It’s nice to be surrounded by other people who are more like me. I’ll be able to move through the world a lot easier, and make my life work with my diagnosis, rather than trying to work against it like I have my whole life.Incoming First Year Student
The Neurodiversity Navigators (formerly Autism Spectrum Navigators) program is built on the principles of social justice and the neurodiversity movement. This means that when we consider the needs of our students, we first consider the value that each brings to our community as a unique, diverse individual, and we seek to embrace this individuality by supporting each student in building on their strengths, not fixing perceived deficits. Next, we focus on finding ways to support access for our students, around systemic barriers, misunderstandings, and more.
What does this look like? For one thing, it means we don’t have Social Skills classes! Neurodiversity Navigators students take a series of cohort classes [PDF] alongside their chosen program of study that are designed to support them in finding their strengths in four areas:
- Executive Functioning,
- Self-Regulation and
- Social Interaction.
These classes have a career preparation focus, and, through discovering their strengths, our students are able to match their strengths to a “good fit” career path, all while staying the amazing unique individuals that they are!
Also, the Neurodiversity Navigators program is not part of the Disability Resource Center and our students do not need to provide us with documentation of disability: rather, it is an educational program of the R.I.S.E. Learning Institute and Center for Career Connections. In this way, we can offer our students a broad array of services and support them in making personal choices regarding connecting with Disability services, just as they do all college services.
Our students have found that by embracing their strengths, and learning to love what’s unique about themselves, they can achieve more than they may have imagined.
The Neurodiversity Navigators’ program philosophy is very simple: provide advocacy, support access, and educational programming for neurodivergent students, and support them in learning to embrace their own singular selves. As we work to accomplish this goal, the entire community around us changes to also embrace this population of wonderfully unique students.
Task Initiation, Organization and Planning, Time Management, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility, Sustained Attention, Emotional Control, Goal-Directed Persistence, Response Inhibition, Working Memory, Metacognition
Understanding one’s social interaction preferences and strengths; Join a campus club if desired; Make friends on campus if desired, Work in a group
Know when you need help, know who to ask, how to ask, when to ask
Handle changes to schedule and/or plans; Think of solutions to problems; Handle feelings in order to be able to continue class and class work, and achieve personal goals
- Regular Meetings with trained Peer Mentor
- Cohort First Year Seminar Course (FYS) in Summer of first year
- Career Preparation cohort class each quarter [PDF] (as part of an seven-course series) with other program students (credits and topics vary – come to Q&A Session for more detail or inquire.)
- Students take these classes alongside their chosen program of study, and in most cases the classes can count as part of their degree plan.
- Quarterly parent meetings
- Facilitated Communication with instructors if desired
- Campus Awareness & Training
The Neurodiversity Navigators Program currently serves Bellevue College students who identify as autistic or neurodivergent. Students must self-identify as autistic or neurodivergent, must wish to be part of the program, and must agree to participate in all program components listed above and discuss any participation concerns with program leads.
Since there is an educational component to the program, students must also assess into English level 072 or above so that they will be able to comprehend and complete assignments in our curriculum.
People often ask us the same two questions:
- Why do we say “disabled” and “autistic” – using identity first language – instead of “person with a disability” or “person with autism” – using person first language? And,
- Why do we disagree with the concept of teaching social skills?
Read on to learn about our reasons! They are both rooted in our social justice, strengths-based approach.
Language Use – Why it Matters
Although many have been taught that person-first language is the only correct way to talk about people with disabilities, it’s been quite some time since the American Psychological Association (APA) came out with guidelines that make it clear that both person-first and identity-first language are completely fine, and it should be left up to the disabled person to decide for themselves which they would like to use. (You’ve just read an example of their guidance in this paragraph!)
Here’s an article written by Lydia X.Z. Brown and published on the Autistic Self Advocacy website about Identity-First Language to give you further insight into why we use identity-first language almost exclusively here.
Why We Don’t Teach Social Skills
If you stop and think about designing a social justice, strengths-based curriculum, you will perhaps begin to imagine that teaching neurotypical social skills does not fit into that space. We strongly believe that it’s more harmful than helpful to expect our students to learn how to socialize like a neurotypical person, as it requires them to “mask” or hide their true selves to an extent that causes emotional and physical illness.
The folks at the Neurodiversity Therapist Collective say it very well in their article explaining their stance on social skills training, called: Reassessing Autistic Social Intelligence: Challenging the Status Quo of Social Skills Training.
Virtual Tour of the Neurodiversity Center below
To learn more about Neurodiversity in general, we recommend this article from Scientific American: Clearing Up Some Misconceptions About Neurodiversity. and this page from Pivot Diversity: Neurodiversity: The World is More Beautiful Than You Think. You can also view our Neurodiversity Resources page.
Watch this 1-minute video for more
Last Updated October 28, 2023