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A Peek into an Autistic Student’s Experience at Holy Cross

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 16th, 2018 by 

Clara Gibson '21 is pictured here attending a visual arts class. Photo by Rebecca Blackwell
Clara Gibson '21 is pictured here attending a visual arts class. Photo by Rebecca Blackwell

Neurodiversity advocate Clara Gibson ’21 recently penned a commentary for The Chronicle of Higher Education in which she talks about her experience of being an autistic undergraduate student and offers recommendations on how to make campus communities more welcoming to all students, including those with developmental disabilities.

“I was pleasantly surprised by my institution’s interest in supporting my advocacy efforts, and it is my hope that my fellow autistic students in colleges across the country will have similar experiences,” Gibson wrote.

“Growing up, we are often led to believe that we are burdens, disappointments, drains on society. But nothing could be further from the truth. All we want is acceptance, and we are tired of being told to keep quiet. This is your chance to be part of the revolution — to choose the right side of history. And all you have to do is listen.”

One in six children in the U.S. aged 3 through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, or a learning disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And although historically students with developmental disabilities have been underrepresented in higher education, that’s slowly changing. A better understanding of the needs of students with these types of disabilities, along with support for their difficulties, can go a long way toward helping them succeed in college.

Just this past spring, Gibson, with the support of the Office of Disability Services, organized a neurodiversity panel at the College. The standing room only event drew a large crowd of neurotypical peers wanting to know more about what it’s like being an autistic student and professors “eager to learn how to tailor their teaching methods to accommodate the changing demographics in their classes.”

To read the full commentary, go to Chronicle.com.

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