Neurodiversity Hub with Andrew Eddy

Welcome to Episode 80 of the Think UDL podcast: Neurodiversity Hub with Andrew Eddy. Andrew Eddy is the CEO and co-founder of Untapped based in Melbourne, Australia, a social enterprise that helps to develop job opportunities for Autstic individuals and he is the co-creator of the Neurodiversity Hub which provides resources and trainings to students, universities, and employers focussing on programs to benefit neurodiverse students and employees. Today we get the chance to talk about the many ways in which universities, students, and employers are collaborating in Australia, the United Kingdom, and in North America to provide training, programs, informational presentations, and plenty of ideas about how to best serve our Autistic students throughout their educational and career journeys. You can find all of the resources we mention on the website ThinkUDL.org for episode 80. Be sure to check out Neurodiversityhub.org as we will be talking a lot about what you can find there. Let’s change the way we think and talk about neurodiversity!Thank you for listening and a special thank you to the folks at the UDLHE Network for their financial support of the Think UDL podcast!

Resources

Find Andrew Eddy on Twitter @ADMEddy

Or the Neurodiversity Hub’s Facebook page

Watch “Love on the Spectrum” on Netflix or Listen to Michael Theo’s podcast Mr. A+

Transcript

Lillian Nave  00:00

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 80 of the think Udo podcast neurodiversity hub with Andrew Eddie. Andrew Eddie is the CEO and co founder of untapped. based in Melbourne, Australia, a social enterprise that helps to develop job opportunities for autistic individuals. And he is the CO creator of the neurodiversity hub, which provides resources and training to students, universities and employers focusing on programs to benefit neurodiverse students and employees. Today, we get the chance to talk about the many ways in which universities, students and employers are collaborating in Australia, the United Kingdom, and in North America to provide training programs, informational presentations, and plenty of ideas about how to best serve our autistic students throughout their educational and career journeys. You can find all of the resources we mentioned on the website, think udl.org. For episode 80. Be sure to check out neurodiversity hub.org. As we will be talking a lot about what you can find there. Let’s change the way we think and talk about neurodiversity. Thank you for listening. And a special thank you to the folks at the UDL H E Network for their financial support of the think UDL podcast. Thank you, Andrew, for agreeing to meet with me and talk about the neurodiversity hub and what you’re doing in Australia and around the world. Thank you for being on the think UDL podcast.

Andrew Eddy  02:22

Thank you, Lillian, it’s great to great to have this opportunity. Great to meet you. And looking forward to our discussion.

Lillian Nave  02:30

Yes, yeah, I’m really amazed by what you’re doing. I’m really glad to see all of the ways you are changing the narrative around autism around neurodiversity. And so I’m going to start with my first question I asked all my guests, and that is what makes you a different kind of learner.

Andrew Eddy  02:51

Yeah, it’s I’ve thought a lot about this question. And this has been a real struggle for me, because I am hopeless at reading. I’m such a slow reader. And I can’t maintain concentration in lectures, okay. I don’t know how I got through university. So I got through inside, I always struggled with this. And what I find the best way for me to learn is to actually be forced to present something about something to someone, and okay to somebody, and then I have to go and put together a story. And you know, PowerPoint, whoever put together a story, and actually have to go in and understand it so that I don’t look like an idiot. So forces me to then go and learn. And the other thing is getting into some of these assistive technologies, what I find is, if I listen to a podcast, same problem with a lecture, I drift off, but if I play it at 1.5 times, or even two times, it forces me to listen, because it’s just going at a pace. It’s not just arming and hiring. And, you know, and this and all this stuff that people say these days, they go like this, and you know, and whatever. So forces, it forces, you get the speed, you get through things quicker, forces me to concentrate and take it in. So

Lillian Nave  04:17

I am the same way, especially when I’m listening to podcasts or recently, in the last couple years, I will watch a lot of webinars like if I miss a meeting, it is always two times the speed to double speed for me, because that is my processing. And I have a college age daughter who, during the pandemic, her biology and chemistry professors made videos and she said it was so difficult to listen at regular speed. She just needed it to be to be sped up and so I definitely see how important that is.

Andrew Eddy  04:53

Yeah, there’s a guy that I’ve talked to in the Midwest, who’s actually done developed app which I still use, which takes some you can take a website and take it into a native in the app native sites, and then play it to you, and pick the speed you want to go out. And the really nice neurodivergent. And the he had real trouble. And what he found was if he played things at four times, or five times, he could just speak it, take it all in. And he just discovered a whole new way of learning and devouring content. And he thought this would be a great idea for an episode, he’s done that and, but I see that starting to appear in all sorts of other places too. In just in with new services, as on, they’re actually giving options, instead of having to read the thing, there’s a button to press to play it, and you can actually choose a speed. So really, really great the way that’s happening with that accessibility. You know, yes? How can it be more accessible? If you speed it up? Actually, it is more accessible if you speed it up? Because

Lillian Nave  06:09

to some people, it really is.

