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For as long as I have been a student, I’ve heard the same thing from almost all of my teachers and professors. They tell us that if we go to class, take notes and review your work, we’ll do well in the class. I think that people often assume that there are more logical ways to approach your work and that these methods will work for everyone. However, this often leaves out a lot of people and, more specifically, can leave out neurodivergent students and students with a mental illness.

Neurodiverse individuals are those whose cognitive functioning differs from others. Examples of neurodivergent people are those who lay on the autism spectrum, have ADHD or dyslexia. Some examples of mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and PTSD. The reason why I include both of these groups is because these individuals are often left out of the conversation when it comes to school and learning strategies. The way that our education system is currently structured in elementary, secondary and post-secondary school is known to cater towards specific learning styles or develop a cookie-cutter version of what a student should look like. This is not only unfair to those who learn in a different way, but it discourages educators from expanding their teaching styles.

Yes, there are special education departments, accessible learning centres and other resources for students to find or reach out to, but what about schools who don’t have these resources? Similarly, despite the idea that resources like therapy, medicine and treatment are widely available, it may not be possible or accessible for certain people.

On another note, what about students who don’t know they are neurodivergent or that they may have a mental illness?  A report showed that less than 20% of adults with ADHD are currently diagnosed and/or treated by psychiatrists due to the belief that it is a disorder that can only be diagnosed when someone is young. This same sort of misconception happens for mental illnesses. One statistic showed that 10-20% of Canadian youth have or had a mental illness at one point. As a student in university, I know that there are many people who deal with mental illnesses but do not have the resources to receive help. A way that schools could help this is by allowing students to learn or submit their work in different ways. For example, due to us learning material online, we often have recorded lectures which would be prohibited for most in-person classes. Although some may look at this as a way of not going to class (and surely there are people who would do this), recorded lectures can be beneficial for anyone who struggles to keep up with a lecture. It’s important to note that you can be neurotypical or not have a mental illness and still like to learn or study in different ways too. Maybe you like to take notes and rewrite them a bunch of times or maybe you would rather read things once and try to teach it to someone else. The importance of having students feeling supported can essentially be summed up in one line: when you feel supported, you can do anything. The fact is, no matter who you are, you can do what you put your mind to. However, learning disabilities, mental illnesses or even expected school stress can make you feel like you can’t. This is why we need to be supported  so we feel reassured that we can do anything!

I appreciate professors who are very accommodating to their students because it makes students feel that professors want them to succeed. Not only does it give neurotypical students an option of choice, but it can really benefit neurodivergent people or those with mental illnesses. Even if you’re just having an off day, it can benefit you to have the ability to use an extension or have your well-graded work be counted for more. In one of my classes, my professor offered three ways for students to do our final exam because he knew that some of us may like to do things differently, which is so appreciated!

Overall, there is no right or wrong way to learn. When you take courses or learn from professors who will do their best to make you stay engaged in material, no matter who you are, it can really change your outlook on your semester! I know the semester is coming to an end, but I hope all of you are studying hard and taking breaks when you need it. You got this!

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195639/

https://cmha.ca/fast-facts-about-mental-illness#:~:text=It%20is%20estimated%20that%2010,experienced%20a%20major%20depressive%20episode.

Anuva Arrya Sharma

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Anuva A. Sharma is a passionate writer and content creator. She's a third-year Political Science student and is one of the Presidents for the WLU Her Campus Chapter! When she isn't writing articles, you'll likely find her reading up on current events, dancing in her room or having a Marvel movie marathon.
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