Discussion Summaries

What would you like to start doing based on the things we’ve talked about today?

  • Use bullet points more consistently instead of text, especially in emails to students! I use them in the Canvas course. For example, I have a weekly overview page with a bullet point list of all activities for the week. It might be a helpful strategy in email communication as well.
  • Feedback is especially helpful for new assignments to you, ones you haven’t used before to improve them.
  • Say the most important thing first (e.g. due date/deadline) and then give them the information around it.
  • Work further on the idea of listening carefully.
  • Do a perception check more frequently and provide additional communication to try to figure out specifically what is being communicated.
  • Explore using the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) template; adjust how I describe assignments.
  • Further explore the cultural nuances and context as they relate to the classes that I teach.
  • Explore the further use of “simple instructions”, maybe with more white space, related clip art or something.
  • Use the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) template for more assignments and pay more attention to how disabled individuals describe themselves.

What would you like to stop doing?

  • Delivering lectures without captions.
  • Using euphemisms.

What are you already doing that’s working well for your students?

  • I provide three math lessons in a week, and each lesson has a file for note-taking, a link to the Canvas page with the lesson, a link to the assignment page, and a link to textbook. This makes it easier for students to find things.
  • Explain to students how you, as the instructor, have organized the modules and how you would approach the learning for the week. Explain when to do reading, how to take notes, and various ways to approach assignments. Students can then modify that strategy to fit their own needs or style.
  • Survey students halfway through the term, asking “How can I help?” and “Is there a change I could make that might be helpful for you now? For future classes?” This lets students know you are open to feedback.
  • Ask people to identify their terminology, depending on the individual.
  • I create and share documents in an accessible format.
  • Caption videos. We have worked out how to offer captions for everyone.
  • Use design tools and accessibility checkers in Canvas.
  • In live settings, let people know in advance what will be asked and the order they will be asked to respond.
  • Have an organized Canvas site with links, be flexible with deadlines, allow students to choose their assignments, and clean up (edit) closed captioning text in lecture-capture files.

Did you have any “ah-ha” moments that will inform your teaching going forward?

  • “When my accessibility needs are met, I am not functionally disabled.”
  • “When we talk about age, people make a lot of assumptions, including about those who are of an older age or a non-traditional age. The idea of assumption-making.”
  • “When my access needs are met, I am functionally not disabled” shows how much about a culture is unspoken and has variable rules.
  • I want to further explore terminology that is considered acceptable.
  • Thinking about the environment: loudness, sounds, side conversations and how that can be disruptive.

What are examples from your teaching that you routinely use to support neurodiverse students?

  • We set our own deadlines and create our own tasks.
  • Being transparent and interjecting my story.
  • Everyone has a grace period after the due date assigned by the instructor.
  • Everybody gets lecture notes, this makes it more accessible for everyone.
  • Allow an index card, handwritten, as a memory aid during the exam.
  • I host a group discussion on “advice for future students,” and I share the results with new students.
  • When it comes to teaching, if you learn something from a student presentation, write a letter about the impact of it and forward it to that person. They can have it included in their portfolio.
  • Turning on Live Transcripts on Zoom.
  • Have a person who does live captioning (professionally).

In what ways do you plan to enhance your STEM course(s) in order to promote higher levels of engagement and learning among neurodiverse students?

  • Taking best practices from trauma-aware and mental health-aware teaching principles and applying them to neurodiverse students.
  • As a math instructor, I would like to dig deeper into the topic of different ways to demonstrate knowledge.
  • I would like to explore further the idea of encouraging students to be flexible, adjust for different learning and working styles, and demonstrate learning in different ways in a science lab.
  • For group work, thinking about expectation setting and context for students. I would like to improve ways to do community building in the class and in group work.
  • I plan to explore creating cohorts for working together, and utilize the cohorts and changing of cohorts as areas for student growth in social skills.
  • Working on establishing a safe space before working on growth edges or pushing students. I’d like to create environments where students feel safe enough to take on some discomfort.
  • Continue to work on having the presence of mind to intervene in the moment in a manner that is accepting and honoring the task at hand.
  • Adding something light in the middle of a stressful situation such as an exam.

What are examples of strengths and unique perspectives that neurodiverse students bring to the STEM college classroom and the STEM discipline?

  • In STEM we need new solutions. Different thought processes and perspectives bring in new thought processes which can lead to new ways to identify solutions.
  • Sometimes when students have a certain goal, they’re more dedicated to their studies. If they face a challenge, their goal can push them to find ways to overcome that challenge for themselves and others.
  • STEM has historically been dominated by cis white males, while studies show that diversity makes for finding better answers.
  • Help students understand that they have the power and ability to figure out what works for them. Students learn they don’t have to come with all the answers; the more diverse perspectives the richer the exploration of learning and processes.

Are there specific resources or opportunities academic units can provide to STEM faculty to improve the success of neurodiverse students?

  • Cutting-edge and reliable technology resources for increasing accessibility, such as in communication courses.
  • Resources for designing learner objectives and assessments to be more inclusive of multiple modalities of demonstrating learning.

What are Different Sensory Inputs in Educational Settings?

  • Presence of other students in the classroom.
  • Lighting and temperature of the environment.
  • Ambient noise (from electronics, other students, other background sounds).
  • Mask-wearing requirements.
  • Lack of non-verbal cues when the speaker is wearing a mask.
  • Side conversations, tapping, gum-chewing and other behaviors.
  • Smells (e.g. white board marker fumes).
  • Noise of writing on a blackboard or white board.
  • Zoom rooms: Set expectations (e.g. attending class while driving, eating, etc.)
    • Students or faculty not turning on cameras.
    • Lack of muting leading to background noises.
    • Distractions from virtual backgrounds.

What Strategies are There to Create and Incorporate Developmentally Appropriate Visual Supports in the Educational Setting

  • We need to avoid “walls of text” and ensure that the information is balanced. If it’s important for students to remember, provide handouts.
  • Allow for Q&A around the visuals.
  • There is a lot of visualization in mathematics. You want to make sure the graph speaks to the reader, so good labels are needed, and conveying a good amount but not too much information. Moreover, visualization in STEM is so critical. In the lab, so much of the work is hands-on. There are a lot of drawings so visualizing what they are about to do is important. (e.g. posters, thinking maps, etc.)
  • One person has helped students create thinking maps as they study and learn, and then reflect on their thinking map (a page with drawings, concepts, connecting lines, boxes, key words) throughout the day. This encourages students to make a new one each day.