Supporting PhD students with autism, dyspraxia, and other learning differences

Supporting PhD students with autism, dyspraxia, and other learning differences

I'm dyspraxic and autistic. (Amusingly, when the occupational health department rang up before I started my current research job, they said, "It says here that you have dyspraxia and Asperger's Syndrome, is that right?" And when I agreed, they went, "You'll be another academic, then. What do you need me to do?") Lately I've been thinking about the specific challenges I faced during my PhD and how I could use my experience to help PhD candidates with similar learning differences to get past their own hurdles.

Once a month I offer up to five hours' practical support in areas where I'm strong (proofreading, structuring written work, designing ethnographic and arts-based fieldwork, developing interviewing skills, etc.) to a PhD student who has a particular issue they need help with and who is struggling to get suitable support.

Your phone is a conflict zone

Your phone is a conflict zone

I'm often asked questions by people here in the UK about my research, whether it's on children's experiences of political violence, or the transmission of forbidden histories in societies that are overshadowed by past atrocity, or reconciliation as it manifests in the lives of nuns who inhabit situations of violence. People want to hear the stories. Their reactions range from fascinated, to horrified, to antagonistic, to impressed. And often I feel as if they relate to these stories as they might to a spellbinding fairy tale, as if I'm relating something that is too distant to be real - a story that happened "once upon a time and far, far away." 

This sense of mass violence as something that happens to other people a long way from us is reinforced by the language that echoes across the news. War-torn region. Conflict zone. These phrases make it sound as if war-affected areas can be neatly labelled and colour-coded into different zones like a sprawling map of the London Underground, and they reinforce the idea that war is something separate from our own lives. Yet in reality, it resides on our desks and in our back pockets. Your phone is a conflict zone.