Neurodivergent of FIRST

Greetings!

We are the Neurodivergent of FIRST, a student-run organization aimed at serving the Neurodivergent community of FIRST. The Neurodivergent population is often stigmatized and underrepresented, so we exist to represent their presence in the FIRST community. Young, Neurodiverse students have to endure many hardships like social anxieties, identity crises, learning disabilities, and other challenges growing up, but it is our goal to embody the spirit of FIRST and reach out to those students to help.

Our community is present on a Discord server here and a blog here. Mentors and students alike are all welcome!

If you represent a FIRST team and would like to partner with us, you can check out our Partner Team application form on our website. For the time being, teams can only apply as Bronze tier, but as our organization grows, we will begin to open up higher levels of involvement and consider upgrading previously elected Bronze tier teams.

We look forward to connecting with Neurodiverse students and allies all around the globe and are excited to get this program running!

Sincerely,
The Neurodivergent of FIRST Staff

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This post caused me to look up what “neurodivergent” means so you’re already doing some good! For others who are curious:

From Wikipedia: “Neurodiversity is a neologism popularized in the late 1990s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer and American journalist Harvey Blume to refer to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense.”

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Yes, it is an umbrella term that we decided on to cover neurodiversity as a whole. We tried going for more familiar terms like “autism in FIRST” but that just didn’t cover what we wanted it to. Neurodiversity is a relatively new and unknown term, but it works for our purposes.

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Have you connected with team 2682? They were chairman’s award finalists in Houston and are working to increase neurodiversity in FIRST.

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I believe you meant 2682, Boneyard Robotics. Definitely a great team, I spoke with them a bit at Houston this past year! This certainly seems like something that’s up their alley.

I have reservations about approaching teams for partnerships. It seems like it’d be better if a team approaches us and makes a decision to partner without feeling pressured to. You can’t just walk up to a team and ask them to make that commitment.

(I’m a student admin. The account that started the thread is managed by another admin.)

Sure you can. They might say no but what you don’t ask, you won’t know. There’s a huge percentage of people in FIRST (including those active on Chief Delphi) that will not see the post and will not have ever heard of your initiative. That’s just the nature of the beast. Don’t feel intimidated to take the first and reach out.

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To add on to @jaredhk’s point:

You don’t have to say “you need to join us”. You’re actually much better served by “Hi! We’re NDofFIRST, we’re here to help support neurodivergent people on FIRST teams. If you’d like more information, here’s how to talk to us.”

(Er, just about exactly what the opening post of this thread was, but delivered in person/electronic communications directly to the teams.)

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Thank you Joe and Ryan. I’m Steve, one of the mentors for Boneyard Robotics. We are working on a project right now to help share what we have learned and help others to create a more neurodiverse team.

This weekend, we will host a special symposium on Autism in FIRST. If you are interested in attending, please DM me. Otherwise, we will record the sessions and make them available to the entire FIRST community very soon.

All the best,
Steve

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Out of curiosity, do you provide your mentors with any kind of special training to learn how to teach students differently on your team? One of the most difficult tasks of being a mentor on a large team is trying to cater to the needs of individual students, because we simply don’t have enough mentors to have that kind of 1:1 time. It can sometimes lead to students feeling neglected or outcast.

How do you teach mentors to cater to the needs of these students?

Great question. This was the most challenging part from my experience…until we got trained. In my experience after the training, I don’t spend any more 1:1 time with the students on the spectrum than I do with students who are not and I have several in my subsection of the team (marketing). I have learned a tremendous amount of patience (which I had very little of for students who were not very focused).

Their biggest struggle is with the social skills and acceptance. Through their interaction with their teammates (who are way more accepting than we were when I was growing up many years ago), they are learning and practicing those skills and really thriving.

One of our lead mentors is a Certified Autism Specialist and a teacher in one of our local high schools. She developed the training that all of our mentors took last year.

We are working on putting it together and making it available for all FIRST teams very soon.

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This would be great, please let me know when it is available.

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