Being a neurodivergent student – someone who may be autistic, have a learning or intellectual disability, or have another neurological or cognitive condition – can be difficult, but one group at ETSU is hoping to make college life for these students a little easier.
The Neurodiversity Club began in the fall of 2017 with a group of friends who wanted to create a safe space for students struggling with a neurodivergence to socialize and get to know each other as well as advocate for better resources on campus.
“We kind of wanted to create a space where people could have support, be themselves and just make friends,” said Courtney Johnson, president of the Neurodiversity club. “It’s a social support network in a way.”
The Neurodiversity Club helps students who are neurodivergent learn to cope with their disabilities, but also helps students learn to accept and embrace their divergences.
“If you spend your whole life hating yourself and hating your identity, then your self-worth is going to plummet,” said Johnson.
The group holds several events each semester, some of which are social and some of which are advocacy based. One of the most popular events held by the club is their Social Anxiety Mixer.
During the Social Anxiety Mixer each person gets a name tag and a color-coded badge. A green badge means the person wearing it would like to be approached for conversation. A yellow badge means the person would not like to be approached but would instead like to be the one who starts the conversation, and a red badge means the person wearing it does not want to be involved in conversation at all.
“That way people can control how much communication they want,” said Johnson. “It’s all about creating a no pressure environment where you can socialize if you want to or you can sit by yourself if you want to, but it’s all up to you.”
Another event hosted by the Neurodiversity club is the Disability Day of Mourning.
“It’s to honor people with disabilities who were killed by their parents or caretakers,” said Johnson. “It’s about bringing attention to the fact that being disabled is not a tragedy, but these people’s deaths are a tragedy.”
Between hosting events, holding discussions on topics relating to neurodivergence, or just hanging out and chatting in a safe space, the Neurodiversity Club has something that everyone can appreciate. They meet every Monday at 5 p.m. in Rogers-Stout Hall, room 425.
“We’re open to everyone,” said Johnson “You don’t have to be neurodivergent. All kinds of brains are welcome.”