Sent on behalf of Dr. Josephine Blagrave, Betina Wildhaber, and Sean Murphy
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 50,000 students on the autism spectrum will be entering college over the next decade. Since we’re already well into that timeframe, it’s likely these students are already on our campus. According to the University’s Accessibility Resource Center (ARC), the number of our students who identify as being on the autism spectrum increased by 54 percent from fall 2020 to fall 2021—over that same time students on our campus who report being neurodivergent has increased 47 percent.
Let’s explore how we can better serve those and other neurodiverse students!
We can start by learning more about what neurodiversity means. It’s the term typically used to include neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger’s Syndrome) and cognitive disorders like dyslexia and ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). It’s estimated that 5 to 7 percent of the national college population identifies as neurodivergent, and while these students can certainly be as intelligent and capable of learning as neurotypical students, they may face unique challenges due to, for example, difficulties with social communication, reliance on routine, or sensory sensitivities.
So, what is Chico State doing to accommodate this student group?
- This academic year, President Hutchinson established a Neurodiversity Taskforce to explore ways to raise awareness and acceptance and to better serve neurodivergent members of the campus community
- This semester, ARC has developed a program called CASE: Chico Autism Spectrum Empowerment
- For the last five years, Regional & Continuing Education has hosted a conference on autism—formerly the Northern California Autism Symposium, it is now called Disability and Neurodiversity Symposium
- Chico State offers its Autism Clinic to the wider community (it was also featured in the spring 2020 issue of Chico Statements)
- Faculty Development will release a podcast this Thursday that focuses on neurodiversity
- Dr. Blagrave has created a teaching guide for Faculty Development that offers resources and information on neurodiversity, specifically in higher education
Additionally, Chico State is considering how to accommodate our prospective neurodivergent students for orientation activities and we are looking at bringing in guest speakers (both in-person and virtually) to educate the campus community more on neurodiversity.
If you have ideas or feedback or would like to become involved in the Neurodiversity Taskforce, we want to hear from you! Email us at NDTaskforce@csuchico.edu.