Neurodivergent and disabled students face significant hurdles in academia. Autists are among the least represented demographic groups at college, with only 44% enrollment (compared to 67% for the general population), despite 46% of autists having average to above average intelligence. It is estimated that autistic students have only a 39% graduation rate from post-secondary institutions, compared to 52% for the general population. Disabled students have a 41% graduation rate. Disabled students face a double jeopardy of sorts, because not only do their disabilities increase the likelihood that they will struggle academically and socially – NOT because of any inherent characteristics, but mainly due to lack of institutional support and ableism – but failures in these areas can also flag students by administration and law enforcement. For example, in Pasco County, Florida, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the Sheriff’s Office was flagging students who were struggling with grades and attendance as future criminals, with the intent to “make their lives miserable,” and was even planning to surveil students who had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. University administrations as well have implemented policies that create an unsafe learning environment for disabled students, in which potential failure is equated with criminalization.
We believe that schools should take a transparent, collaborative, and nonpunitive approach to helping students. Therefore, although our college ranking system aims specifically to help the disabled student in higher education, we also aim to work with university administrations to improve policies that implicitly or explicitly target neurodivergence and disability.
The purpose of this site is twofold. First, we document instances of discrimination against disabled students on US campuses. This website features an anonymous reporting mechanism to allow students who have been abused, bullied, excluded, coerced, targeted, harassed, silenced, or otherwise harmed to share their stories. We understand “silencing” not only as an administrative response to student crisis including gaslighting, intimidation, psychiatric hospitalization, and forced medical leave, but also as endemic to a wider culture of ableism and saneism. It follows that fighting such a culture of oppression is a corollary to shining a light on abuse and erasing the shame of victimization.
Second, we aim to hold academic institutions accountable for policies that create unsafe campuses for disabled students. We have done this by creating an openly accessible grading mechanism that allows students to measure and report the extent to which their universities are criminalizing, surveilling, and policing their behaviors. Through this platform, students can exercise their voices and power to create positive change in ways too often denied to us by administrators, faculty, and even our peers. It is imperative to resist victim-blaming rhetorics that claim ableist, saneist policies are a necessary way for dealing with students like ourselves.
Rather than a McCarthyistic culture of surveillance and ostracism, we work toward a culture of care, compassion, and accountability. That is, a culture in which each and every one of us is responsible to every other.
Hi/Bonjour! My name is Kendra McLaughlin (she/her/elle), I’m a socio-legal psychologist and public health researcher, with a PhD in Psychology from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I currently live in Tiohtià:ke also known as Montréal, Québec. My undergraduate studies were a tumultuous and challenging time; I began in pre-pharmacy sciences, transferred into nursing, and then into psychology at the University of New Brunswick. My transdiciplinary academic journey has certainly been impacted and shaped by my mental illness and the mental health services I did (not) receive at my universities. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and writing about the intersection(s) of criminalization and mental health. You can find my writings at CriminalizedMentallyIll on Instagram. I’m thankful and excited to be part of a project which takes the criminalization of mentally ill, neurodivergent, and disabled students seriously.
I am currently a research associate at McGill University, where I am studying oral public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope to eventually work as a professor and researcher of the social epidemiology of mental illness/distress and critical criminology.
I am a neurodivergent, queer therapist in the Philadelphia area. My pronouns are she/they. I primarily specialize in eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image distress, and I am particularly passionate about supporting neurodivergent, LGBTQ+, and disabled/chronically ill folks in finding freedom with food and body acceptance. My therapeutic approach is informed by feminism, fat liberation, disability justice, and queer and trans liberation. I am a strong believer in the importance of participating in activism outside of the therapeutic space and using my voice to advocate for the systemic changes needed to build a safe, inclusive world for marginalized communities.
Through my own personal experiences and my work with college and graduate students, I have learned about the many barriers and forms of oppression that affect neurodivergent and disabled individuals in academic settings. I am thrilled to be a part of Neurodivergent-U and advocate for disability justice within higher education.
Nick Walker is a queer, transgender, flamingly autistic writer and educator, best known for her foundational work on the neurodiversity paradigm and Neuroqueer Theory. Dr. Walker is a professor of psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies, and author of the book Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities. She also teaches aikido and co-writes the urban fantasy webcomic Weird Luck.
Stefanie Lyn Kaufman Mthimkhulu (they/she) is a white, queer and non-binary, Disabled, sick, neurodivergent care worker and educator of Ashkenazi Jewish and Puerto Rican ascent. They are rooted in a historical and political lineage of Disability Justice and Mad Liberation; and show up for their communities as an organizer, parent, doula, peer supporter, writer, and conflict intervention facilitator. Their work specializes in building non-carceral, peer-led mental health care systems that exist outside of the state, reimagining everything we've come to learn about mental distress, and supporting care workers to build access-centered, trauma responsive practices that support whole bodymind healing. Stefanie is the Founding Director of Project LETS, and serves on the Board of IDHA, the Disability Justice Youth Center, and the Lived Experience Advisory Council for the Psychiatric Services Journal.