Incorporating Inclusivity as a Department can help set standards of inclusion across different parts of the students' experience.
Advice from Students
This video is a compilation of advice given by neurodivergent students in improving communication within a department.
By Undergraduate Research Assistant Robyn Ellison
Including Student Voices
The unique student experience of being neurodivergent, but also at Warwick specifically, means it is important that we engage with the voices of our students.
We can engage with students: SSLC reps, feedback forms, conversations, and open regular feedback in the department.
Students will feel more empowered and engaged in their studies if they feel that they are being listened to. Most of the adjustments are not time-consuming or large but will have a significant effect on your disabled students.
Case Study: "When redesigning my new module, I decided to have a panel that represented a range of voices (including neurodiversity). I then took into consideration their feedback and embedded that into the module. Even just simple things, like having clear expectations and outlines at the beginning of the module. This was easy to do, and benefitted other students"
The Psychology Department has a Disability Rep who joins the SSLC meetings. Meet Daisy, a first-year student who explains why her role is useful in the representation of disabled voices.
Exemplar: Academic Departmental Contact
(Interview conducted by Inchara Athreya)
A Disability Champion can be a point of contact within your department to support disabled students in certain aspects of studying (such as applying to disability services)
Engage students and staff with activities and training within this programme. Some of the activities are great for the welcome week - click here to visit
Awareness and Celebration
There can be significant barriers to those with neurodiversity and disability when applying for jobs and planning for a career. Most departments will have a specific careers lead and incorporating neurodiverse and disability-specific advice can promote better prospects and engagement of students.
Widening Participation Student Network
Promote the Widening Participation Student Network which aims to provide current students from widening participation (WP) backgrounds, (undergraduate or postgraduate) Students can meet peers, share experiences, find out about opportunities that are available to them and gain insight into a wide variety of topics. Click here to visit the network pageLink opens in a new window
A peer mentoring programme for your first-years can improve the transition into University. Including Peer Mentors who are disabled increases the opportunities for disabled students to support and network with each other.
Staff Exemplar - Medical School
"We set up a specific mentoring programme aimed at the transition period between preclinical (theoretical) learning and clinical (placement) learning on our course. This was concerning the transition being particularly difficult for ND students and a lack of support around RAs for other forms of disability.
We advertised via Facebook and our student forum for mentors, making it clear that the university itself would not be made aware of the students participating, and the confidentiality of any disclosed types of disability. The same was then done for mentees.
We received 9 mentors and ~20 mentees, some with conditions undiagnosed/self-identifying who wanted support for this time.
We matched mentees to a mentor firstly by experience with a type of disability (where able), then by hospital, then by block... to ensure the mentors were able to advise the students based on legitimate and relevant experiences.
Feedback was that students made initial contact with lots of questions and were given advice on how to go about starting at the hospitals and planning their studies around their particular needs. After that, the students made little contact and were happy with simply knowing they had a supporting 'safety net' they could seek advice/signposting should they need it."
- WMS Disability Network, Kirsten
Animation by Undergraduate Research Assistant Robyn Ellison.
Students who are neurodiverse may experience discrimination, and misperceptions and be victims of bad behaviour. Enabling a culture and environment where bad behaviour can be challenged and reported, students know how to report and who to report to and inclusivity is advocated for by the department. It is difficult for some neurodiverse students to report instances of discrimination and bad behaviour, it may be because of different communication challenges or not feeling empowered after other negative educational (or other) experiences.
Procedure for Complaints
Unfortunately, students with neurodivergent conditions may be victims of discriminatory actions, language or treatment. As a department, it is important to have advertised a place where students can go to give complaints about their experience, where they will be listened to and respected.
Options for reporting discrimination or bad behaviour can be promoted across the department, for example, a student representative panel or a disability champion.
Sensory rooms are devoted spaces that allow the individual to be in complete control of the sensory stimulation of all the senses. The equipment within the room means the individual can change different aspects (such as lights, sound, and chairs) to suit their needs. Having a dedicated space within your department would allow students to reset and escape from experiences on campus that can be overstimulating and allow a space that means students can continuously participate in university life.
Allocated Quiet Study Spaces
Dedicated quiet study spaces will not only benefit neurodiverse students but the majority of your student body.
It may just be for a certain time, or one room that is not used regularly in the department, but it creates a safe space within the department for your students. Especially when other study spaces across the University can become extremely busy and loud and the department will hopefully be a familiar space to students.
It is a common experience that the intensity and largeness of lectures, tutorials, and seminars are overwhelming to neurodiverse students.
- Allocating the final two rows in a lecture theatre for students who need it.
- Be aware of lighting, sounds, and other sensory issues (many of these things may be out of your control, but being able to adapt some of them could help).
- Try not to point out anyone - some students may wear ear defenders or have interpreters. It is better to not bring attention to them.
Assess compassion in Higher Education? Why and how would we do that?Link opens in a new window Dr Theo Gilbert, University of Hertfordshire