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Pulled in different directions? Considering the role and responsibilities of disability service providers in Higher Education in respect of Neurodiversity.

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Presentation on theme: "Pulled in different directions? Considering the role and responsibilities of disability service providers in Higher Education in respect of Neurodiversity."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pulled in different directions? Considering the role and responsibilities of disability service providers in Higher Education in respect of Neurodiversity James Kirby

2 A bit about me... Lord Mayor Trealor National specialist college (1995-2000) Special Needs Co-ordinator Surrey Institute of Art and Design (2000-2004) (Chair of the CADISE Disability Group) Independent Consultant (2004-2005) Head of Disabilities and Additional Needs Service (DANS) Loughborough University (2005-2009) Vice Chair NNAC (2008-2009) June 2009 onwards.... Identified as being dyslexic and dyspraxic at the age of 8

3 Key Aims... 1.Identify some roles adopted by disability service providers in HE when working with neurodiverse students in a neurotypical world 2.Identify some tensions, paradoxes and pressures experienced by those performing these roles 3.Suggest some ways in which these ideas can be taken forward in a way cogent with the concept of neurodiversity

4 4...Dyslexia, Dyspraxia ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, Dyscalculia as defined by those who experience the world in this way... …a pattern of differences in skills which can reflect great strengths as well as challenges…. …not uncommon, about 10% of the population have some form of Neurodiversity… …an indication that a person learns in a different or unusual way…. Neurodiversity …a spectrum which may (or may) not reflect difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, memory, organisation, time management, physical skills… …not a negative reflection of a person’s inate ability or capacity to achieve…

5 Roles & Identities for practitioners in HE.... Not intended to be exhaustive; demonstrate areas of activity and how this may affect neurodiverse students Look at some individual roles/identities; challenges and benefits of each (Adjudicator/Verifier; Procurer; Advocate/Activist) Look at the synergy and conflicts (paradoxes) between these identities

6 * Identifying an SpLD through screening or “diagnosis” * Determining need for support or equipment * Naming, labelling, identifying * Determining a level of disadvantage which can be articulated to non-specialist colleagues (centred around an individual?) * Qualification for additional special support (e.g. Finance)in order to Procure * Determining whether a student qualifies for concessions or special arrangements in assessments * Ensuring that disability evidence (presented by a student) is robust enough to indicate “disability” *Determining what is “reasonable” Pressures from: * Institutional regulations, policy and practice * External funding criteria (e.g. DSA) * Expectations and perceptions of non-specialist colleagues Adjudicator/ Verifier

7 BENEFITS * The gateway to support, resources, adjustments * Interface between the neurotypical and neurodiverse world * Adds legitimacy and credibility to a student’s needs * Provides a framework of information for a student (about themselves) CHALLENGES/ TENSIONS * Focus on the individual, individual defects, labelling; reliance on there being a problem (e.g. mental ill health vs. mental well being) * May detract from institutional and cultural change * Detracts from the direct legitimacy of the student voice; need to prove or verify * Neurotypical criteria and procedures for the neurodiverse; can be distressing and sometimes damaging * Separation culture

8 * Obtaining personal (personnel) and technological support for the individual * Resource scale and procedures are a factor * May be governed by institutional regulations on what is acceptable * Led by information from an Adjudicator/Verifier * Development of specialist roles to fill niches of “need” (note-takers, tutors, mentors, assistants), located and obtained by the service provider Pressures from: * A lack of institutional finance or the need to obtain external funding * Need to react flexibly or quickly Procurer

9 BENEFITS * Takes away pressure from student to locate and secure support on their own * Technological support is vital for some students * Some students require specialist support, development and assistance which increase achievement and self esteem CHALLENGES/TENSIONS * External funding may take away institutional motivation to set aside resources for neurodiverse learners; financial, cultural or infrastructure * Encourages an economic model of disability (ergo neurodiversity) * Learning teaching and assessment methodology may remain monolithic in favour of correcting the individual; potential to recognise and reward diverse methods of demonstrating knowledge may be diminished

10 * Campaigns for student rights, looks for change in an institution * Adds an additional voice to the student’s when negotiating adjustments and support * May be advocating in order to obtain greater resources as a Procurer or legitimacy as an Adjudicator/Verifier * Often central to the provision of information for students, colleagues and external agencies * The specialist expertise “hub” * Promote inclusion in learning, teaching, assessment and student life Pressures from: * A lack of institutional understanding or support for cultural change * The need to provide support and solutions to immediate student problems - the students! Advocate/ Activist

11 BENEFITS * Long term change to culture, learning, teaching and assessment methodology benefits more than an individual discrete case * Switching focus from an individual to a social model * The “Disability Champion” CHALLENGES/TENSIONS * Danger of maintaining a separate identity; them and us, disabled and able-bodied, neurotypical and neurodiverse * Tension in influencing change in practice of others * Lessens the responsibility of others to make changes in their own practice * Lack of focus on individual immediate needs in favour of a long term approach compared to the student “lifecycle”

12 Tensions between roles... pulled in different directions? Procurer Advocate/ Activist Adjudicator/ Verifier

13 Synergy between the roles...? Adjudicator/Verifier Advocate/ Activist Procurer

14 Neurodiversity and a way forward? Look at the importance of neurodiversity in addressing issues in 3 areas, highlighted by the roles: Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy and Resources Student Life

15 Developing different assessment methodologies and options: * academically valid for all students * encouraging student choice and recognising a diversity of skills * flexibility Lessening the need for “special” arrangements and perceived separate student body wherever possible Encouraging active negotiation and student input over what is “reasonable”; * variety of opportunities for input Increasing the skill base and knowledge of academics to allow effective core planning to include neurodiversity, in terms of strengths and challenges for students Learning, Teaching and Assessment

16 Resources which benefit all students including neurotypical: * recording lectures AV, publishing on the web * assistive technology campus wide Planning to act before a problem occurs: * mental well being * minimising stress * providing different route-ways to support Creating an environment for institutional and cultural change being welcomed: * time and resources for academics as well as specialists * supporting ownership of cultural change by whole institute rather than only specialists Consider the benefits of: * ongoing and developmental activity versus discrete/ individual activity * lessen reliance external funding Strategy and Resources

17 Strong identity for self advocacy; embrace and promote this identity to the neurotypical world Emphasising difference, strengths and choice over perceptions of weaknesses or deficiencies in interactions with students Seek ways in which process of obtaining external support can be made less bureaucratic and neurotypical Recognising where neurotypical barriers disable or exclude a student and seek to remove those barriers to benefit the neurodiverse as well as the neurotypical Student Life

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