Photo Credit: Arizdelsi Martinez 

A California State University Police department Officer takes a photo in front of the new Neurodivergent space with Austin the monkey from the OC Autism Foundation.

California State University of San Bernardino has opened the first designated safe space for neurodivergent students in the California State University Systems in University Hall 401.02 envisioned by Jess Nerren and other parties.

“Today was a special day, just hearing so many campus leaders [Kevin Grisham, Vice President Paz Olivera, Molly Springer, Julie Diep, Jchad Sweener, and Lori Palmerton] talking about neuro diversity inclusion and making space for our neurodivergent folks and allies on our campus is a dream come true,” said Jess Nerren, founder of the Neurodivergent Space. As one of the first ever spaces to be designated specifically for neurodivergent students, it paves a movement for advocating for the needs that neurodivergent students have and are now accessible to them with this space.

It is estimated around 128,000 people in our surrounding countries are diagnosed to be on the spectrum. Around the United States 25% of the population is disabled at any given time. 

“This effort from start to finish was dreamed up by neurodiverse folks and their allies that was made for neurodiverse folks and their allies every step of the way. In a beautiful collaboration between students, staff, faculty, administration and the community of disabled self advocates in the Inland Empire,” said Nerren.

Navigating University as an incoming freshman is already a very difficult task with its own obstacles, now adding outside factors such as disabilities can be a bigger deterior to students on the spectrum or students with disabilities. 

“I am an adult that is neurodiverse, I have been diagnosed with autism amongst many other diagnoses that go with it. But I am also a proud mother of two on the spectrum. It is a great relief to know that there is a space as such for my daughter who just started college. I feel like this space is also a transitional space that gives parents a peace of mind that they are visionaries like Jess and her amazing team and students that contribute to this vision to build a center… that our children are worthy of a space in college to have that additional support,” said Julie Diep, Founder and President of OC. 

By encouraging spaces like this one brings into light the necessary support that certain students need in our academic community. The Cognitive Collective: A space for neuroconnection, neuroharmony, and neurodiversity is not just as simple as an area that neurodivergent students can hang out. This is where students can interact with others on the spectrum, be able to be themselves, and engage in behaviors that other neurotypical students may judge upon. 

“I suffered alot in school, it was bright lights over my head, lots of noise coming from all directions, and sometimes even multiple classrooms in one space. As an autistic person we sometimes can not sort out the noise. I would have internal melt downs, where it felt as if I were in a trance. Now as an adult, after teaching I run to my office, a space where I get in the dark, put my headphones on, hum and rock in my chair. If I couldn’t do that there would be no way I could teach,” said John Sweeney, CSUSB professor.  

This is a great leap for those on the spectrum and of the disabled community to be able to embrace everyone no matter who they are. This space truly signifies that with enough determination and efforts of those around us we can make an impact to better our community. In hopes of the C.O.G. (Cognitive Collective) can be the first step to open for more initiation from other Universities to also embrace their students on the spectrum so that all students can succeed. 

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