Since 2008, The University of North Texas has been honored to employ and collaborate with dedicated members and advocates of the neurodiverse community to establish, sustain, and grow various student, staff, faculty, and community programs. While each effort is unique, they all work to the common goal of educating advocates and supporting members of the neurodiverse community. Below is a timeline summarizing the efforts and gains we have made to cultivate a university committed to members and advocates of the neurodiverse community.
2008 – Autism Task force established out of PACS (now HPS)
2008 – Autism Research Cluster formed, led by Drs. Shahla Ala’i and Demetria Ennis-Cole
2009 – UNT Autism parent training grant with Easter Seals (continued until 2020); led by Dr. Shahla Ala’i
2012 - Kristin Farmer Autism Center opened
2013 – Autism Speaks Town Hall held – collaboration between RHS and KFAC.
2014 – TNF (Tuesday Night Flight) student support group created by Linda Holloway, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services, & Lisa Deer, graduate student in Interdisciplinary Studies (Rehabilitation Counseling, Behavior Analysis, & Special Ed). This was first a staff-led support group and later became a student organization.
2015 – College Success 101 class developed for students who are neurodivergent
2016 - Training of UNT faculty and staff on neurodivergence, at that time titled the “Blue Zone” created by Lisa Deer and Linda Holloway
2016 – 2nd Autism Research Cluster approved by Vice President for Research
2016 – Autism Institute Roadmap developed
2016 - UNT “Neurodiversity Ambassadors” identified to support UNT neurodivergent students
2017 – Neurodiversity Training 101 was developed and offered to faculty and staff by Lauren Mathews and Linda Holloway
2017 – Neurodiversity Career Fair hosted at UNT in Collaboration with Texas Workforce Commission
2017 – Development of UNT ENGAGE by Lauren Mathews, Linda Holloway, Lisa Deer, and Shanielle Henslee, graduate student in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, which was endorsed by UNT President Neal Smatresk
2017 – Blue Ribbon Panel commissioned to review and provide feedback on UNT’s proposed Autism Institute
2018 – STEM at the Park! was created – a Summer camp for students with disabilities in STEM areas, with an emphasis on those who are neurodivergent. Joint effort between HPS, College of Information, and College of Engineering which is funded by the Texas Workforce Commission – Vocational Rehabilitation Services
2018 – UNT Eagle Chat, a peer support group for UNT students was started by Lauren Mathews and Chelsea Anderson
2018 – “Blue Zone Training” revamped to provide faculty and staff with comprehensive training on specific strategies to effectively work with and support neurodivergent students. This training was created by Linda Holloway, Lauren Mathews, Lucy Gafford, Shahla Ala’i, and graduate students Grayson Butcher and Alex Davidson. First Blue Zone training offered on 8/21/18.
2019 – John Murphy, chair of the Division of Jazz Studies in the UNT College of Music, started the Spectrum Support and Self-Advocacy Group for faculty and staff members who are on the Autism spectrum
2019 – Linda Holloway, Lauren Mathews, and Lucy Gafford received funding contract from Texas Workforce Commission for UNT ENGAGE which enabled program expansion and strengthening of services
2019 – UNT CAN (residence hall for neurodivergent students) opened
2020 – Invited Speaker Series on neurodiversity began
2020 – UNT EPIC (Empowering Personal Interactions in the Community) was created and funded by a private donor to provide organized social, philanthropic, and learning opportunities for neurotypical and neurodivergent young adults ages 18+
2020 – Neurodiversity Professional Employee Resource Group (ERG) formed with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Lucy Gafford and Linda Holloway as co-facilitators
2021—Blue Zone Training is fully online and loaded into Bridge for all UNT faculty and staff to take