What is the DSA Study Needs Assessment?

The Study Needs Assessment is an essential part of the process of claiming Disabled Students’ Allowances and getting support at university. This activity will explain what the Study Needs Assessment is, how it works and how to prepare for your appointment.


The Study Needs Assessment tends to be a structured but fairly informal one-to-one discussion with a Study Needs Assessor which will usually last between 1.5 and 2 hours. The Needs Assessor will have specific questions they need to ask, but it will feel like a chat rather than an interrogation.

How could this affect me?

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) activity explains why DSA is relevant and important for autistic students, even if you haven’t accessed any study support in the past. The Study Needs Assessment is not just an essential part of that process, but an opportunity to talk to somebody in depth about:

  • the positive and negative aspects of studying in the past
  • the positive and negative aspects of any support you have received in the past at home/school/college
  • any worries you might have about going to uni
  • what you’re excited about and think you will do well at
  • what you think might help you achieve that success


You will also get to learn a bit more about the kind of help that is available to you – many students don’t really know much about this and are amazed to find out what is out there and how it may work for them.  All support recommendations must be considered in relation to the DSA regulations and guidance and your assessor will know what can be recommended.  You can tell the assessor about any types of support that you’ve found useful in previous education and let them know about anything that you think might be useful to have in place at university.  It’s okay if you don’t know what support you think you need to access through DSA as the assessor will be experienced at being able to talk with you about this and help you to make decisions about the support that you would like to have in place through your DSA.

What to do next?

Once your DSA funding body has told you that your DSA application has been approved and that you can go for a Study Needs Assessment, book your appointment.

Practical tips

There are assessment centres throughout the country and you can attend whichever one it is easiest for you to get to – most applicants go to the assessment centre that’s closest to either their home or their first choice university. One of the closest assessment centres to Sheffield University is Sheffield Regional Assessment Centre. You can find a list of all of the assessment centres on the DSA QAG website.


If you ask someone else to phone the assessment centre on your behalf to book your Study Needs Assessment, such as a parent or carer, the assessment centre might need to check with you that you are giving permission for the person to speak on your behalf.  It might also be possible to book an appointment for your assessment via email.

Questions to think about

  1. How do you feel about making notes in lectures, where most of what is said does not end up on a whiteboard or the PowerPoint slides? It is also not possible to write down every word that is said.
  2. Would being able to record lectures help you?
  3. How do you make and organise your notes when reading or revising?
  4. Do you enjoy going to new places?
  5. Do you find new places easily?
  6. Does it help to have someone with you when you go somewhere for the first time?
  7. What are you most excited about when it comes to your course?
  8. What would you like to know more about or might need support to do before you get excited?
  9. How do you feel about group work?
  10. How do you manage your free time?
  11. Are you always on time for appointments without help from someone else?
  12. Do you like to be in busy, lively places or quiet places?
  13. How do you find out about new topics?
  14. Do you find it easy to organise your ideas and structure them in writing?
  15. Do you find academic writing easy? How about spelling, punctuation and grammar?
  16. Would you like somebody to talk to about your autism who has a good understanding of both autism and university?
  17. Do you have any other conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD?
  18. Does it help you to read information from the internet if you can print it out?
  19. Who supported you with your work at school and what did they do that was helpful?
  20. What helps you when you’re stressed? Music, exercise, art, reading, playing games, talking to others?
  21. Did you use any tools like visual schedules, social stories, coloured overlays, coloured paper or alarms to help you at school or college?
  22. How do you feel about talking to people about your autism, including tutors and other students?

Additional information and links


About the author

You can search for an assessment centre on the DSA QAG website by entering the postcode of your home address or the university postcode.