of my academic journey! 

What does it mean to be an autistic individual, and how does it make us different? 

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how individuals take in and process information. While this disorder can affect each individual differently, some common traits are heightened senses, creativity, authenticity, hyper-fixations and much more. Like any other person, we each have strengths and weaknesses. Instead of stigmatising and looking down upon autism, we should celebrate it in society as an integral part of our diverse world. 

Transition into higher education 

My main concern was not fitting in with my classmates and being treated differently. In general, the atmosphere of the classrooms is positive and accepting, filled with like-minded creative individuals who are more than happy to help with assignments, regardless if they are or aren’t aware of any disabilities you may have. I felt like I belonged and had an equal chance of success as long as I stayed determined and put effort into my work. 

The support network and accommodations 

Receiving accommodations and/or additional support is not a sign of weakness but a tool to help students reach their potential! Whilst studying my first year, Student Services helped provide the necessary support and accommodations that I required. Some accommodations I received were automatic deadline extensions which I could request during any module, assistance with clarifying questions or concerns I had and providing many valuable online resources. They would also review my DSA (Disabled Student's Allowance) assessment to ensure they were providing me with all the assistance they could, which would benefit me the most whilst studying. 

Whenever I experienced difficulties during studio lectures, I had the contact details of my lecturers and personal tutors to discuss any of my needs, and most would reply in a timely manner. These contact details would be either in the form of an email or a private Escape Studios student discord server. 

Counselling services 

The counselling services were some of the best I received throughout my entire education. With the availability of self-referring to partake in 10 hourly sessions with a professional, it was helpful during a period which included many deadlines and challenging assignments. There were two main types of counselling available, art therapy and standard talking therapy. As a creative person, I opted for art therapy sessions, which I could still use as a talking session; having the opportunity to use the artistic equipment provided helped me express emotions. I felt heard and understood, not to mention being treated as an adult, despite having just turned 18. 

Online learning 

One of my many struggles is my tube journey to campus; generally, it’s a very overstimulating time with all the loud sounds from the London Underground, crowds of people and temperature differences. The option to work remotely via the Escape Studios VPN gave me the flexibility to follow along and participate in lectures as they are recorded live, from the comfort of my own home on days when I had less energy to cope with a full day in person. 

A higher education degree usually comes with challenges that feel impossible to overcome whilst studying. At times I felt unable to complete my first undergraduate year; whether you have a disability or not, with the proper support, anyone can conquer these barriers and reach their potential to achieve their dreams successfully. Student Services and lecturers are committed to seeing you grow as an individual, embracing our differences and seeing the true worth of our strengths.

To learn more about the support and accommodations students can rely on at Escape Studios, check out our Wellbeing and Support page.