Neurodiversity in higher education: a narrative synthesis

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Neurodiversity is an umbrella term, including dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum and Tourette syndrome. The increasing number of students with learning difficulties associated with neurodiversity entering higher education (HE) poses a shared and growing challenge internationally for teachers and institutional leaders. This narrative synthesis draws together a corpus of international literature on how neurodiverse students experience higher education and the ways in which higher education institutions respond to the cluster of neurodiverse conditions. A systematic review was carried out to search, retrieve, appraise and synthesize
the available evidence to provide an original contribution to the literature and
significant insights of worth to higher education internationally. An inclusive approach
to data extraction was used to ensure that all the relevant studies were included. All stages of the review process, including the initial search, screening, sample selection and analysis, are described. Three main themes and 11 subthemes were identified. Although the majority of publications focus on either dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorder, or ADHD, some common themes are evident in student experience across learning difficulties associated with neurodiversity. Although support services and technologies are available to meet students’ specific needs, there is an apparent dislocation between the two. Fear of stigmatization and labelling worsens the divide between what is needed and what is available to ensure neurodiverse students’ success in higher education, where good intentions are evidently not enough.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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