Neurodiversity in higher education: a narrative synthesis

Deanne Clouder, Mehmet Karakus, Alessia Cinotti, Maria Virginia Ferreyra, Genoveva Amador Fierros, Patricia Rojo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


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
Article numberHIGH-D-19-00818R2
Pages (from-to)757-778
Number of pages22
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Disclosure
  • Narrative synthesis
  • Neurodiversity
  • Reasonable adjustments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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