Is UM supporting neurodiverse students during the pandemic?

Is UM supporting neurodiverse students during the pandemic?

"I especially struggled with online learning"

01-12-2021 · Column

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, changes in our everyday life and routines to help prevent the spread of Covid have been stressful for everyone. Students, especially those who are living away from home, have been experiencing significant disruptions in their daily lives and additionally lost a big part of their social support and the structure given by academic and extracurricular obligations. But there is one group that these new conditions have particularly affected.

Neurodiverse students struggle with the same problems as other students, but more severely. Even before the pandemic, many studies have shown that students with conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and other invisible disabilities were already at a higher risk of depression and anxiety. The irritating changes to daily life and the uncertainty about when normal life will return could certainly increase numbers of depression and anxiety among these students.

From my experience as a neurodiverse student, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, I can say that the online learning environment for me caused less accountability and provided a less interactive study environment. I chose Maastricht University for the PBL method and its hands-on learning approach. For me, the impersonal nature of distance learning and the endless hours of sitting alone in front of a screen, trying to pay attention to a pre-recorded lecture, resulted in dropping out of my classes and taking a break from university, because I just couldn’t force myself to learn in this way.

I especially struggled with online learning, because it requires students to be self-guided, manage their time and motivation, and complete assignments and tasks on a day-to-day basis without the usual structure or guidance given by the university system and fellow students. This can be especially challenging for neurodiverse students and I think it’s safe to say that online learning is worsening the already-uneven educational experience for former learners.

Neurodiverse students are already underrepresented in our higher education system and the past academic year has been a testing ground for the future of our education system. The experienced lack of social and institutional support makes me worry that pursuing a higher education is going to be even more challenging for neurodiverse students.

Distance learning is the best option we have at the moment, and I do not want to ignore the efforts made by universities as they continue have to adapt to the new COVID-19 requirements. But I think there are a lot more options to offer education under the corona measures and at the same time acknowledge different learning needs and provide more support and compassion. Neurodiverse students need different assistance and guidance, especially as we navigate a system that is not prepared, or willing, to take our needs into account.

Line-Marie Eichhorst is a European Law student



Author: Redactie

Photo: L-ME

Categories: Columns and opinion
Tags: neurodiverse,ADHD,autism,dyslexia,online learning,covid,linemarie

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