Andrew Eddy  06:10

Yeah, it is? Yeah, well, I

Lillian Nave  06:13

must say, there have been so many great technological changes and creations during the last two years caused by the pandemic, you know, things we wouldn’t have thought of doing. That have been really a fantastic additions to, in my realm, the university realm, into the way that we teach and having all of those ways for students to access, it used to be a real problem to let’s say, have a note taker, or somebody who was helping some of the students who needed specific accommodations. And now it’s much more prevalent, where we have professors much more readily providing their slides, their lecture notes, recording things. And it’s, it’s more accepted now than it ever was before. Because we see, oh, if a global pandemic can do it, I bet there were other reasons beforehand. And there will be other reasons afterward, that aren’t the global pandemic that makes this meaningful and useful. And less of a stigma.

Andrew Eddy  07:15

You know, we’ve on the hub we’ve got, we’ve curated or included a link to an organization UK, which is an Euro diversion organization. And they have curated the A to Z of assistive technologies. They’ve just got, you know, lots and lots of them, actually identified them, and they’ve catalogued them in terms of what they deliver. And the base version of everything on there, set of resources is free. So one of the reasons is there’s like there is a paid version of all of them are more features, but the base version is free. And this is the text to speech, and, and spelling and grammar and all the all these things, but they’ve actually gone and catalog them. And that’s one of the resources we have on the Student Resources page on the neurodiversity hub. And yeah, his people been amazed when they start to see what’s actually out there that they didn’t know about.

Lillian Nave  08:13

Well, that’s what I love. Okay, you’ve mentioned the neurodiversity hub. That’s my first question. Can you explain to my listeners out here on the think UDL podcast land? What is the neurodiversity hub? And how did it come into being?

Andrew Eddy  08:27

Yes, so it’s a community of practice. And it’s, it’s designed for universities and employers and for students and their parents and carers. And researchers and service providers, really an opportunity for anyone to be involved to take from or add to this community of practice. It came out of, I guess, working with companies and talking to them about the idea of autism work programs, and employing autistic individuals and jobs. And recognizing that was fine, we can create the demand for people. But what we know is that there’s a horrendous drop out of autistic individuals from the schooling system from early teens. And so the number of people actually get through high school, and hopefully that that term translates Yes, a high school dropout from that and not even getting to the end of high school, not even thinking about going to college or university. Even those who do, they drop out in the first year. And people over know, they just don’t turn up. And then even those who do make it through, they may have done their course. but they have no work experience, maybe flipping burgers, and they don’t get a job, they don’t stack up against their peers, and they don’t get their jobs. So this is this idea of how do we, you know, to create the demand for people and the understanding that employers have the opportunity of having access to this untapped, untapped talent pool. How do you create a lot and it’s a long term project? How do you create this pipeline of talent, that stands a chance of getting in and being accessed. So it was this whole thing around pathways to university and college, having the scaffolding and the programs to support them, support student success, and partnering with organizations for work experience opportunities, so that they had that chance to get that, and could have that on their resume and stack up against the neurotypical peers. So that was the whole idea of it. But then, if you start involving employers and all the universities and researchers and so on, you start creating a big chunk of what Untapped overall mission is, which is to create a sustainable neurodiverse employment ecosystem. . Uh huh. And you got to have demand, you got to have supply. So it’s got to work together. And that’s what we’re trying to do is make this whole thing happen. And it’s a long term project. It’s gonna go and wait beyond Yes, when I when I’m gone, but it’s a long term project. But we’ve got to put in place these building blocks and change the narrative and get people talking in a different way. Yes,

Lillian Nave  11:59

absolutely. That’s what I am about to is changing the narrative and and changing the stigma as well. Making things that we used to think as college professors were accommodations or things that were maybe outside our job is not really, because we are trying to teach the whole student and teach everybody and realize that every learner is different. And so we need to teach to all of those learners. And so I am all about changing the narrative, changing the stigma, and bringing neurodiversity even the term into much greater usage. That doesn’t have a negative feeling or stigma around it is really important to do what I’m doing too.

