University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Six tips for neurodivergent students

Neurodiversity — Accept help, find the people who are like you, and focus on the things that really interest you. Bella Neergaard has autism and ADHD. Here is her best pieces of advice on how to handle university life for others who are in the same situation.

Even before Bella Neergaard had started her master’s degree in cross-cultural studies at the University of Copenhagen, she had applied for special support for function-deficient students. She has autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), so it can be overwhelming for her to navigate through student life. Therefore she’s been thankful to receive a helping hand.

»I think there are many neurodivergent students (students with atypical brain characteristics, ed.) who are unaware of the support that they are entitled to. No one tells them,« says Bella Neergaard.

Her own journey academic journey has been filled with obstacles, but it has also been a lesson to her in being attuned to her own needs. That is why she wants to offer her best tips to students who are in the same situation:

1. Accept all the help you can get

»Even before you start your degree programme, you can apply for help from the University of Copenhagen. The help is called SPS. When I applied for help, I didn’t know whether it would be necessary, but I quickly found out that I needed it.«

2. Remember: Academic institutions were not designed for people who are neurodivergent

»Depressing, but true. Forgive yourself if you think it is all a bit difficult. This is completely OK!«

3. Find people like you

»Finding others like you makes you feel as if you are not alone. It is also a good idea to find people who are similar to you in terms of interests. In this way, it lets you geek out and not just be with the people who you happen to have in your class.«

4. Focus on the thing that really interests you

»Many autists have a kind of hyper-fixation on one thing or the other. Something they are really interested in. If you can somehow integrate that interest into your work at the university, like for example into exam papers, it will make your work feel more meaningful and fun.«

5. Take the time you need

»It may seem like a lot of people are in hurrying to finish their degree programme. But this does not mean that you have to hurry. Take as much time as you want. Do not only use the time at university to study, but also to improve yourself. Don’t get tied in to other people’s rush to get on to the labour market, if this is not what you want to do yourself.«

6. Find friends that you can really be yourself with

»There may be moments where you don’t feel that you belong at university. That’s why it’s important to find friends with whom you can be your authentic self, and motivate you to study. It may take some time to find the right people, but it’s really worth it.«