In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kenyon is holding a three-day celebration to explore the emerging idea of neurodiversity to describe the varied ways that people think and learn.
Neurodiversity activist Jonathan Mooney brings the term to life and will explore what it means for the future of education in the keynote address titled "The Gift: LD/ADHD Reframed” from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Rosse Hall. He is co-author of Learning Outside the Lines and the founder of learning disability advocacy organization Project Eye-to-Eye.
President Sean Decatur established the celebration titled Open Doors, Open Minds to mark the significance of the comprehensive civil rights law enacted in 1990, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and protects their rights to participate fully in all aspects of life.
Associate Provost Ivonne García, associate professor of English, said the ADA started a sea change and is now integrated into the choices the College makes when constructing buildings and how it supports students who need varied housing or instruction. García, who helped plan the celebration when she was still associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, said having neurodiverse students in her classes has made her a better teacher and more sensitive to her own word choices when talking about people’s differences.
“That’s part of what we’re trying to do with this celebration: to encourage people to look at situations in a completely different way, just understand someone else’s perspective rather than think that the perspective we have is the natural one.”
The term neurodiversity is meant to show that all people’s brains function differently, from those who prefer to learn new information through audio to people with varying degrees of autism or ADHD, said one of the celebration’s organizers, Erin Salva, director of student accessibility and support services.
“Often we think of Asperger’s or ADHD as outliers that we just don’t understand, when in fact we’re all somewhere on this spectrum of life and we all view the world in different ways,” she said.
Other events for the celebration include a screening of Temple Grandin, the biopic starring Claire Danes that profiles the autistic professor and activist for the rights of autistic people. It runs from 7:30 to 10 p.m., Monday, Sept. 21, in Higley Hall auditorium.
At a neurodiversity poetry reading, students, professors and staff will read works by writers with autism. The event from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, in Peirce Hall Pub will include music by blues guitarist Zayne Harshaw who leads the five-person band Blue Spectrum. As the name signifies, all band members are on the autism spectrum. Peggy Sue’s pie will be served.
The celebration of the arts on Tuesday night is all about the neurodiversity people bring to the world, Salva said. “It’s what makes our world beautiful.”