Andrew Eddy  12:45

So we started a, we started with the CO design project, we actually started talking to a university here, Latrobe University, which I was the deputy chancellor of, at the time, in 2016, about creating the idea of creating an autism friendly university. And then four years ago, we actually had then a CO we had a co design workshop with universities from around the country, in Australia, employers, students, parents, researchers. And we had a couple of intense interns from Cornell University. And we went through this CO design process, and then the interns sort of tried to capture all the stuff and put it into some sort of framework. And then they went, they went. And then I kept working on this framework and developed up this program and filled it out a bit more. And then I had the chance to talk to some universities in the US. So Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State and Landmark College, and the City University of New York. And they gave me some really good thoughts and additional ideas to include in this co curricular program. So incorporate those as well. And that was great. And so we thought, Great, now we’ve got some things that we can try and aspire to in terms of programs that can sit alongside a university course. And we had some universities in Australia already signed up, and we were going to then talk to others. But then these US university said, Well, what are you doing? So explain what we’re trying to do? And I said, Can we can we can we join up to civil war? Yeah, you’ve been doing this for 10 years? Why would you want to do that? And I said, Well, yes, we’ve got some great programs, but we want to you want to go better. We want to go the next step and be great to colonists. So they’ve joined up and now we’ve got like 17 universities in the US that have joined and series SUNY is the latest one SUNY State University and Empire is the last one. So I’ve just joined last week. So I didn’t expect that. So, you know, we’re now up to about close to 30. Universities globally, that are part of this. And that wasn’t the intention at all, it was really just an Australian thing. So,

Lillian Nave  15:16

yeah. Oh, it’s really impressive. And I’ll have a link to the neuro diversity hub.org on our resources page, so everybody can look. And I noticed that you did have you listed all of the universities in the UK, and in Australia, and in the United States. So what’s really great as you have this fantastic footprint, and something that many can copy, right and can can put in place in their universities. And so that’s why I want to get the word out about it. And you’ve got on the neurodiversity hub, you’ve got an amazing breadth of information that covers students, universities and employers. And I wanted to start out with students, what can neurodiverse students and those who care about their neuro diverse students find at the neurodiversity hub.

Andrew Eddy  16:12

So there’s a whole range of things. And it really comes along the lines of what I talked about, of the areas where I think we can do better at university, and that is abound, that transition to university, the pathways, the scaffolding and programs that we have in place to ensure that students success, and then the idea of, of interacting with employers through the other careers fairs, or work experience opportunities, or internships or government programs to make that happen. So on the Student Resources page, there is some stuff around transition to university. It’s all research based, it was done by Latrobe many years ago, they had a research project, they develop resources, and it’s said on the website, and no one knew about it. So we dusted it off, we got the researchers to go through it. And we got them to update the resource that read the materials. But it includes materials for students materials for the parents and carers materials for university staff. There’s even a training presentation for staff. And I can’t I asked my daughter to go through the student materials. And at the time, she was just starting university shoes you on University, and she went through it, she said, Gee, I wish I had this last year before I started. And what it made me realize is that this is a bit about universal design. If you can create these sorts of resources for the neurodivergent population, you’re actually going to help everybody with what you do. So we’ve got materials around that that whole transition thing we’ve got some of our universities, like my cat, have provided us with examples of their student checklists. So what do you do to get ready to go to college? What do you do on your first day, you know, wake up, get ready, whatever this you have these checklists, we tick it off. And so they’ve given us these, we’ve posted them on the hub. They can help students it can help other universities inspire them maybe to do their own resources in the same way. We’ve got life skills, training materials. So we’ve got we’ve got a team of near diversion writers who develop life skills courses, for neurodivergent individuals. And so we’re talking about things like relationships, like dating and relating, and sex and sensibility and making friends. We’ve got things around study success. So there’s organizational skills, time management, beating procrastination, these sorts of courses, we’ve got things around what happened to you, we’ve just been diagnosed with dyslexia or ADHD or autism. What’s next, you know, so lived experience from people who’ve been through it. What do you do next? So there’s a whole array of presentation skills, there’s cooking and nutrition is big course on cooking nutrition, there’s a course on Independent Living. So it goes through a whole lot of stuff, you know, getting getting roommates, you know, all these things. So there’s also a financial literacy course there. There’s a whole guide to surviving an employer Expo. It’s a 35 page guide on how to get through an employer exposure because they’re quite stressful events. We’ve got video yes, there videos from lived experience videos from autistic students who’ve got stuff on anxiety, but four pieces on disclosure, disclosing your, your, your autism or neuro divergence. We’ve got stuff about workplace success, there’s a whole job readiness workbook, which is 50 pages. And it goes through step by step on understanding yourself and your achievements and setting your goals and how to develop your cover letter, your CV, and then a whole range of normal questions, you get an interview and the chance to practice your answers, and it’s a editable PDF you download. If you start typing, you just type in the answers. And by the time you finished is working, you are probably in a much better position to cope with an interview. There’s stuff on creating LinkedIn profiles, soup to nuts guide on how to do that is dressing for success, how to use Zoom, you know, so all these things that some of them we’ve created, a lot of them we’ve curated from others, people have given us the ability to put to host them, or we just refer to their website. So I just, you know, there’s so much stuff that it would take you months

