Being a Graduate Student on the Autism Spectrum

Clark Fennimore, one of the graduate assistants in the English department, discusses being a graduate student on the autism spectrum. Read more about his experiences below! 

For someone on the Autism Spectrum, working through graduate school can include extra challenges. It can take more time and effort than usual to complete assignments. Doing class presentations can be intimidating. However, another interesting aspect of such a condition is an unusual way of thinking about things. On the high-functioning end of the spectrum, this can lead to unique avenues of research and writing. In short, the challenges faced by someone of the Spectrum can be accompanied by a distinct ability to contribute to the world intellectually.

As someone on the Spectrum, I can relate to others who want to be respected for an ability to contribute. We want this to be viewed as more important than our limitations. In my youth, I would not have expected to be in graduate school as I am now. In my studies, I seek to develop a unique voice for myself, particularly with distinct areas of research. Part of how I can do so is through distinct ways of thinking as part of ASD.

To those with challenges in the area of academics, I would say that you can find a unique voice. You have things to say that are beneficial to the world. To others who may not face such challenges, I would say those of us who do face them also have something to contribute. We can all respect each other as a result. We must see each other as having value.

There are different kinds of challenges that people face. No one is exempt from challenges, which are part of human nature. I believe that we can view each other with understanding as a result, even if some people seem to be more challenged than others. People with different abilities have things to contribute to society. One important thing is how we face our challenges so that we can make those contributions. Disorders of the Autism Spectrum are among those challenges, and they can be faced so that those on the Spectrum can contribute.

Clark Fennimore