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Friday, May 15, 2020

Autism, College, and COVID

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.  Providing education is proving to be very difficult.

Madeline St. Amour at Inside Higher Ed:
"Neurodiversity is a paradigm that acknowledges and accepts different ways of thinking and acting. It’s a diversity and inclusion perspective applied to autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and other invisible disabilities," said Solvegi Shmulsky, a professor and director of the Center for Neurodiversity at Landmark College, a Vermont institution that specializes in serving students with learning disabilities. ​"For my students, autism, ADHD or dyslexia is often part of who they are, and they say they want to be accepted, not fixed."
When her students went online, they worried they would lose the support they needed, Shmulsky said. Since the switch, many of her students have reported activation -- or executive function -- issues.
"If you’re in your house, you don’t have the structure from your peers," she said. "And not everyone’s home is the kind of place that is going to be conducive for them to work on their studies."
Another issue she's heard about is how difficult it can be to understand complex concepts on a video call. It's harder for faculty to tell when students are having trouble in a virtual setting, as well.
This can all be upsetting emotionally, she said. Students who are neurodivergent learned how to deal with difficulties, like how they best study and how to advocate for themselves. Now all of their strategies have been shaken up. ​