Stanford University Professor Encourages Neurodiversity Advocacy Through Education and Research
Lawrence Fung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, spoke at Kent State University on Friday, April 21, for the inaugural Neurodiversity Research Initiative Invited Lectureship, sponsored by the new Neurodiversity Research Initiative.
He began his lecture by offering numerous examples of famous people who show the traits of being neurodiverse due to autism, ADHD or dyslexia, including Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, President John F. Kennedy, and comedians Howie Mandel and Dan Aykroyd.
People need to be examined not only through the lens of an IQ score, he encouraged, but also through numerous other areas of success, including physical strength and agility, musical ability, ability to form interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and their ability to relate to nature and the world around them.
By using this multiple intelligence profile, a genius like Einstein would score average or low in many different domains of human abilities, Fung said.
“Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage in some ways,” Fung said. “Neurodiverse people can do amazing things.”
The college environment, he said, can be like “a candy land” for the neurodiverse, who often possess great intellectual strength.
Fung champions positive psychiatry, which has the goal of keeping people healthy by reinforcing their positive attributes and strengths, rather than a traditional pathology approach of looking for a sickness to cure.
He also detailed some of the efforts taking place at Stanford to create a more understanding environment for the neurodiverse, including a summer camp, programs to make the workplace more neurodiverse-friendly and job training to help the neurodiverse find employment.
Fung’s lecture was in the Integrated Sciences Building’s lower-level lobby and was attended by faculty, staff and students. The talk was followed by roundtable discussions on topics sparked by his speech.
Kent State University’s Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI) began the Neurodiversity Research Initiative earlier this year to shed light on the perspective of neurodiverse individuals so that brain health research reflects the views of neurodivergent individuals.
The initiative brings together researchers, educators, health and service professionals, and neurodiverse individuals, with the goal of stimulating and supporting inclusive and innovative interdisciplinary research and education leading to a broader and deeper understanding of neurodiversity.
Lisa Audet, Ph.D. assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology, and Professor Mary Ann Devine, Ph.D., who directs the Disability Studies and Community Inclusion minor/graduate certificate, are co-directors of the new initiative.
After his lecture, Fung said he was impressed that the BHRI had the vision to take on the neurodiversity initiative, and to see the amount of constructive collaboration taking place between researchers in so many varied fields at Kent State under the brain health research umbrella.
As part of his visit to Kent State, Fung spent time touring the university’s Design Innovation Hub and said he was a bit envious of the building and the innovation it fosters for the betterment of Kent State and beyond.
“Neurodiverse individuals are really brilliant people who can contribute to society significantly, especially if we can understand how to interact with them,” he said.