I’m very proud of William & Mary’s neurodiversity initiative. I’m even prouder to see other schools following our lead. Making college campuses more accepting of the neurodiverse is an important step toward making a more ND-friendly world.
It’s time for neurodiverse faculty to come out and stand as role models for students and staff. Everyone knows how autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodiverse conditions disable us as children. What we need to balance that are successful adults who attribute their achievements in part to neurodiversity.
In doing so, we demonstrate that there is a spectrum of all the neurodiverse conditions. Some of us are more gifted; others are more disabled. In particular, many of us follow a pattern where we are less disabled the older we get as we learn to adapt to society and use our strengths to offset our weaknesses.
Neurodiverse folks who are enrolled or employed in colleges may be the least disabled of our community, or we may just be the most determined. Or maybe we’re just lucky or privileged. Either way, we should be standing as role models – particularly for younger people and parents – to show what’s possible. That’s the best antidote to talk like “He’s autistic; he’ll never go to college.” While it’s true that profound disability will leave some of us requiring substantial supports and residential care even as adults, most of us can grow up to live independently and we have great contributions to make.
But many societal hurdles stand in our way, and it’s up to this generation to knock them down. We also have medical and psychological challenges, and it’s up to us to lead the effort to develop the therapies and treatments we need. Who better than us to articulate our needs and steer the needed research?
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get college staffers to come out, as this letter demonstrates:
Dear Mr. Robison – As an Adjunct Instructor at the ____________, I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to witness instructors & administrators demonstrate bias against autistic students. I need advice. I want to speak with the Dean of Academics about this institutional problem. However, I’m concerned that I may not be invited back to teach. Do you have any experience with this sort of challenge?
What’s the answer to this dilemma? I believe it comes down to courage and passion. We must be brave enough to announce our neurodiversity to the world, knowing some will embrace us but others will discriminate against us. We must speak up even knowing there may be a personal cost before there is a collective gain. And that’s where passion comes in – we must believe in our cause so much that we push through the negative personal consequences in pursuit of a greater goal for all.
On college campuses, we must recognize that there are barriers to both students and staff coming out, and we should encourage both.< What are some thoughts for bringing this about?