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Studying with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is the term for a range of neurodevelopmental conditions or differences which can impact your studies at Leiden University.

The symptoms of ASD are very varied but among students they often include trouble with social communication or social behaviour, restricted or repetitive behaviour, as well as exclusive focus on a particular field of interest. This means that studying with ASD may require additional time and effort. Many students study successfully and accomplish many things despite their diagnosis. Leiden University has a range of study adjustments available to support you throughout your studies.

Adaptations can be made to the ways in which you follow classes and take exams. Special arrangements and facilities offered by Leiden University for students with ASD are for example:

  • Additional time for exams (10 minutes per hour extra)
  • Taking examinations in a separate room with fewer students (when possible)
  • Use of laptop for examinations
  • Partial exemptions from tutorial attendance requirements
  • Extensions to assignment deadlines
  • Alternative study plan with a reduced workload
  • Help from a buddy during the first year of your bachelor's
  • Text-to-speech software, that reads your study materials aloud whilst highlighting the text
  • Taking personal circumstances into consideration for your BSA (Binding Study Advice)

The adaptations available to you depend on your specific situation. You can discuss this with Fenestra staff. 

Request adaptations

Make an appointment

To arrange special adaptations for your studies, please make an appointment with Fenestra Disability Centre, Leiden University’s information centre for students with a disability.

Exception: additional time for exams

If you only require additional exam time and have an official diagnosis, you can submit a request as follows: 

  1. Make a digital copy of your diagnosis, i.e. a letter issued by a doctor or clinic. This can be either in Dutch or English. If you need to have your diagnosis translated from a different language, mention this when completing the contact form – see next step. 
  2. Complete and submit the contact form (select ‘Additional time for exams’)
After submitting your request
  • Within two weeks, one of our staff members will be in touch with you.
  • Fenestra will notify your faculty of the requested adaptation. Your faculty will then arrange your additional exam time. If you have questions about this, you can contact your study adviser. 
  • For most faculties, these adjustments will automatically continue for all your exams. However, at some faculties you must arrange additional time for each exam individually. Not sure how it works at your faculty? Talk to your study adviser.

Inform your study adviser

Make sure to let your study adviser know that you have requested advice from Fenestra.

Supported living

Supported living can be a solution for students with autism spectrum disorder who are not yet ready to live independently. For more information in Dutch, visit Jados.nl, prodeba.nl and villaabel.nl. If you are a non-Dutch speaker, you can also contact Fenestra for information.

Also read the general information on housing for students with a disability.

The tips below can help you to study more effectively and keep the difficulties caused by your ASD to a minimum. Try a few of them to find out what works best for you. Give it a few weeks. Research proves that it takes 21 days to change a habit.

Before starting your studies

  • Try to get used to some of the new things you’re going to encounter. For example, practice the journey or visit the university buildings.
  • Come to Fenestra for an intake appointment or send us an email explaining the issues you think you might encounter. We can then discuss the best support options for you.

Planning and organising

  • Use a well-structured agenda.
  • Make sure your workspace is organised.
  • Attend all your lectures and work groups.
  • Always draw up a clear and achievable plan.
  • Avoid doing things at the last minute.
  • Set priorities.
  • Divide tasks into manageable portions.
  • Monitor your own progress
  • Share your planning with someone else and ask them to keep an eye on your progress.

Dealing with distractions

  • Make sure your workspace is tidy.
  • Switch off your phone, radio and TV.
  • Close your emails or other distracting websites.
  • Ask other people not to disturb you.
  • Avoid places with too many distractions. For example, don’t sit by a window.
  • Find a quiet room. Many Leiden University buildings have one. Ask at the reception.
  • Some students study better with ‘white noise’ in the background. This is a monotone sound that cancels out background noise. You can find free ‘white noise’ on various websites.
  • The Pomodoro technique is a good method to help you concentrate on your studies. For periods of 25 minutes you focus intently on your studies, then take a short break and repeat. You can find out more on www.pomodorotechnique.com.

