5 study tips for neurodivergent college students

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Neurodivergent on June 27, 2022
A neurodivergent student is one whose brain functions in a non-normative way. It means that they may think or act a little differently than their peers. Read on to learn about some top study tips to help with efficiency.

    A neurodivergent student is one whose brain functions in a non-normative way. It means that they may think or act a little differently than their peers.

    Normally, by the time students reach high school, it’s clear if they have some kind of neurodivergence. Autistic students, those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, individuals who are dyslexic, and others may need additional support as they go on to higher education and a different kind of learning environment.

    Fortunately, there are some excellent tips that can help neurodivergent students get more done, like using text-to-speech programs like Speechify or a Pomodoro timer to keep them on track with time management. Here are a few excellent tips for neurodivergent students heading to college now.

    Get organized

    The first thing to do to be successful at your university is to remember to stay organized. Neurotypical people might be able to organize their self-care, classes, and other needs easily, but it could be harder for neurodivergent students to adapt.

    Still, clear organization does make a difference. Some helpful tips for staying organized include:

    • Using folders to separate information from different classes.
    • Using timelines or mind maps to go over new concepts or modules.
    • Using colored overlays to reduce the appearance of words or numbers flickering or moving on the page.
    • Using coloration to highlight important content that needs to be reviewed again.

    If you choose to use a text-to-speech program like Speechify, you can scan in documents in folders and then have Speechify read them to you as you focus on a particular class’s work, for example. At the same time, you could use an app like Tomato Timer to limit your sessions to 25 or 30-minute intervals, keeping you focused on the task at hand.

    Consolidate your notes

    Another thing to do is to consolidate your notes. Sometimes, neurodivergent students take notes that are scattered or difficult to understand later, so going back to review them after the class is essential. At that time, it can help to:

    Place the notes into a colored folder for the particular class.
    Write out a new, clearly outlined review of the content from the class.
    Write a summary of the content to attach to the notes.
    Keep like items together. For example, if there are multiple notes on one kind of math homework, keep them together with a paperclip or staple (if hard copies) or in the same digital subfolder (if digital).
    These tips can all help you consolidate your notes and keep them together, so you can find them in one place and review them more easily.

    Revision tips

    Revising notes is another important step as learners prepare for testing. During the school year, it makes sense to revise your notes as you go, pulling out the most important content to review in the future.

    Being overwhelmed can cause stimming for people with ASD, so revising a little at a time reduces the likelihood of that happening.

    Some helpful tips for revising your notes include:

    • Keeping all notes in the appropriate class’s folders.
    • Reviewing the content as you go to make minor changes or to reduce it down into easy-to-read chunks.
    • Summarizing your content, so it’s easier to find the sections of notes you need.
    • Filling in the gaps. If you are missing information, revise by finding it and filling in those gaps in your notes.
    • Playing games to remember the content and revising what you can’t. You may need to add additional notes, or you may be able to remove some content that isn’t necessary for your review sessions.

    Preparing for tests

    Preparing for tests can be hard for those who are neurodivergent. Since the pandemic, many people have been taking Zoom classes, which made it possible to take the tests in private locations. If you have to take a class now with other people and will test in an open room, it can be overwhelming.

    Using noise-cancelling headphones is one way to reduce the noise level around you. If that isn’t allowed, earplugs could help instead.

    Additional ways to prepare for tests include:

    • Taking practice exams ahead of time.
    • Talking to the disability services department about special options, like IEP plans, that you can use to get support.
    • Using apps that will keep you on track, like the Pomodoro timer, Speechify, and tools like Google Translate, SIRI on iOS, or others.

    Use apps to keep you on track

    Staying on track is easier if you have the right tools. For someone struggling with imposter syndrome in school, having the right tools will help them gain the knowledge they need to become more confident.

    Apps that can keep you on track include apps like Google Translate, which can help you study for your language exams, SIRI on iOS, which can pull up missing information with a vocal command, a Pomodoro timer like Tomato Timer, which can help you stick to strict study sessions, and Speechify, which can read out your notes to you to help you learn more quickly and effectively.

    Of these, we think Speechify is one of the most important tools to use, because it can help speed up your study sessions and help you go through your notes. Have Speechify read through the notes you already assembled on paper, or summarize them on your computer while Speechify reads the full notes to you out loud.

    Speechify can read content in over 50 languages, so you can hear real, human-like HD voices in the correct accents, too. If you find a particular accent more interesting to listen to, use that HD reader to go over your notes and feel more comfortable as you complete school tasks.


    How do you study to be a neurodivergent?

    There is no way to study to become a neurodivergent person, because neurodivegent people’s brains work differently and may have a completely unique structure.

    Being neurodiverse means that you might need to study in a different way. So, people on the autism spectrum or those with dyslexia may benefit from tips like using color-coding your notes or structuring your information in a clear outline every time. Formatting content with bold words and text (as well as many headers or subject lines) could also help.

    How do neurodivergent students navigate college?

    Sometimes, students use Individualized Education Program support, also known as an IEP, to get special support from the college directly. Autistic people, for example, may benefit from having additional supports in the classroom to help them focus. Someone with dyscalculia might need additional support in some courses using numbers, and someone with dyspraxia might ask for additional help taking notes or writing answers on their tests. Student support is available for neurodivergent students who are on the autism spectrum disorder or who have other diverse functions.

    What is a neurodiverse student?

    Originally, the term “neurodiverse” stood for people with autism alone. Today, it can mean anyone who has a different kind of brain process. Neurodiverse people differ from neurotypical individuals, or those who have an average, normative brain function.

    How do I know if I am neurodivergent?

    The only way to know that you are neurodivergent is to get a diagnosis from a mental health professional or a primary care physician. Usually, you will speak with your doctor to get testing for autism, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, dyscalculia, and other issues that may affect executive functioning or your ability to handle time management on your own normally.

    In some cases, you could consider yourself neurodivergent without a diagnosis, but a diagnosis is helpful if you want support for ASD or other neurodivergence in school.

    What are the challenges for neurodivergent students?

    Neurodivergent students often have challenges such as not being able to learn in the same way as others, having a hard time with reading, or having aversions to light or sound.

    How do neurodivergent students find jobs and internships?

    Neurodivergent students can go online to look for jobs and internships on platforms like Glassdoor or Monster. They should also talk to their schools’ job services department, teachers, and other students about opportunities. Many schools host job fairs to help students find work.

    What is the neurodiversity movement?

    The neurodiversity movement views people with neurological or cognitive differences as people with simple differences in human behavior rather than those with disabilities or deficits.

    What is the best way to study?

    The best way to study will depend on the student. Spacing out study sessions, rewriting notes, and switching your sessions around to different locations can all help you retain more. Using a TTS reader like Speechify will help you take in more information by learning verbally, too.

    What are some qualifications to become a neurodivergent?

    A neurodivergent person is one who has an atypical neurological development. There are different qualifications based on the specific differences between their brain structure and the brain structure of a neurotypical person.

    What are some neurodivergent rights?

    Neurodivergent people are those with conditions like ASD or ADHD. It’s believed by some that their expressions of human function are within normal levels and that they don’t need to be diagnosed or treated. These individuals often have the right to IEPs in school, fair treatment, and other protections under disability laws.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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