Lillian Nave  21:15

to get. Yeah, this is it’s so fantastic. And I really appreciate that you said, when you asked your daughter to look through some of the resources, she said, Ma’am, this would have really helped me. And that’s what I find all the time working in the Universal Design for Learning field is that when we apply these principles, we are helping not just our students who might need accommodations, or who might need something different, we are helping all of our students who, no matter their, their way of learning or their neuro diversity, or the fact that they have a full time day job and need to go to class at night or watch a recording or something like that. It helps all of our students, and the fact that you have so many of these kind of outside academic resources, like the financial literacy, or the life skills, trainings, and that you’ve got these that are written by neurodivergent. Authors, I really appreciate that because you’re centering that voice, those voices to help us all understand, you know how to do better. And I must say that there’s so much in the college university world that’s a hidden curriculum. I talk about that a lot, that you are uncovering that. And wouldn’t that be great if every student had that, because we assume students know how to write a research paper in this particular field, we assume they know how to find all their classes or work zoom on the first day. And we really can’t assume all those things. So providing a really clear guide for every student, right, no matter their background, or no matter who they are, is going to be helpful. It’s amazing amount of resources you have. Absolutely, thank you. Yeah, and I must say I have been a fan. I think Australia maybe leading the way on in this. Because the on, I believe it was Netflix, I think is where I saw it. There’s a great show called Love on the spectrum. And I had about 20 episodes. Oh my goodness, I watched it from beginning to end. Fantastic about dating, and kind of following several autistic individuals in their dating world. And there was a lot about disclosure. And what do you tell people? How do you go on a date? What do you talk about? It was it was so great. It just wonderful. Fascinating. I highly recommend it to all of our listeners on the spectrum.

Andrew Eddy  23:52

Yeah. And this is this has been out from that the Michael is in the second series. podcast, podcast. Yeah. Yeah, it’s really funny. So go for,

Lillian Nave  24:06

oh, gosh, he was the one who, who was talking about his mother. And, and he’s like, thankful for my mother and what she’s done. It was adequate. She raised me, it wasn’t everything, but it was adequate. And I say that all the time. Because he was so good. They just laughed. I mean, he’s just very forthcoming. So okay, this is amazing. We could end the podcast right now with everything you have for students. But there’s, there’s even more, there’s a whole lot more on this neurodiversity hub that I wanted to talk about. And the next part after all of these resources for students, which I think would be helpful for university professors to know so they can tell their students about it. But the next part is university partnerships and universities. Can you give an example of how universities partner and use or what they contribute to that. neurodiversity hub, you’ve mentioned, you have many partners, I just kind of wanted to hear a little more about it, this show

Andrew Eddy  25:06

us. So these guys at the university has done amazing job. But they’re all so stretched with what they’re trying to do. They’re so passionate, but they’re so stretched. And so the opportunity is for them to link in with the hub and the community practice. And, you know, we can work with them and talk about their program for the year what they want to do, which could include doing students sessions, getting materials that they can work with in a student group over time, it could be training the new the university staff on understanding neurodiverse students, it could be working with employers to have a careers fair that has a portion of it that is maybe more attuned to neurodiversity. So when you’re divergent sites, maybe there’s a low sensory session at the start of the day when there’s low, low light while noise. Or it could be inclusivity, compound work groups, or well Lunch and Learn sessions about neurodiversity. So there’s a whole range of things. So we’ve had such and we really work with what they want to do, and some of them with, in some cases of the universities, we’re talking to the people in the Student Success area, some places, it’s talking to people who are in a special autism program. And other cases, it’s talking with people in the business area or the research area. It’s really whatever. And it’s then working out with them, what’s the area of interest, and how can we assist them. So if they’ve, if they’re setting up a program of activities for the year, we can then review that with them provide input feedback, and then suggest resources that they might want to use from the hub as part of that that could help. So if they’re doing a lunch and learn session with employers to try and create a network, then we can suggest recordings from some of the autism work summits that we’ve organized. Or it could be thought pieces we’ve got or articles that they could share with those individuals to say, you know, read this and then come along to the Lunch and Learn and we’ll talk about, and we do encourage universities to start looking at how they can create those employer networks. Because at the end of the day, you’re going to at some point want to be organizing work experience opportunities, or field visits, or job shadowing, whatever. And you can’t just go cold, you you need to have this warm relationships. So we encourage the creation of employer networks in that area with that university and whether they want to then partner with other universities as well, it’s up to them that this happens. You know, there’s a group of universities called the Alliance who are all in the hub. And they also then meet weekly to talk about things. So you know, Drexel, and Rochester Institute and Bellevue, and Delaware, and Westchester, they’re all getting in there, kind of have their own website and everything. So they’re getting together and pooling their resources if you like. So, that opportunity of working with employers, having that, you know, picking out a few Time Timer, employer representatives that you already work with that, you know, as part of the network, work with them on having some sort of session and then build from there and build out the network. And then that’s a group of people you can then go to when you have those internship opportunities you’re looking for, or having them come speak to students, or being involved in special sessions at careers fair, or whatever it might be.