Processing study materials

  • Before reading a text, first look at chapter and paragraph titles.
  • Read the introduction and conclusion first, then the rest.
  • Summarise longer texts into a different format such as a list or diagram.
  • Study graphics, diagrams and tables carefully.
  • Repeat what you have read out loud, but in your own words.
  • Discuss the materials with fellow students to improve your understanding and test what you have learnt.

Following lectures

  • Find a quiet place in the lecture hall.
  • Try to find out in advance what the lecturer is going to cover that day so that you can look at the materials in advance.
  • Check if the sheets and notes that your lecturer will use are available in the digital learning environment. If not, ask your lecturer for them.
  • Ask your lecturer if you may record the lecture.
  • Don’t try to include everything in your written notes. Instead, note down key words and fill in the details later.
  • Ask a fellow student if you may copy his or her notes.
  • You can buy study notes and summaries via SIL and the JoHo.

Taking part in work groups

  • Choose a quiet place in the room.
  • If you don’t understand one of the lecturer’s questions, ask him or her to explain it for you.
  • If you need to find a fellow student to work with but find this difficult, let the lecturer know and ask them to help you.
  • If you are working with a fellow student, explain your need for clarity to him/her. Make agreements about the division of tasks, contact moments and other practical matters.

Taking exams

  • Prepare well. Make sure you begin your revision on time and know which materials you need to learn. Find out if you will have multiple choice or open questions. Practice doing old exam papers and let fellow students test you.
  • Find a quiet place in the exam room with few distractions.
  • Before starting, read the instructions carefully. Check how many questions you must answer and how much time you have.
  • First answer the questions you immediately know the answers to. Then do the questions you find more difficult.
  • Try to remain relaxed. Take short breaks now and then and try doing relaxation exercises.
  • Once you have finished your exam, go through it carefully one more time. Check you haven’t missed any questions or pages.
  • If you frequently run out of time in exams, request extra exam time.

Written assignments

  • Divide your written assignment into smaller steps and complete them one by one.
  • If you find it hard to order your thoughts, first record your ideas on a voice recorder, then put them on paper.
  • Don’t try to make it perfect first time round. Make a rough version. Once you have all the basics on paper, start working on the style.

Need a place to study without distractions? In Plexus Student Centre you can find a low-stimulus study room. Upon entering, you will be asked to leave your phone and any other distracting items with a volunteer. You can also borrow noise cancelling headphones and privacy screens.

  • Location: No-cheating room, Plexus Student Centre (2nd floor).
  • Opening times: Tues, Wed, Thur, 10.30 - 18.00.
  • No reservation required - spaces subject to availability.

Guidance & advisors

Fenestra Disability Centre provides advice on all disability-related matters. If you need support in other areas, there are other advisers available.
See all advisers and guidance services

Financial support

Students with a disability can incur additional expenses both during their studies and in daily life. There are a number of regulations, funds and special allowances in place that can help to ease the financial burden.
Read more about financial support

Workshops & courses

Leiden University organises workshops and courses that can help you to improve your study skills.
Take a look at the workshops and courses

Study tips

Leiden University offers study tips that can help you to study more efficiently despite any obstacles brought about by your disability. 
Take a look at the study tips

Healthcare and home care

In some circumstances you might need additional healthcare or home care facilities or support.  
Read more about healthcare and home care


Additional facilities in the home might be both needed and welcome if you have a disability.
Read more about housing

Legal protection

According to the Act on the Equal Treatment of the Disabled and Chronically Ill, it is strictly forbidden to discriminate on the grounds of disability and chronic illness when providing employment, accommodation, goods and services.
Read more about legal protection

Social support

Staying in contact with other students might not always be easy but it is very important. Find out about the different ways in which you can meet other students.

Studying with autism spectrum disorder

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