Luckett and Powell note first that the diagnosis of autism covers a wide range of abilities and behavioural features, and second that the knowledge that an individual has a diagnosis of autism only guides the lecturer so far in understanding that individual. Similarly, Cottrell points out that 'dyslexia' is something of a misnomer in that it does not accurately describe the difficulties concerned. As noted in Issues for pedagogy (1), it is all the other factors that are brought together with the 'condition' that add up to the set of individual learning characteristics with which the student approaches the teaching and learning situation.
Luckett and Powell also draw attention to the fact that mention of the diagnosis may provoke forms of prejudicial reaction. The quote from the student illustrates this: 'as soon as you mention the A-word, people get stuck in all kinds of silly beliefs about the nature of autism and cannot move past those prejudices'. That particular student's response was to redefine his condition in terms that he felt would be more helpful to his tutors. Others may choose to give specific examples of areas of difficulty (such as recognizing faces) rather than rely on a global diagnosis to convey the meaning they perceive is necessary to their tutors. The general issue arising is that university lecturers should treat diagnoses not as labels giving clear instructions as to how to proceed, but rather as signposts that indicate a direction. The exact path that is followed in relation to that direction is one that may be influenced by a more colloquial description of learning features negotiated with the student and understandable in terms of the real constraints and possibilities of the classroom. It may well be that, through a process of