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Neurodiversity Resources for UNT Faculty and Staff

Resources to support UNT faculty and staff who are neurodivergent or are working with neurodivergent students.

UNT Services for Neurodivergent Students 

Do You Think Your Student Might Be on the Spectrum?

How do you know whether you should refer a student to UNT services? Don't try to diagnose anyone, but do look at these challenges and behaviors to guide your decision to refer. Keep in mind that autism is a spectrum, meaning there's great variation in behavior from one person to another. In addition, students who enter college are likely high-functioning and hesitant to self-identify.

Overall, autism spectrum disorder is characterized by social communication challenges and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Here are some behaviors that you might encounter.

Communication challenges:

  • Social reciprocity - This is the give and take in social interactions that many of us take for granted. Students with ASD have difficulty with taking turns and going with the flow of topics in conversations. They may also seem a beat behind everyone else.
  • Abstract language - This can be confusing for students with ASD because they are literal thinkers. They may be confused by literature, humor, idioms, and other language that depends on connotation for interpretation.
  • Social situations - These can be overwhelming when there are lots of people, new people, an unfamiliar environment, or anything social that's unfamiliar.
  • Emotions - Students with ASD often have difficulty recognizing emotions in others and expressing their own.

Repetitive, restricted behaviors:

  • Ritualistic tendencies - These are routine behaviors that students perform to create security and control in their lives, e.g., always studying in the same place in the library, at the same time of day. 
  • Narrow areas of interest - Students may return again and again to a topic that interests them and which they know a great deal about; again this behavior creates feelings of security and control.
  • Resistance to change - Students put a great deal of energy into creating a familiar, secure environment for themselves, thus are resistant to anything that threatens that environment.

Reference:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2020). Autism. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/autism

Myths about Autism Spectrum Disorder

Here are some misperceptions that the general public has about people diagnosed with ASD.

1. People with ASD are easy to identify. This is false because of the great variation in behaviors across the autistic spectrum. Sometimes even people who have ASD don't realize it until they reach adulthood. 

2. They are experts in a subject area. Again, because of the variation in ASD, one person may or may not have restricted interest and expert knowledge in an area.

3. People with ASD are prone to violence. Several studies have studied data on violent behavior, and when corrected for risk factors, shown people with ASD are no more prone to violence than the general population. In fact, people with mental disabilities in general are more likely to be victims of violence.

4. Autism is a mental health disorder. Autism is a neurological disorder. Studies of the people with autism have revealed abnormalities in brain structure and neurotransmitter levels.

References:

Autistic Self Advocacy Network. (2019). Make real change on gun violence: Stop scapegoating people with mental health disabilities. https://autisticadvocacy.org/policy/briefs/gunviolence

Im, D. S. (2016). Template to Perpetrate: An Update on Violence in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 24(1), 14–35. DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000087

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