Mrs Norlina Sexton

Research project: Co-producing a university transition programme with and for autistic students and their stakeholders: A pilot and feasibility study.


Transitions are known to be difficult for autistic students, especially those transitioning to university due to significant change in role, setting, and expectations around the academic, social, and daily living aspects of student life. Within university settings, many autistic students are suddenly required to self-advocate, disclose their needs, live independently, and manage without family support for the first time. Beyond these, transition to university entails a significant developmental progression towards adulthood. The literature review undertaken identified several risk and protective factors. Therefore, with the increasing number of autistic students transitioning into first year at university, it is crucial that induction programmes are tailored around their needs commencing before Freshers' week to address the impact of the transition and the risk posed to their mental health. This PhD research aims to co-produce, pilot, and test the feasibility of a university transition programme called TAURUS for first year autistic students.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Co-producing a university transition programme with and for autistic students and their stakeholders: A pilot and feasibility study.
  • Research supervisor: Professor Muthanna Samara
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Fiona Barlow-Brown


I completed my Computer Science undergraduate degree in Melbourne, Australia. I then spent ten years working in the IT industry in both software development and sales/marketing capacities. Upon relocating to the UK, I subsequently retrained to become a specialist teacher and assessor for learners with Specific Learning Differences. I am a full member of PATOSS and a holder of Assessment Practising Certificate since 2007. I have in the past fifteen years worked in primary, secondary, and Higher Education settings in facilitating study skills and independent learning, which I continue to do up to today. Fairly recently, I completed a Counselling Skills and Theory course followed by the MSc Psychology (conversion) course. I am particularly interested in enabling neuro-divergent students shift from negative to positive self-belief in developing new confidence in their identity and fulfilling their potential. My experience working with neuro-divergent students and family members has given me the means to connect and understand their struggles with embracing university.

Areas of research interest

  • Autism
  • Specific Learning Differences and Metacognition
  • Braille and Letter Reversals
  • Stigma
  • Deaf and Identity
  • Neurodiversity and Culture
  • Psychotherapeutic Interventions
  • Psychological flexibility
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder


  • BSc in Computer Science, Monash University, Australia. 1984-1987
  • PG Diploma Level 7 in Teaching and Assessing Learners with SpLD (Distinction), HADC. 2004-2006
  • NCFE CACHE Level 3 in Counselling Skills and Theory, Guildford College. 2018-2019
  • MSc in Psychology (Conversion) with Distinction, Kingston University, London. 2019-2021
  • Associate Fellowship of the HEA (AFHEA), AdvanceHE. June 2023

Funding or awards received

  • 2022, Mar Kingston University Funding for PGR Interdisciplinary Collaborative Conference, Shining the Light on Mental Health Stigma: Making the Future [Webinar]. Kingston University, Psychology Department, Stigma Webinar. £900
  • 2023, April Kingston University Activity Support Fund for PhD Researchers. £2,640
  • 2023, Winner Kingston University 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Conference papers


2022, Mar 7 Navigating Stigma: Institutional and self-stigma as barriers to accessing services for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental and complex mental health needs, and their families. What next? [Webinar]. Kingston University, Psychology Department, Stigma Webinar.

2022, Jun 22 Participatory autism research: Co-producing a university transition programme with and for students with autism and their stakeholders: Researching Autism Spectrum Disorder [Webinar]. Kingston University Festival of Research 2022.

Conference Oral Presentations

2023, Sep 12  British Psychological Society Cog Dev Annual Conference 2023

Sexton, N., Samara, M., Livanou, M., Barlow-Brown, F., Bull, M. (2023) Cementing the progression journey for autistic students when starting university: Support professionals' insights and experiences. (Unpublished)