Above: Members of the Neurodiversity Initiative Club participate in an event in Cougar Mall.

Neurodivergent thinkers exhibit a wide array of differences in brain functioning, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and dyslexia. While efforts have been taken in recent years to reduce stigmas, stereotypes still persist. That’s why the College of Charleston’s Neurodiversity Initiative Club is hosting its first annual Neurodiversity Celebration Week March 13-21, 2023, to explain and celebrate neurodiversity.

“People who are neurodiverse learners have a lot of strengths,” says Sam Swartz, president of the Neurodiversity Initiative Club, who is majoring in public health and double-minoring in medical humanities and psychology. “These students can think outside the box when they are in an environment that allows them to flourish.”

Swartz, along with club members, is working to raise awareness and celebrate the talents of neurodiverse minds, reduce stigma and make the campus a more inclusive space for all.

As part of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, the College of Charleston campus will be flooded with yard signs and banners providing information about neurodiversity and highlighting successful individuals in the world who are a part of the neurodiverse community.

Throughout the week, the club will be hosting raffles, having daily spirit days and hosting social media giveaways. They’ll end the week with a tie-dye and cupcake event with partner student organization Best Buddies. Best Buddies is a chapter organization on campus that focuses on inclusive friendships between the special needs community of Charleston and college students.

As director of the College’s Center for Disability Services, Anne Osowski is proud to serve as an advisor for the Neurodiversity Initiative Club.

“Our student leaders who formed the club and the individuals who support it are committed to educating our campus community about brain differences and to instilling an appreciation for the many kinds of diversity we recognize at our institution,” says Osowski.

Osowski says much of the progress that’s been made in the area of disability awareness and understanding is thanks to Judith Heumann, an internationally recognized disability advocate who passed away on March 4, 2023. Known as “the mother” of the disability rights movement, Heumann led the push for disability rights legislation and the establishment of disability advocacy organizations. She also held positions in the federal government advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

“Heumann, with other individuals, fought to make things better for generations to come, and for those of us who continue the work, we are incredibly fortunate to have Neurodiversity  Celebration Week,” adds Osowski. “This initiative challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences; increases awareness, understanding and acceptance of the ND community; and creates a more inclusive community that empowers all individuals.”

The schedule of events is as follows: