BU Brings Support to Neurodivergent Students

Neurodivergent students who struggle with executive function, social interactions, test anxiety and similar issues are provided additional options for support when they attend Bradley University. On top of federally guaranteed accommodations, BU offers the Moss Scholars program, which connects students with an executive function coach.

Jennifer Keithley is an associate director for Student Access Services, and serves as one such coach.“We're like their person, if you will,” Keithley said. “Sometimes, you just need that person on campus who knows what's going on, or can direct you to the person who does. That's what we are. We're the point people on campus.”

Typically, students meet with their executive function coach once or twice a week, receiving support for their academics, and social, mental and emotional wellbeing. They can have general questions answered, specific concerns addressed, and help putting together plans for success.

This support often comes at a pivotal time in students’ lives. Loneliness and depression are the leading factors when neurodivergent students drop out of school, so it’s important they are given the tools to take agency over their decisions and the opportunities to connect with their fellow students.

“For most neurodivergent students in K-12, decisions are made for them,” Keithley said. “They are told which classes to take, where they should be and which accommodations they should have.”  

By the time these students get to college, they may be expecting the same thing. Establishing a sense of agency, however, allows them to make the most of their college experience by intentionally connecting with peers, handling academic challenges and preparing for life after college.

Students who have benefitted from the Moss Scholars program in the two years it has been running are now providing mutual aid to their younger peers through the Exceptional Minds Mentoring Program.

“We're raising up our own mentors, which is really exciting,” Keithley said.

Supplementary Aid

Because the Moss Scholars program is connected to disability services offices, financial aid can run the fees for participants through the cost of tuition, meaning any scholarships the student is awarded will contribute to the cost of the program. Plus, starting this year, Moss Scholars can apply for a specific scholarship that will help cover the cost as well.

As the program builds up students to prepare for successful personal and professional lives, much of the programming looks ahead to the students’ life after college as well.

“We're going to start instituting some workshops centered around behavior in the workplace, and what to expect from an internship, among other things,” Keithley said. “We're working very closely with the Smith Career Center to make sure everybody gets an internship, and/or job shadowing.”

As a mother of neurodivergent children herself, Keithley understands the anxieties parents have when it’s time to leave their kids at college.

“These parents have worked so hard to get their student through high school, and then they drop them off and think, ‘Who's going to make sure they're okay?’ It's nice to be able to say, ‘Somebody's going to have eyes on your child.’”

-Jenevieve Rowley-Davis