William & Mary’s approach, which emphasizes maximizing current resources, is already gaining national attention. A few other colleges and universities around the country have begun to explore these issues, but none have the stature and the unique traditions of William & Mary, a “Public Ivy.”
We have an opportunity, first and foremost, to serve the students on our campus, but also to be a national leader and model for other liberal arts universities.
On campus, our first goal is for neurodivergent students of all types to be comfortable and successful. We welcome students with neurological differences like autism (including the earlier descriptors of Asperger’s and PDD-NOS), OCD, ADHD, Tourette’s, and dyslexia. To that end we have developed and continue to enhance supports in offices around campus including the counseling center and residence halls. We work with faculty and staff to make our classes neurodiverse-friendly. And we have a strong student neurodiversity group.
Our second goal is to make our campus community aware of both the unique strengths and unique needs of neurodiverse people. For us, neurological diversity joins racial and cultural diversity as essential elements of our university. We offer a variety of opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alums to learn about neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity at William & Mary is not a denial of the very real disabilities conditions like autism can present. Rather, we recognize that these conditions are ways of being, not diseases, and they are best met with acceptance and support at whatever level is appropriate.
The Neurodiversity Initiative will continue to reach across campus, into faculty research, student life and organizations, and academic support. It also brings William & Mary into closer and crucial contact with the local and regional community of neurodiversity advocates. We are strongest, we know, when we connect with our communities. Many alumni and friends of William & Mary have already expressed their support for this project. We are particularly grateful to the Arnow Family Fund, the Olitsky Family Foundation, and on campus offices including the Office of the Provost for their support.