Lillian Nave  29:10

And I must say that, you know, I have a daughter in college, I have a son who will be going to college for his first year next year. And what do the university send out in all of their pamphlets. And it has a bunch of percentages, right? We have this many professors, this is our class size. It’s one to 17, one to 22 or something, you know, for faculty to student, and they all emphasize how many of their students are able to get employment after graduation, because the parents want to know, is this worthwhile? We’ll all have the money that we spend if you know, in the United States, we’re paying for this in higher ed, will that money be worthwhile and the students have a good chance of excellent opportunity. To be employed, and yes, you want to see that it’s, you know, 90 something percent that these students have a job, especially in their field. After graduation, that’s a major selling point for universities especially.

Andrew Eddy  30:15

Not right. And just going on from what I was saying before around the collaboration. You know, we have a number of cases where we’ve done a little section or post on the having the university section, highlighting something that one university is done. So you know, at Latrobe University, they’ve got a whole neurodiversity hub project. And they’ve got an autistic PhD student employed two days a week to do it. Just it’s the it’s the only place in the world they do that, but why. And she’s created a range of the resources neurodiversity one, I won sensory sensitivities, like a DIY sensory room, how to create a DIY sensory room, how to, you know, change the way you do things for in person lectures for virtual for events. So just the whole garden and the whole thing around language. And the way to speak about neurodiversity, which is very important. So she’s done those, and they’re up on the hub. And then as I showed before, my kids or I spoke before Marquette University has created these checklists and shared them with us. We did some thought pieces on disclosure at university in the workplace, and one of them we did with students at Latrobe University here. And one we did with a pH an autistic PhD student in Bath University in the UK. Okay. And then that they’re on the hub. And then Rutgers University had looked at one at that. And they said, This is great, but it’s too many words for some of our students. And they said, Look, can we turn it into a presentation, so they took the words, and they created a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes, and then shared it back with us. And we reviewed it with the original original authors, and then said, great, and then they’ve we’ve put that on the hub as well. So now we have two different ways of getting that information. But this is this whole thing around standing on the shoulders of the others and taking the next step. And that’s what the community of practice is about.

Lillian Nave  32:36

Yeah. And that’s very UDL having multiple means of representation, right, because we’re gonna reach everybody or more people, the more ways we’re able to tell these stories. And it really appreciate Yeah, that you, you’re centering. That’s what I noticed about the neurodiversity hub, centering a lot of neurodiverse, researchers, speakers, PhD students. And so it’s not other people talking about neurodiversity. It’s the neurodiversity. The people who are neuro diverse, who are presenting and creating the material. And I do think that’s a major shift that we need to be doing, and we’re starting to do. Whereas when we think about autism and kind of mainstream or the autistic person in the world, they’re often told or had been told to mask all of those things that weren’t sort of in the norm to, so to speak. And we’re realizing that, that that’s not the thing to do, we need to really explore and accentuate there are some really great traits. They’re really amazing things, especially that neurodiverse students, and people can do that. Bring incredible positives to a work environment to a school environment, right, incredible memory, real attention to detail. You know, there’s so many things and kind of changing that narrative is really important.

Andrew Eddy  34:10

Absolutely. Absolutely. And there’s a, what you’re talking about just brings to mind, a great session that we organized. So I work with lots of people around the world. And there are a number of female Autistics that I have ongoing conversations with and, but individually, and I thought guy would be great if we could somehow get them together. Because I think that would be amazing, because they’re all very strong female characters. And, you know, one’s an entrepreneur and one works at Google and one’s, you know, Wharton, MBA graduate. And so we had the autism work summit last August in Australia. It was a two day event and I organized for a virtual event because So I thought we’d be locked down which we were. Yeah. And so I organized for these six females to do a session on advocacy and employment was really about them talking about their experience in 20 years in the workplace in the workforce. And we had an autistic emcee for the whole event. And I got him to moderate it. And he said, Andrew, will have to record this, because I want to have it so that people are not anxious about stuffing up in a live thing. So we need to have this recorded. So we did that. And we did a pre run for now. Which was amazing. And then we did the real session, I’m going for an hour and 40 minutes. Wow. And then I had to cut it down to an hour. But we’ve now put it all up on the on the website. And it’s the director’s cut is now there that hour and 30 minutes. But it’s just amazing insights from these these people about their their history and what they’ve been through. So yeah, absolutely encourage people to invest the time and listen to it.

