Fun and Games: Neurodiversity Challenge Is Set for DI Hub

The makerspace challenge is open to neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals

Anyone who thinks they have a great idea for a new game is encouraged to take part in “Let’s Make the Rules: A Game Creation Experience” – an event that seeks to bring together neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals.  

Lisa Audet
Lisa Audet

The challenge takes place from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, April 5, at the Design Innovation Hub and will help to kick off April as Autism Acceptance Month. The event is developed by Kent State University’s Neurodiversity Research Initiative, sponsored by the Brain Health Research Institute and supported by the Design Innovation Initiative.

What makes this event different from similar makerspace challenges is that it is being designed by neurodiverse individuals for neurodiverse individuals, with an open invitation for any Kent State student from any campus to participate.

Unlike past years when the month would be marked with a speaker or panel discussion, this year’s hands-on event is designed to engage students more directly, said Lisa R. Audet, Ph.D., assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology and director of the Neurodiversity Research Initiative.

“This time, we really want to engage our students in the process, so this event, called ‘Let’s Make the Rules,’ is designed to do that,” Audet said. “It’s been designed with input from neurodiverse students and faculty and staff to provide a forum through which people can have fun, but also share  their strengths and talents as they explore and create games to address challenges.”

Students who participate do not have to identify themselves as neurodiverse or neurotypical.

“We’re hoping that we will have participation from neurodiverse and neurotypical students who are allies to neurodiverse individuals or who are interested in expanding their own impression or image of what they think of as neurodiverse,” Audet said.

The larger goal of the event is to highlight what the college experience is like for neurodiverse students and increase awareness.

Todd Snider
Todd Snider

“That’s really part of creating change then, too, being a more inclusive environment in a community,” Audet said. “You know, when we talk about the Kent State family that includes neurodiverse students. And one way to increase that engagement is to begin to challenge the neurotypical view of what it means to be neurodiverse.”

Participants in the event will learn how different types of games – board games, card games, word games or even movement games like “Twister” – can address various challenges and needs, from building social networks to challenging competition. Participants then will spend time developing their game and its rules using the technology at the DI Hub, Audet said.

Audet credits Michael Lehman, Ph.D., director of the Brain Health Research Institute, with coming up with the concept of working with the DI Hub on some type of design challenge.  

Todd Snider, assistant vice president of marketing strategy for University Communications and Marketing, said he was excited to help develop the marketing for the event and made sure his team included neurodiverse students.

“What sets this challenge apart was our decision to invite both neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals to collaborate and address a specific issue,” he said. “This was a departure from the norm, as most similar events that we found were geared toward neurotypical individuals solving neurodiverse problems.”

Snider said he hired neurodiverse marketing students to help develop the event's marketing strategy, communications and creative elements.  

“They were responsible for devising the plan, creating the promotional materials and communicating the event to the Kent State community,” Snider said. “Working with these students, who are majoring in marketing, visual communication and design, and digital media and production, was an enjoyable experience. They collaborated effectively and developed a comprehensive plan and creative materials for the event.”

Kent State sophomore Bailey Gillespie
Bailey Gillespie

Bailey Gillespie, a sophomore marketing major from Avon, Ohio, said she chose to get involved after learning about the event through the Student Accessibility Services newsletter.

“This event is important to me because it focuses on representation and inclusion of neurodiverse students on campus,” she said. “This event also allows neurodivergent and neurotypical students to come together. Embracing neurodiversity can foster innovation and creativity by encouraging different ways of thinking. This project is ultimately contributing to a more diverse, inclusive and innovative community here at Kent State.”

Gillespie, who chose to study at Kent State for its "incredible business programs," said she hopes to specialize in social media marketing.  

The event being planned and produced by neurodivergent individuals is an important facet, she said, “so the neurodiverse population at Kent State knows that they will be accounted for at this event.”  

Gillespie said the event will feature exciting activities and hopes many students will participate.

 Click here to register or learn more. 

POSTED: Monday, April 1, 2024 04:34 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2024 05:01 PM
Lisa Abraham