SCS DEI Update

Apr. 1, 2022

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity describes the idea that people interact with the world around them in different ways, and that these differences are not viewed as deficits. The neurodiversity movement emerged in the 1990s, with the goal of increasing acceptance and inclusion of all people, while embracing neurological differences. Gradually, facilitated by online actions, neurodiverse individuals formed a self-advocacy movement. Today, neurodiversity research and education are increasingly important in how clinicians view and address certain disabilities and neurological conditions.

A neurodiverse person can have a number of diagnoses, including dyslexia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), autism spectrum disorder and others. These individuals process information differently, and may experience emotions differently. It is estimated that one in eight people are considered neurodiverse, but less than 50 percent know it. Often these individuals experience life without a diagnosis or an understanding of their exceptional abilities. Because of this, neurodiverse individuals face drastically higher unemployment rates, may be three times as likely to commit suicide, and may have a life expectancy that is up to 13 years shorter than an average adult. Additionally, they are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

In the workplace, misinformation and stigma often surround the neurodiverse employee. Most struggle alone and in silence, preventing the ability to collaborate to increase awareness of their needs. Lack of appropriate work environment and infrastructure can cause further exclusion of people with neurodevelopmental differences. 

Things to do for employees and advisees include:

  • Be kind and patient.
  • Offer accommodations to work processes when needed, and signal to the community that this is an accepted practice.
  • Provide concise, written instructions for tasks, broken into smaller steps where possible.
  • Offer small adjustments to work environments to accommodate any sensory needs.
  • Use a clear communication style, avoiding sarcasm, euphemisms and implied messages.
  • Ask a person to communicate their individual preferences, needs and goals, rather than making assumptions.

Understanding and embracing neurodiversity in communities, schools, healthcare settings and workplaces can improve inclusivity for all people. We hope to foster an environment that is conducive to neurodiversity, and to recognize and emphasize each person’s individual strengths and talents while also providing support for their differences and needs. With this goal, we want to reiterate that our DEI mission includes acceptance, accessibility and belonging of neurodiverse stakeholders. We hope to create allyship for this community, to celebrate their differences, and to support our neurodiverse stakeholders in finding extraordinary ways to contribute to our culture.

We will continue our conversations in our Tuesday SCS4A11y meetings, which are held from 5 to 6 p.m. in GHC 4405. We hope you will join us.

Additional Neurodiversity Resources

What We’re Doing: SCS DEI Seminar Series

Centering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Impact

Kerri Fetzer-Borelli, Executive Program Manager, Toyota Research Institute (TRI)
4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 14
Join the conversation on Zoom (Meeting ID: 979 8223 0984; Passcode: 660183) or Panopto Simulcast.

Kerri Fetzer-Borelli, executive program manager at TRI, designed and launched a range of diversity, equity and inclusion programs. These programs provided an opportunity for TRI to review each aspect of its organization and product development. 

Hosts: Tabitha Lee and Rachel Burcin

Data-Driven Diversity (D3) Lab

Kody Manke and Kevin Jarbo, Carnegie Mellon University 
4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 21
Join the conversation on Zoom (Meeting ID: 979 8223 0984; Passcode: 660183) or Panopto Simulcast.

The Data-Driven Diversity Lab uses data and insights from psychology and behavioral economics to understand how different groups experience student success, thriving and a sense of belonging at CMU. Kody Manke and Kevin Jarbo, co-directors of the D3 lab, will share their approaches and experiences around diversity and inclusion at CMU. 

Host: Kenneth Holstein

About the SCS DEI Seminar Series 

In 2021, SCS established a diversity, equity, and inclusion seminar series that contributes to the depth of ongoing, university-wide discussions on dimensions of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging by highlighting the work of researchers, educators, advocates and industry in CS- and STEM-related organizations.

The SCS DEI Seminar Series aims to educate, inspire and encourage discussion among SCS members about diversity, equity and inclusion, generally, and about DEI(B). The seminar series is open to all members of the SCS, CMU and wider communities. Seminar speakers are intentionally chosen as a mix of local and nationally recognized experts to inspire reflection, promote conversation, highlight new approaches and create opportunities for collaboration. The spring speakers are drawn from across CMU and industry. 

Thanks to SCS DEI Committee Members Gael Hyppolite, Ken Holstein, Queenie Kravitz, Tabitha Edith Lee and Rachel Burcin.


Faculty Volunteers Needed as Virtual Judges for Spelman Research Day

Spelman College is looking for faculty volunteers to serve as mentors and judges for their research day on April 22. We are seeking participation from a few SCS faculty at the virtual event. Learn more on the program website

Are You a Computing Student With a Disability? 

AccessComputing, an NSF-funded Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance, provides mentoring and funding for career development activities for students with disabilities in computing-related fields. This includes mentoring, tutoring and conference support. Access Computing recognizes that not all students with disabilities register with their campus disability/accessibility office and that they have a variety of reasons for not doing so. For that reason, we do not require our participants to be registered with their campus disability office, or to provide medical documentation of a disability as a condition of eligibility. We do require a self-report from you, discussing your disability and the ways in which it creates barriers for you. All information provided on the application is confidential and is only ever reported to the National Science Foundation in an aggregate manner. Find the application and more information online.

Thank you,
The SCS DEI Team