Lillian Nave  36:11

Yeah, well, that actually brings me to the third part of the neurodiversity hub, you have a lot of information that we’ve just heard about what students can find there, how your university partners are collaborating, but you also have a third part that I really want to, to get into more, especially as a UDL specialist, in the university setting, is what do we do now after, you know, what do we do about employment? And so what trainings, do you provide employers to hire to hire neurodiverse employees? And in what sort of things do you have on the hub about

Andrew Eddy  36:52

that? So this is, there’s a bit of crossover here between the hub and also what contempt does part of our business, because we do implement programs, and we do run training for companies, which they pay for. And we also have an online mental health training course, which is like 10 hours, and it’s focused on an autism work program. So we’ve got all that. But on the employer page, we have a whole range of resources, both bite sized ones, and then longer ones, which go through all the different aspects of inclusive recruitment and how to create a program like playbooks and adjustments. There’s a research report from Artistico, which is a research partner in the UK. And they went out to 400 organizations and cataloged all these adjustments. And that’s a great place to, for people to go to see what’s possible. So all these things are there. And also guidelines on how to be more inclusive if you’re participating in the careers fair. And we’ve got links to optimize, which is the training external training platform, we use around educating neurotypicals on working with neurodivergent individuals. But we also there’s now a separate new page called employment. And this came out of a project we did with did for the Australian Government. We have a network of organizations called disability employment service providers, it’s like your vocational rehab. But we’re a much smaller country. So we only have 114 of these organizations. And they have offices all over the country like 3000 offices, nothing this scale of what you guys have, but because we’ve only got 39 universities.

Lillian Nave  38:49

Wow. In the whole of Australia. Yeah. So

Andrew Eddy  38:54

very small country. So regardless, disability employment service providers, but their level of understanding of autism for the job, the people who are designed who are meant to be working with the job seekers and selling the opportunity of these job seekers to employers had no training in what autism.

Lillian Nave  39:14

Gotcha. So

Andrew Eddy  39:18

yeah, so we took stuff from our autism programs, and created you as a part of the process we went through to work with a number of these and see if we can make an impact. Yeah. And so we we took, we developed some training out of that and hollowed tools, and we ended up with about 80 different resources. And we, we, we had to create a portal as part of the project and then they didn’t want to continue the portal. So we then put all those ad resources on the hub on this page. Okay, and there’s the core pre recorded training. There’s four little training things. One is you know about management one’s about inclusive recruitment, one’s about anxiety, which is the first part around mental health. Yeah. There’s also this the workbook that I talked about before the job readiness workbook going through the interview process process. There’s 19 flyers on different legal things around autism, for employers to understand it better. There is. There’s another section around onboarding employees. And also there’s a section on workplace conventions. So this is the hidden curriculum you’re talking about before? Yes, yeah. But we’ve had on there, there’s 27 Mini presentations on different aspects. So things like what is small talk, and the importance of eye contact, and the difficulties and kitchen etiquette and eating at your workstation? Yeah, and what sick leaves about. So all these little things, which, you know, used to take for granted, but this is going through in this little micro presentations, you know, 10 slides or something, to explore this topic. So that’s all up there as well.

Lillian Nave  41:20

Yeah. And, again, it the you started out our conversation, mentioning how many autistic individuals don’t have jobs or the attrition rate is so high. And it’s a lot of these it’s not because they’re not doing a great job. But it’s a lot of these other parts, you know, that make life more and more difficult, more of these barriers to being a good colleague right to being part of the team to kind of the the everyday part of being an employee that may not be as decipherable for an autistic individual that it is for a neurotypical individual. Right?

Andrew Eddy  42:00

Yeah, so it’s really just trying to it’s really trying to explain what that hidden curriculum is in the workplace, and things we take for granted. And that’s part of the talent workshops that we run when we’re trying to identify candidates for companies is to provide instruction on what is the hidden curriculum. Because what we find is if we can have that conversation, if we can talk about the workplace, we can then start to tease out what might be some of the accommodations that people might need. Because if you ask someone, what accommodations do you need, they don’t know what to say, they don’t know what’s possible. So you got to have a dialogue. But you’ve got to have a two way flow of information. And it’s not a single conversation. So you’ve got to start helping them understand what’s possible, as well as then working out what they what would help them. And we’ve also developed a guide that we can use in the workplace, where we look at the different senses, smell, touch light sound, and start to explore what are some of the things that might be getting in the way of people? And how can we then create a personalized accommodation plan for that person? And what we say to companies is, hey, guess what? This is not just for neurodivergent people. We know a lot of neurotypicals. who hate open plan. Yeah. And maybe maybe rather than creating a stigma around this, maybe we do this for everybody.

