QR:  Supervising PhDs: Atypical in more than one way

Supervising PhDs: Atypical in more than one way

This is an extract from a guest post on the Supervising PhDs Community Blog. In the post, I discuss what research supervisors can do to support doctoral students who may have disabilities, chronic illnesses and/or neurodiversities.

Atypical, in more than one way…

Source: N Brown

In my recent guest post ‘Dealing with atypical students‘, I highlighted how some students do not fit the usual institutional moulds. However, I have not been entirely upfront, as there are many ways of being ‘atypical’. The term ‘atypical’ nowadays often refers to students who are neurodiverse, therefore neuro-a-typical. I myself am not neurodiverse, but I am atypical in more than the ways described in that other post.

Drawing on my research, I have written about that in the article Ableism in academia: where are the disabled and ill academics?, but also in Disclosure in academia: a sensitive issue, a chapter in the open access edited book Ableism in Academia: Theorising experiences of disability and chronic illnesses in higher education.

In this blog post I draw on my research and my own experiences when I present some strategies for supervisors to support students who have disabilities, chronic illnesses and/or neurodiversities.


Legal framework and moral positioning

Personalised approach





All in all, it is about good and open communication. As supervisors, we should not be afraid to ask difficult questions, but we do need to be prepared to respond appropriately to our students’ requests. After all, we wouldn’t want to fail them, would we?

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