Autism Spectrum Disorder


What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a “complex developmental disorder that typically affects a person’s ability to  communicate, form relationships and respond appropriately to his or her  environment” (Alcorn, 2010, p. 4). It’s generally associated with difficulty reading social cues and situations, and often involves a heightened sensitivity to the environment.


Generally, students with a diagnosis of ASD attending university are at the high-functioning end of the spectrum. People diagnosed with ASD may have comorbid conditions including anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, obsessive compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, tourette syndrome and epilepsy.


People with ASD can present in very different ways. They may appear very shy or may monopolize discussions. They may be independent or require support, hyper-focused or distracted. A common phrase is, “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.”


Persons with ASD may present with some or all of the following characteristics:


  • Awkward eye contact, posture or gestures.
  • Display sensory sensitivities to light, sound, touch, smells (may wear sunglasses or headphones in class).
  • Have difficulty with change.
  • Not understand jokes, sarcasm, facial expressions or sub-textual information.
  • Be easily distracted.
  • Have an excellent memory.
  • Monopolize conversations or ask frequent questions.
  • Appear socially withdrawn.
  • Display literal thinking.
  • Have in-depth knowledge or interest in a specific topic.
  • Use calming or focusing techniques like tapping or rocking (known as stimming).
  • Become overwhelmed easily.
  • Have superior verbal skills/vocabulary.
  • Have difficulty shifting between tasks.
  • Have difficulty with time management or task completion.


Various treatments and therapies can benefit people with ASD, but need to address unique symptoms, abilities and medical comorbidities.

Students with ASD may face a variety of challenges at university.


  • Academic Challenges – Some academic expectations may pose challenges for students with ASD, particularly until they learn how to manage these expectations/situations.
  • Social/Behavioural Challenges – Difficulties with reading social cues and situations can lead to problems in day-to-day interactions.
  • Environmental Challenges – Many students with ASD experience hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells etc.


However, people with ASD bring many and varied skills to their coursework and university life.




Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor’s Guide (Part 1)

Brock University’s ASD Faculty Resource Guide



Autism Speaks


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    Student Health Services

    Located in Harrison Hall
    (next to Campus Security)
    Physicians and Mental Health Nurse
    905-688-5550 x3243

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    Personal Counselling

    Located in the Schmon Tower – ST400
    905-688-5550 x3240 (crisis)

    905-688-5550 x4750 (non-crisis/

    appointment booking)


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    Campus Security

    Located in the Kenmore Centre (across from the Walker Complex)
    905-688-5550 x3200 (crisis)
    905-688-5550 x4300 (non-crisis)

Crisis Services
at Brock

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    Brock Campus Security

    905-688-5550 x3200

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    In Case Of Emergency

    Call 911

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    Niagara Distress Centre

    905-688-3711 (support line)

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    Niagara Health System, St. Catharines Hospital

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    Personal Counselling

    905-327-2244 (emergency after hours)

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    24 Hours Post-Secondary Student Hotline (Good 2 Talk)


After Hours Crisis Resources