Lillian Nave  43:43

Yeah, right. Options, right. And, I mean, I know a lot of folks who have real trouble with fluorescent lighting. And so having to wear a ball cap inside, you know, an office space. And it really is, I mean, it gives you a headache sometimes. So it really is tapping into a much larger, broader issue. That’s going to help everybody just like universal design for learning. I’m seeing this very much parallel, what we do with UDL, making things accessible, taking down barriers, and also matching the assessment to the job, really. So like, for example, we talk a lot about if you want a student to communicate clearly about their ideas. Maybe you give them the choice to write a paper to make a film to do a podcast because it doesn’t matter if it’s written or oral, right? Like that. That particular method doesn’t matter. So you really have to be specific in what the goals are. Oh, I just need you to tell me the the main points of this and you can do it in any number of ways that makes sense to you. Same thing, yeah. In the in the work world, right. You know, if it has to be in a certain template. Okay, great. We’ll learn how to use that template. But there are probably lots of other ways and perhaps ways we hadn’t even thought of that could be really wonderful, right? That there could be something that’s even better than we’ve thought of before.

Andrew Eddy  45:12

Yes, exactly. No, I totally, totally agree.

Lillian Nave  45:15

So can you tell me more about a partnership with one or two companies that do a good job with hiring and training in employing neurodiverse employees?

Andrew Eddy  45:27

Yeah, so it’s, you know, one example I can think of is in a bank where they’ve actually established like a land a great landing place in the organization, where it’s, it’s coming into a particular area, they’ve designed a set of work tasks that that makes sense in terms of great place to experience the workplace first. And they then come in, they’re getting used to the workplace, they’re being there for 612 months, or whatever they’re working, starting off six hours a day, moving up to full time, they are starting to learn about themselves. We’re teaching them with the curriculum about themselves and developing life skills and other things. And then we’re looking at opportunities to succumb them out to other parts of the bank, to experience other areas of work. And that has a two fold thing. One is it gives them a chance to see other areas, it also gets other areas, the chance to see them and start this conversation about why actually this could work. And so then ultimately, we’ll look at them trends transferring out of this area, and then we bring another group in. So it’s this idea of creating a landing spot that safe, creating psychological safety, and then moving them out into the business and then bring another group in, and just a repeatable process. So that’s a great example, where we’re making it work, and making it repeatable and sustainable.

Lillian Nave  47:16

That’s great. We used to, I think, ask our employers to do a lot more training than we do now, especially nited states. And I may be wrong about this. But it used to be that there was a lot more training that would go on kind of newly on the job. And now I see a lot of at least rhetoric around wanting, the universities need to be doing that, you know, need to be getting students ready, so they can go right into a particular job. But there’s so much that goes on in each, you know, different job, that having that training would be helpful for everybody. But I especially see how it’s going to be helpful to make sure that there’s an easier transition into the working world for a neurodiverse individual.

Andrew Eddy  48:03

Absolutely. And you know that that leaves on this idea of how do you get that happening at universities? How do we start off earlier? So that’s a better environment for everyone. And so it is important that universities think about how they train up their professors, their lecturers, their tutors, on understanding and being aware of neuro divergence. Because yeah, at least on the website, we say at least 10%, at least one in 10. But it’s probably 20 or so. Yeah, I think I feel that one in 10 is more defensible. So that’s why I’ve got one in 10. But I’m hearing more and more these days of people talking about 20%. So at some point, I’m going to change the website to say, one five, but anyway. So it’s important to have that. And I know there are some universities where there’s extra requests coming from staff about having that training, because they’re realizing that they have got a large proportion of students, and they’re the ones that are needing more support and assistance. And I realized that if they understood it better, that that might make the whole process work. And the other. The other one is some universities have what I’ll term peer learning advisors. So these are more experienced students that are available to support freshmen. They, it’s actually in some cases can be a paid job. Yeah. And it’s not just for autistic people or neurodivergent students, it’s anybody and they are. They’re trained in doing this work and being a peer learning advisor. They Have a roster they are in place at particular places like libraries or the library or the student services area or whatever. And what’s happened in a couple of cases is they’ve come back and said, Can we get some training on on autism or whatever? Because we’re struggling with having these students coming to us. And we’re not exactly sure what to do. Yeah. So you know, again, it’s all about I talked about having scaffolding and having programs. And so that’s not just it’s a range of things. And one of them is, if you do have in your university, a network of supporters that help students, then they should be trained as well. Yes. And then next thing is, anyone who’s student facing needs to have some awareness. So anyone in student services or anyone that’s doing that security, I mean, the number of incidents that happen with the law, individuals, so there’s got to be that awareness. Yeah. So it’s really across the board. It’s just about how do you how do you do that? When you’ve got a university, which has 1000s of people? How do you get that in place?

