Enabling Students with Neurodiversity (ENTENDER )
ERASMUS+ Capacity Building in Higher Education
Coventry University (UK), University of Alicante (Spain), University of Macedonia (Greece), University of Turin (Italy), Universidad Nacional del Rosario (Argentina), Universidad Nacional de San Juan (Argentina), Universidad Nacional de Jujuy (Argentina), University of Colima (Mexico), University of Guadalajara (Mexico)
Project lead: Professor Lynn Clouder
15 January 2020 to 31 December 2022
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for conditions traditionally pathologized and associated with deficit including Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum and Tourette Syndrome. People with neurodiverse conditions are marginalised and disadvantaged, socially and economically, resulting in low self-esteem, underachievement, low employment and dependency. Yet capacity building for inclusion aimed at teachers succeeds in 90% of cases.
Like social dynamics resulting from other forms of human diversity, disadvantage is due to society’s attitudes and actions that neglects to adopt the alternative perspective to promote inclusion and tap into the creative potential that neurodiversity offers. With EU support, the project will result in actions to democratise HE and promote change in employment prospects in Argentina and Mexico. Actions that democratize HE by building knowledge and capacity and improving access, represent the first concerted collaborative effort to help this disadvantaged group achieve their full potential.
- To create sensitive processes and tools to screen for neurodiversity and assess learning needs which do not necessitate disclosure of a ‘disability’ Thereby increasing understanding of the needs of neurodiverse students.
- To enhance human capital of teachers in understanding and identifying neurodiversity, being aware of the social and academic implications for students, and capable of implementing inclusive education practices that promote integration and accommodate difference.
- To share, develop, and embed existing good practice between institutions, nationally and internationally, in supporting neurodiverse students, learning from each other and building on achievements.
- To facilitate school, university, employment transitions for neurodiverse students through resource and programme development, and workplace learning initiatives.
- To provide employer neurodiversity training, resources and interventions to support positive conceptions of neurodiversity in the workplace and promote benefits of a diverse workforce.
- To establish regional networking activities promoting the inclusion of people with neurodiversity through dialogue with ministers, and other political-level actors, to get policy change for democratization of education and the workplace.
- To empower neurodiverse students to participate in activities that achieve attitude change in Latin America towards a positive conception of neurodiversity, fostering their own and others’ social integration and mitigating isolation and stigmatization.
The 7 objectives have been set on the basis that they are feasible in that the HEIs, as catalysts for schools and employers, have identified needs that they are committed, at leadership level to addressing. They have each identified schools with whom they will work. Also, many of the interventions, have been tested and successfully implemented in the programme countries, confirming that they are achievable. Associate partners have agreed that their project input is feasible and achievable.
Objective 1 entails putting in place screening/assessment processes to identify students’ learning needs currently lacking in all 6 partner HEIs. By working with students to identify tools that avoid the negative connotations of disclosing a ‘psychological disability’ (a problem at UNR where data collection is ineffective), this objective addresses the problem of neurodiversity remaining hidden and going undiscovered.
It will enable identification of needs at an earlier stage of education (in collaboration with schools) and lead to more timely adaptation of the approach taken to teaching, learning and assessment, which will optimise achievement. Being able to identify learning needs more effectively will enhance teachers’ confidence in working with these students, improving job satisfaction. Institutions will have evidence of the scale of neurodiversity and baseline data to track retention and achievement. This objective is in synergy with Argentina’s NEXOS program. An estimated 1,200 students will be screened during the project.
Objective 2 addresses teachers’ needs in both target countries for enhanced human capital in understanding, and identifying neurodiversity, and designing and implementing inclusive education practices. Staff training in all of the partner HEIs is currently very limited, in places to one specific workshop per year (UNR, UNSJ, UdeC, UDG), and in others to specific programs (UNJU).
This objective will ensure reach to train 100 ‘trainers’ which will ultimately reach 750 participants for enhancing teachers’ self-efficacy and effectiveness, measured by improved student assessment performance and teacher satisfaction.
Objective 3 will share, develop, and embed existing good practice between institutions, nationally and internationally, in supporting neurodiverse students. This objective will result in a Good Practice Guide (and Wiki) addressing the identified global lack of knowledge of how to identify and meet diverse needs of neurodiverse students through the adoption of an inclusive approach.
Teachers will benefit by having a greater knowledge and tools with which to work which will serve as a blueprint for adoption by teachers at other institutions. The objective will generate tangible evidence for Government of interventions that bring policy to life and/or challenge existing policy.
Objective 4 focuses on smoothing transitions for neurodiverse students from school to higher education, and from higher education into employment, both of which are recognised nationally and internationally as provoking stress for students. In direct synergy with the Argentinian Government’s NEXOS program, this objective will build on work already started (UNSJ, UNJU) and address a gap in Mexico. Each partner HEI will link with at least 2 schools and 10 local employers, to create resources, programmes, and an access to employment framework.
Given that interventions that address transition stress can benefit the entire student population, this objective demonstrates ENTENDER’s wider impact on modernising education in Latin America.
Objective 5 will see each HEIs engaging with employers to create local employer registers. Increased knowledge and capacity to support a neurodiverse workforce will promote inclusion and encourage positive conceptions of neurodiversity for existing, as well as, new employees. Training, access to resources and employability interventions will have an impact on employers’ recruitment strategies and benefit individuals seeking work placements and paid employment.
Objective 6 involves bringing together an interdisciplinary network, initially to engage in a series of local roundtable events, estimated to attract approximately 100 participants each. Attendees will include invited government ministers, public and private sector HEIs, schools, parents, employers, NGOs and charitable organisations. Early increased high-level awareness of ENTENDER, through showcasing easy to adopt and economical ideas for changes in policy and practice, locally and nationally, in both partner countries will be developed further through continuous updating through the network via social media etc.
Objective 7 focuses specifically on helping students to become active participants in their own cause, to develop a voice and press for change by raising the profile of neurodiversity which fosters their own and others’ social integration and mitigates isolation and stigmatization through development of local neurodiversity societies.