Oakton adopts Neurodiversity Inclusion Statement

Oakton’s Board of Trustees voted to approve the College’s official commitment to neurodiversity.
Des Plaines (Aug.16, 2023) - Oakton College Board of Trustees voted Aug. 15, to approve a Neurodiversity Inclusion Statement, which will guide the College’s efforts in supporting the neurodiverse community and advance the College’s commitment to building just and thriving communities.

"Oakton College is committed to recognizing the neurodiversity of our community and developing equitable policies and procedures to enhance the Oakton experience for all students, employees, and community members,” reads the statement.

“The Neurodiversity Inclusion Statement acknowledges the unique needs of the neurodiverse population and builds on our Vision 2030: Building Just and Thriving Communities strategic plan,” said Oakton President Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D. “We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all, whether you study or work at Oakton or live in our communities.”

As part of the College’s efforts to advance equity, a working group including a liaison from the Board of Trustees began meeting in October 2022 to identify the needs of the neurodiverse community and to develop a neurodiversity statement.

The group inventoried current resources at Oakton, identified community stakeholders, surveyed current students and hosted a community engagement event in April 2023, which brought together over 30 local organizations to discuss resources and ways organizations can partner to support the neurodiverse community. Organizations offering postsecondary disability-related programs, high schools and libraries participated in the event at the Skokie campus.

Oakton’s statement follows the Illinois Community College Trustees Association’s (ICCTA) Neurodiversity Inclusion Statement, adopted in November 2022. The ICCTA, a state legislative advocacy and trustee education organization representing 48 member colleges serving over 700,000 students, adopted the Statement to serve as guidance for its member colleges and trustees around Illinois.

In addition, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HR 219 in May 2023, encouraging Illinois institutions of higher education to embrace the neurodiversity paradigm and adopt a statement of inclusivity of neurodivergent individuals that appreciates and embraces the fact that every student is different and should be encouraged to reach full their potential.

Neurodivergent individuals include those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia or other neurodiverse conditions. Neurodivergent individuals, who make up 15-20 percent of the population, have unique needs and may require special accommodations and support in school and work.

Oakton’s new strategic plan, Vision 2030: Building Just and Thriving Communities, includes the commitments to advancing racial justice, strengthening the student experience and enhancing workforce readiness and community engagement.