Lillian Nave  51:17

Right? Yeah, it’s again, all about educating our staff, our our instructors, our campus police force, you know, things like that. I’ve heard of many stories that are that do not end well about specifically, law enforcement in autistic individuals and not knowing you know what to do, especially during a meltdown or something that may present like a mental illness, but is really, you know, something else. And so really trying to understand what’s going on, and then having some skills to de escalate and know what to do. And that can be across the board, just knowing how to treat everybody, and knowing that everybody responds differently.

Andrew Eddy  52:05

Absolutely. And we’re currently involved in organising a global two day conference in May a virtual conference on neuro diversity in the legal system. And this is going to be touching on policy, police, parole, probation, judicial practice, and prison. So all the piece couldn’t think of any other piece. So that one, so we’ve got speakers from USA, Canada, Ireland, UK, Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand. Wow. So that’ll be, that’ll be great. So we needed a packed 30 minutes per person talking about their particular things, and we’ve categorized them into those themes. So that’s coming on the 19th and 20th of May.

Lillian Nave  52:57

That’s great, we can put that in the resources for this episode, as well, so people will know what to do. Yeah, you’ve given us a lot to think about. And I really appreciate your idea about mentoring, especially in the university system, peer mentors. And I would say we could get a lot out of the neurodiversity hub, web webpage, so that we can start to increase the awareness for our instructors on what to do for our neuro diverse students. And it kind of goes around the spectrum. So is there anything else that you kind of advocate for us like specifically for instructors? I mean, outside of like a university having a peer mentoring program that might be helpful in teaching neurodiverse students?

Andrew Eddy  53:49

Well, there’s other things we have that could help particular groups, both the student level and the employment level. So we’ve got a whole set of resources around COVID. And working remotely, or studying remotely. We’ve got a page on our mental health. And there’s stuff there that can help students help other students are at risk of suicide. So there’s stuff in there. There’s a whole page on entrepreneurship, and exploring that crossover between neurodiversity and entrepreneurship. And we actually, based on that work we did, which was through an internship, we were given a three hour slot at the Stanford summit in 2020. To present on that, so we read that, which was great. We’ve got a whole page called enabling spaces, which is a community of practice for architects and building designers around this topic. So we’ve profiled a whole range of people around the world who work in this area and their research and their particular applications. And we actually did a podcast this week. To the Facilities Management Association of Australia, so we’re actually pitching at the professional body of people who work in companies and look after the facilities or set the standards for facilities. So this was a breakthrough in terms of narrative happening there. Yeah, we’ve got a page for secondary school students sort of tried to pick some things around that. And that includes, we sponsored a competition on explain the brain, and students had to do a research topic and create a video or infographic around some topic around neurodiversity. And that was just awesome. And all the winning entries are on that page. And then we’ve got some resources for primary school teachers. And this is based on some universal design. stuff was put together by a PhD from NYU. We’ve got a whole page around that. And we also feature Victoria honey borns book called The New neurodiverse classroom. She’s an university teacher, and she’s written that book. So it’s great, and then got a page for primary school students. And this is a project where we work with some 10 year olds. And they researched neurodiversity. And then I said, Look, if you want to develop some, because the other part of the project was to research, but then also developed some resources that would help autistic primary school students. Yeah, so they did the research, which we help with. And then they developed these resources, and have created a page for it. So there’s primary school students who have researched University and created resources to help autistic primary school students. Wow, navigate the world.

Lillian Nave  56:50

That’s fantastic. Yeah, well, it is amazing, I have really enjoyed looking at every, you know, all different parts of the neurodiversity hub, you’ve got so much to share there. And I’m really glad that we get to talk about it. And now more people are going to do hear about it, maybe we’ll have some more partnerships to offer up to.

Andrew Eddy  57:12

And there’s one more thing which is genius armory and genius armory is where we’ve pulled together some fundamentals materials in cybersecurity. So there’s no fundamentals training, but it also includes some honors level and masters level materials. And it takes about 10 hours to get through. Not everyone will get through it, because some of it is quite difficult. But it’s it’s the opportunity for artistic and neuro diverse individuals to see if this is an area of interest for them. And if it is, we’ve then got links to universities in the hub that provide sub security and provide supports. So we launched it last May. And we’ve had 6000 people globally registered since then, and about nearly half of them identify as autistic. So wow, we’re getting ratings of like, 4.6 out of five for that material. And it’s free.

Lillian Nave  58:07

Yeah. Yeah, that’s, I love it. Yeah, this was just an incredible free resource that, that I hope more people so as the United States, but all over the world will be able to use. So I really appreciate the work that you and your community of practice that put this together, have have done and, you know, really want to see it flourish and expand and hope that our conversation is going to help with that too. Thank you. Yeah. So thank you so much for talking to me today on the think UDL podcast.

Andrew Eddy  58:39

Thank you, Lillian. Great to talk to you.

Lillian Nave  58:52

You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think udl.org website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star. The star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college star.org website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The think UDL podcast.