Economical Accommodations for Neurodivergent Students in Software Engineering Education: Experiences from an Intervention in Four Undergraduate Courses

by   Grischa Liebel, et al.

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that describes variation in brain function among individuals, including conditions such as Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia. Neurodiversity is common in the general population, with an estimated 5.0 diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia respectively. Neurodivergent (ND) individuals often experience challenges in specific tasks, such as difficulties in communication or a reduced attention span in comparison to neurotypical (NT) individuals. However, they also exhibit specific strengths, such as high creativity or attention to detail. Therefore, improving the inclusion of ND individuals is desirable for economic, ethical, and for talent reasons. In higher education, struggles of ND students are well-documented. Common issues in this area are a lack of awareness among other students and staff, forms of assessment that are particularly challenging for some students, and a lack of offered accommodations. These factors commonly lead to stress, anxiety, and ultimately a risk of dropping out of the studies. Accommodations for ND students can require substantial effort. However, smaller changes in course material can already have major impact. In this chapter, we summarise the lessons learned from an intervention in four courses in undergraduate computer science programmes at Reykjavik University, Iceland, over a period of two terms. Following accessibility guidelines produced by interest groups for different ND conditions, we created course material in the form of slides and assignments specifically tailored to ND audiences. We focused on small, economical changes that could be replicated by educators with a minimal investment of time. We evaluated the success of our intervention through two surveys, showing an overall positive response among ND students and NT students.


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