Where are all the autistic academics?

I had an email this morning about my HESA details. In the UK the Higher Education Statistics Agency collect details from all the universities. I’d filled in my form before about my sexual orientation, my religious beliefs, the colour of my skin, yadda, yadda. But I’d gotten it wrong. You see I don’t see myself as an academic so I ticked the wrong box. Apparently that’s not allowed, the staff at the OU reset the electronic form for me and I had to redo it.

So I did it again.

I’ve been ticking the “yes I consider myself to have a disability” box on official forms for a couple of years having come to the realisation that my mental health is going to be “like this” for the rest of my life and I’m always going to be prone to having relapses – which is basically the definition of disability due to mental health issues. This time I ticked the social and communication issues box too. I’m still a bit conflicted about it – what if I’m imagining all this and making a fuss about nothing. But today I also paid the first bill for my daughter’s private autism assessment and I think, well her clinical psychologists think this is serious enough that she should go and be assessed, and she’s arguably less affected than I am and I’ve been stuck on the NHS waiting list for a year with probably another three to go.

(And can I just digress and say how much it winds me up when people say that those who are “high-functioning” don’t have “real problems” – my daughter has actual NHS clinical psychologists (do you know how ill you have to be to see these people) who think her problem isn’t bad parenting, or war, or abuse, but being a neurodivergent female in a world that refuses to accept that as the norm and OK.)

Anyway, so being in the limbo of waiting for a diagnosis I ticked the “I identify as autistic” box.

And then I headed off to the HESA website to see how many others ticked the box.

175! You could take a standard lecture theatre and put every single autistic-spectrum “academic” in the country in there and still have seats free. There are more blind academics. There are more deaf academics.

Which probably goes some way to explaining why some academic staff are able to dismiss autistic students as being a “nuisance” with impunity.

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