Supporting Autistic Tertiary Learners

Image of diverse tertiary educators having a meeting at a university


Executive Summary

Altogether Autism was approached by the Tertiary Education Commission / Te Amorangi Mātauaranga Matua (TEC) who had identified a gap in information for tertiary educators and staff around best practice to support their autistic learners. They contracted Altogether Autism to consult, research and design a set of guides to assist staff at tertiary education organisations to understand what autistic learners need from them to support them in their educational journey.

These guides are organised around six main topics, based on common themes that emerged from the consultation process. The guides are informed by lived experience, published research and educational best practices.

Altogether Autism consulted with three key groups:

  1. Autistic learners with experience of tertiary education
  2. The family/whānau of autistic learners with experience of tertiary education
  3. Tertiary educators and support staff

Overall, autistic learners and the family/whānau of autistic learners felt the most important areas that required more support and understanding were around communication needs, executive functioning needs and self-advocacy. Family/whānau also commented strongly on the difficulties in finding and accessing support, and the lack of understanding and knowledge for anxiety and mental health issues.

The guides offer information and strategies under six themes:

  1. Communication
  2. Executive Function
  3. Self-Advocacy
  4. Sensory Experiences
  5. Mental Health
  6. Social Interactions

Ten top tips are provided for quick reference, and autistic learners talk about their learning experiences.

Download Executive Summary (English) PDF


Image of family working together


Whakarāpopototanga Matua

I whakapā atu te Tertiary Education Commission / Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua (TEC) ki Altogether Autism, nā te mea kua kite rātou i tētahi āputa i ngā mōhiohio mō ngā kaiako mātauranga matua e pā ana ki ngā tikanga pai rawa hei tautoko i ngā ākonga whaitakiwātanga. Ka tuku kirimana rātou ki Altogether Autism mō ngā kōrero tohutohu, te rangahau me te whakahoahoa i tētahi huinga puka tohutohu (Aratohu) hei āwhina i ngā kaimahi whakaako kei ngā rōpū mātauranga matua ki te mārama me pēhea te tautoko i ngā ākonga whaitakiwātanga i ō rātou whai i te mātauranga.  

Kua whakaraupapangia ēnei aratohu ki runga i ngā kaupapa matua e ono, ka whai i ngā tāhuhu kua auau te puta i ngā tukanga whakawhitiwhiti kōrero. Kua kawea ēnei Aratohu e te mātau ā-wheako, ngā whakaputanga rangahau, me ngā tikanga pai rawa o te whakaako.  

I whakawhitiwhiti kōrero a Altogether Autism ki ēnei rōpu matua e toru: 

  1. Ākonga whaitakiwātanga kua uru ki te mātauranga matua
  2. Ngā whānau o ngā ākonga whaitakiwātanga kua whai wheako ki te mātauranga matua 
  3. Ngā kaiwhakaako mātauranga matua 

Ko te whānuitanga o ngā whakaaro o ngā tāngata whaitakiwātanga me ō rātou whānau i whakahoki kōrero mai, ko ngā wāhi nui hei tautoko, hei piki te māramatanga hoki, ko ngā matea whakawhiti kōrero, te whakahaere whaiaro, te hapahapai-whaiaro hoki. I kaha hoki te whakapuaki o ngā whānau i ngā taumahatanga o te rapu me te whiwhi tautoko, te pāpaku o te mōhio me te mārama ki te manawapā me ngā take hauora hinengaro hoki. 

E tuku ana ngā Aratohu i te mōhiohio me ngā rautaki mō ngā kaupapa e ono nei:  

  1. Te Whakawhiti Kōrero 
  2. Te āwhina i te whakahaere whaiaro 
  3. Te Hapahapai-whaiaro 
  4. Ngā Pāwera Tairongo 
  5. Hauora Hinengaro 
  6. Taunekeneke Pāpori 

Download Executive Summary (Te Reo Māori) PDF



Image of three diverse university tutors looking at a laptop.


Top tips

We have identified ten top tips to help lecturers and tutors better support their autistic learners. These tips cut across the themes: for example, access to lecture recordings helps learners who cannot attend class on campus due to anxiety or sensory difficulties, and also makes the material more accessible for learners who struggle with note taking due to executive function difficulties. Read Top Tips.

Download Top Tips (English) PDF


Image of two young Maori boys standing on a marae


Ngā Tino Whakamōhio 

Kua tautohu mātou i ētahi tino whakamōhio tekau hei āwhina i ngā kaikauhau me ngā kaiwhakaako ki te tautoko i ā rātou ākonga whaitakiwātanga. Ka whiti ēnei whakamōhio i te whānuitanga o ngā kaupapa: hei tauira, te āheinga o ngā hopunga kauhau ki te āwhina i ngā ākonga kāore e taea te tae ā-tinana ki te akomanga te manawapā, ngā taumahatanga tairongo rānei, kia māmā ake ai hoki ngā kauhau mō ngā ākonga he uaua ki a rātou te tuhi kupu tīpoka te taumaha o te whakahaere whaiaroNgā Tino Whakamōhio.

Download Top Tips (Te Reo Māori) PDF





Image of university lecturer having a discussion with three diverse students    Image of man lying on the floor writing

Communication             Executive Function


Image of man petting his dog    An image of an empowered woman

Mental Health                Self-Advocacy


Image of man playing piano overlooking New Zealand mountain ranges    Image of diverse group of university students working with each other and their lecturer

Sensory Experiences    Social Interactions


All images in these guides are stock images with actors, unless otherwise noted.



Autistic Tertiary Learner Experiences

As adults, tertiary students should be trusted to make decisions for themselves about how they learn best. Rachael Wiltshire, Autistic Advisor.