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Dyslexia. 2009 Feb;15(1):23-41. doi: 10.1002/dys.383.

Student experiences of neurodiversity in higher education: insights from the BRAINHE project.

Author information

  • 1Student Services, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. L.R.Shapiro@aston.ac.uk


The number of students with identified learning differences (LDs) of all kinds is increasing in higher education. This qualitative study explored the experiences of 27 current and previous students with a range of specific LDs by means of semi-structured interviews, using a thematic approach. The findings revealed that participants shared many life experiences and preferences for learning irrespective of their type of LD. Participants generally held one of two views about their identity as 'neurodiverse': a 'difference' view--where neurodiversity was seen as a difference incorporating a set of strengths and weaknesses, or a 'medical/deficit' view--where neurodiversity was seen as a disadvantageous medical condition. The former view was associated with expressions of greater career ambition and academic self-esteem, while the latter view was associated more with processes for obtaining the Disabled Students' Allowance. Many of the participants reported similar experiences in education and with university support; many did not feel adequately supported by their institutions. Recommendations are made for increased awareness training among lecturers and better liaison between university departments.

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