Building pathways for neurodiverse students

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

A pilot program will better help neurodiverse students navigate college.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College is expanding services to neurodivergent students with a new pilot program, Neurodiversity Pathfinders.

The program is designed according to the social justice and intersectionality models of disability, said a press release from the college, and it’s the first of its kind in West Virginia.

The program provides neurodivergent students with educational opportunities for strengths-based self-knowledge. There are four focus areas of focus: self-advocacy, self-regulation, social interaction and executive functioning.

“We were drawn to this type of program to somewhat address a need in the community to help those on the spectrum. We aim to help these students be successful in their studies and ultimately in their life endeavors, while celebrating the individual’s unique qualities and abilities,” said James Goodwin, director of college-wide engagement.

Neurodiverse students will have access to a face-to-face small cohort class for the fall semester (Skills for Navigating College and Career), regular meetings with a trained peer mentor and supported communication with faculty and advisors, among other supports. Credit classes, usually transferable, will be taken by Pathfinders with their cohort each semester for a total of five semesters. Course topics will include skills for navigating college and career, self and community advocacy, occupational wellness and interpersonal communication.

BridgeValley’s new program follows a model set by Bellevue College’s Neurodiversity Navigators (NdN), which also uses four focus areas to help students increase self-knowledge that lead to successful academic outcomes. NdN is individualized to help students reach their personal goals, whether they stay at the Washington college for one semester or complete a degree or certificate program. In addition to supporting students, staff receive equity training so they can better assist students who are autistic.

Bellevue College was recognized in July as one of the best colleges for students with autism.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.