Breaking Barriers Photo 2

Students huddle up at the Breaking Barriers event on Monday to learn the different perspectives required to make UCF a more neurodiverse-friendly campus.

The Multicultural Student Center held its Breaking Barriers event to promote neurodiversity awareness and accessibility on Monday.

Pelin Ozoglu is a member of the Multicultural Leadership Council who led the workshop on neurodiversity. She said UCF is a campus of about 70,000 and thinks there's a lot of people that can relate to some type of neurodiversity.

“I think the rest of us, including myself, that have less experience with neurodiversity would benefit from just kind of education or understanding the bigger scope,” Ozoglu said. “Many things are easier for the neurotypical (person), but for those within this community, there are certain things that are a lot harder for them.”

According to Harvard Health Publishing, neurodiversity is a term used to describe the natural variations in how people's brains work, which includes differences in how people learn, think and behave.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 15% to 20% of the world population exhibits some form of neurodivergence.

An autistic employee can be up to 140% more productive than a typical employee when properly matched to a job, according to the Harvard Business Review.

“The Orlando area has a very high employment rate for the neurodiverse community,” Ozoglu said. “I think it's over 70% in this city, which is pretty impressive.”

Even with the potential for higher performance output, another article from the Harvard Business Review states that neurodiverse individuals may require accommodations that neurotypical individuals do not.

Sophomore psychology major Michael Golden attended the event and said he thinks we know how to make communities for neurotypical people but not so much for neurodiverse people. He said he worries neurodiverse individuals might not feel as welcome or as willing to have social interactions.

“It's important that as a college community that we are aware of those differences,” Golden said. “We can accommodate the challenges they face, and we can do our best to try to make everyone feel welcome and also to experience these new perspectives."

Senior education major Alma Tovar said she attended the event because she's a big advocate when it comes to supporting diversity and disabilities on campus.

"These kinds of events are important to UCF because it allows students to gain a new perspective," Tovar said.

According to Keystone Education Group, neurodiversity encompasses a range of conditions that may impact a student's learning and socializing. A way that universities can aim to support neurodiversity is by providing resources and strategies tailored to their unique needs, according to the group.

Ozoglu said the Multicultural Student Center is breaking the barriers between neurodiverse and neurotypical students by hosting inclusive events where students can learn and appreciate the differences among the people in their community. 

"I think that here on campus, having events that are inclusive and that can bring in other students who maybe don't know about that community or about that topic and learn about it, I think is the whole point of university," Tovar said. "Like, you're there to learn. Whether it's a direct course that you're taking or a workshop that you're attending, it's important that we learn about each other.”

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