Launch of Neurodiversity Conference
Conference Welcome: Neurodiversity a Paradigm Shift in Universities
Virtual, 1 December 2020
Good morning, I am delighted to welcome you virtually to University College Dublin and to officially open this two-day conference, which is being led here at UCD by the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee. This working group was formed in the past year in recognition of the need to enhance understanding of neurodiversity both within the University and in wider society. Pioneering this programme of inclusion exemplifies UCD’s commitment to equality and mirrors the vision and strategic objectives of the University.
As you will hear discussed today, for most neurodivergent students, successfully achieving university entry will involve a more arduous path through the education system than for neurotypical students. Frequently the university experience is laden with demands that are uniquely challenging to neurodiverse students and, all too often, their true potential remains untapped. Equally the neurodiverse workforce is faced with barriers which impede success both in gaining and sustaining employment.
In promoting a truly inclusive ethos, UCD is determined to provide adequate recognition, support and equality of opportunity for its neurodiverse students and staff. In so doing, UCD is acting as a societal leader and as a model of true diversity and educational equality in promoting awareness and welcoming high-calibre neurodiverse students. We are delighted to collaborate with international leaders in this area, including those at Stanford University, both in terms of organising this event and in the alignment of a gold-standard approach to neurodiversity.
As part of our commitment to neurodiversity, UCD has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Untapped Holdings in Australia which is providing global leadership and resources for universities and employers in how best to support neurodiverse students to optimise educational and employment outcomes. We would particularly like to acknowledge the generous support of co-founder, Andrew Eddy, for the pivotal role he has played both in directly supporting the UCD Neurodiversity Working Group to fast-track the achievement of its short-term objectives within less than a year, in addition to his central role in bringing this conference to fruition with such a stellar range of international speakers. I would also like to acknowledge and extend our appreciation to our collaborators on this conference, Maynooth University and ADHD Ireland.
In keeping with UCD’s core principles to promote equality in wider society, I am also delighted to announce that UCD is rolling out a new postgraduate certificate and diploma in neurodiversity starting in January 2021.
It is wonderful to see such an exciting mix of presenters and panellists representing neuroscience, sociology, college counsellors, neurodiverse students and faculty together with technology start-ups, entrepreneurs and multinational companies, who with a commitment to equality informing thoughtful investment, have embraced ‘best in class’ approaches to neurodiversity. In many ways, the unique mix of today’s speakers models and reflects what is best about true inclusivity across society encompassing a culturally and intellectually diverse global community working across traditional silos for a mutually beneficial common good.
Finally, I would like to warmly thank the array of international speakers who have come (virtually) to share with us their vast expertise with the hope that it will contribute to fresh ideas and perspectives for all participants. This conference is a testament to the global perspective of UCD and to the essential role authentic inclusion plays in allowing everyone to fulfil their true potential. I wish you all the best for what promises to be a very thought-provoking and productive two days.