Bryan Coleman, Head of The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service at The University of Sheffield

Bryan provides a summary of the ways in which the service supports autistic students.







Photograph of Bryan Coleman

We have a strong tradition of supporting students on the autism spectrum at the University of Sheffield. I have listed below some of the ways in which we do this. 


  • The Disability Transition Officer  runs an annual induction day every July for applicants on the spectrum and their parents/guardians. Talks are delivered by staff from various teams – Accommodation, Specialist Mentors etc – and by Disability Champions (current students on the spectrum). 
  • DDSS is proactive about contacting all applicants around May time to start discussing their support needs. 
  • We fund two (completely optional) Autism Social Groups which are run independently by Spectrum First Education There was originally one group but it has proved so popular that we had to create a second group
  • Over 200 students on the spectrum receive support from DDSS
  • We deliver four Autism Awareness sessions each year to staff in academic departments and other teams (e.g. Library Services, Estates and Facilities Management etc). 
  • DDSS employs several Disability Advisers and Specialist Mentors who have expertise in supporting students/people on the autism spectrum
  • Students on the autism spectrum have a named disability adviser within DDSS and see the same disability adviser for all appointments and have direct email contact with their adviser.      
  • DDSS shares individual Learning Support Plans (LSPs) with students’ departments (after approval from the student), with recommendations for supporting that student – as well as encouragement to contact DDSS if the department wishes to discuss that student’s support or progress
  • Library Services offer various types of support including Assistive Technology, bookable quiet spaces and individual tours and inductions
  • Reacting to feedback from some of our students, the Disability Transition Officer is working with our Accommodation Team to create quieter accommodation spaces from September 2022
  • DDSS can fund and support students to attend diagnostic appointments to establish whether or not they are on the spectrum. We do this because, unfortunately, the NHS waiting times are so long. 
  • The Disability Transition Officer has worked with the Student Union on Intro Week events, and the Student Union can now provide a queue jump pass and a buddy system whereby the student can be supported to attend the fairs so that they get the most of out of them
  • DDSS has a stall at all Open Days (pre- and post-application, undergraduate and postgraduate), and we have space away from the main exhibition area for confidential discussions. Disability Champions (current disabled students) are also present at most of the Open Days
  • DDSS also works with other services in the university (e.g. the University Health Service, the Counselling Service, the Wellbeing Service etc) to promote joined-up support for students (only with the student’s permission to share information). 


We are always listening to students on the spectrum – whether via their appointments with advisers and support workers, via our annual survey, or through discussions with Disability Champions who are on the spectrum – to ensure that our services take the students’ views into account, and to help us constantly improve and update our support. 


I hope that you enjoy your time at the University of Sheffield but, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your named adviser or