Dyslexia, Neurodiversity, Autism: All Out of the Box

Out of the Box

 

There's a very interesting article at US News by Meryl Davids Landau which highlights the work of progressive college admissions deans who are seeing the advantages of disability inclusion on their campuses. Here's a taste: 

"Some 45 college admissions deans from across the country gathered at Stanford University this past June to learn about high-achieving dyslexic applicants. Experts shared the latest research, and well-known figures—including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, financier Charles Schwab, and Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, a heart surgeon and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic—described their experiences coping with the disability.

"Our goal is to help colleges realize that, because of their intelligence, out-of-the-box thinking, and perseverance, these students can add luster" to their schools, says Sally Shaywitz, the Audrey G. Ratner professor in learning development at Yale University who helped organize the event."

From a disability studies perspective this is a hopeful sign. They key phrase that Professor Shaywitz offers is "to help colleges realize"–for surely, as those of us in dis-studies have long known, neuro-atypical students and colleagues have spent their lives outside the box and thereby bring fresh thinking to the classroom and the work environment each and every day. I would add though, that this is not simply true for high achieving students with dyslexia–it also holds for nonspeaking people with autism, blind students, students with profound poly-trauma. The recent special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly devoted to autism and neuro-diversity edited by Ralph and Emily Savarese highlights the remarkable insights and imaginative atypicalities of autists and is critically important reading. I like what Jamie Burke, a college student with autism says as a brief epigraph to the issue:

"I must send forward my bold appreciation for taking the soul of this topic … to be shared among the many and diverse hearts who will attempt a new understanding. It can be very lovely when curious old patterns of comprehension shift to a more connected and true demonstration of the improved focus. My deep thanks, then, for the spirit of change and challenge." 

 

S.K.