In this talk, Dr Lorna Hamilton presented new findings on the experiences of autistic young people in regard to school transitions from a longitudinal interview study. Essential themes that emerged were Learning & teaching at secondary school, Adjustments to the curriculum, Approaches to discipline, and Identity, Difference and Stigma. These themes directly inform best practice that can support autistic pupils to increase belonging, learning, and retention. Lorna discussed practical recommendations and provided an example of how she uses an research-informed approach in her own teaching.

Check out the full presentation below.

See you at our final TILE Network seminar in this academic year on 16 May 2023 at 11AM (UK time) on “Blended Learning and Decolonising the Higher Education Classroom: Learning from Putting into Practice Theories of Digital Transformation” by Dr Jess McLean, Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia.


The number of neurodivergent students participating in higher education has increased rapidly in the UK and internationally over recent years. Systematic data on outcomes for this population are not currently available; however existing research suggests that, while academic attainment is comparable to that of neurotypical peers, neurodivergent students experience higher levels of drop-out and poorer wellbeing at university. Meanwhile, the benefits of cognitive diversity in solving complex problems are increasingly recognised by employers, yet rates of employment among autistic and other neurodivergent adults are strikingly low. There is a clear role for universities in improving academic and employment outcomes for neurodivergent students.

In this talk, I will first consider how neurodivergent students’ experiences at school might inform their concept of “self-in-education” when they enter university, drawing on longitudinal work with autistic secondary school pupils and their families, alongside implications for attendance and engagement. Second, the ways in which higher education systems and processes can entrench a deficit-focused approach to neurodiversity are examined. Finally, and drawing on first-person student perspectives, I will review pedagogical approaches that hold promise for supporting neurodivergent flourishing at university, including universal design for learning (UDL), compassionate pedagogy, and flexible assessment.

About the speaker:

Dr Lorna Hamilton is an Associate Professor at York St John University, where she is also Associate Head of School for Psychology. Her research focuses on contextual factors that influence educational outcomes and wellbeing for neurodivergent children and young people. Her PhD examined the role of the home literacy environment in the reading and language development of children with dyslexia and/or developmental language disorder. More recently, Lorna’s work has explored how educational environments can facilitate or constrain learning for autistic and neurodivergent pupils through school and into higher education. She works in close partnership with schools and local authorities to translate research findings into educational practice. Twitter: @drlornaham