Embracing “Nothing About Us, Without Us”: Terry Nguyen and Being Neurodiverse at Rowan University

Embracing “Nothing About Us, Without Us”: Terry Nguyen and Being Neurodiverse at Rowan University

Embracing “Nothing About Us, Without Us”: Terry Nguyen and Being Neurodiverse at Rowan University

On October 20, Rowan held a launch event for the brand-new Center for Neurodiversity. This center, a product of the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, will provide student programming, accessibility resources, and conduct research on behalf of neurodiverse students. The launch event highlighted the importance of accommodation and resources for neurodiverse and dis/abled students (a distinction in spelling made to place emphasis on the student’s ability). Several guest speakers, including the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin, discussed the need for this center and the need to support neurodiverse people in our academic communities. Closer to home for CCCA students, perhaps, was the address given by current Rowan student Terry Nguyen. 

Terry NguyenTerry is a senior and currently a major in Biomedical Art & Visualization, Graphic Design, and Music. She is also on the pre-med track, with hopes of pursuing a career in mental health resources. In addition to her academic involvement, Terry is also the current president of the Neurodiversity Club, an organization on campus that works to amplify and support neurodiverse students, all while providing a sense of community for them. Her position as president of the Neurodiversity Club earned her the chance to speak at the launch.  

“It was a bit of a surprise,” she said when asked about the announcement of the Center for Neurodiversity. “When I heard the news I was super excited.” 

At the launch, Terry spoke about her experiences being a student with ADHD, both now and throughout her high school experience. Getting proper diagnoses and accommodations is often quite a difficult process for neurodiverse students, and unfortunately, Terry was no exception. In high school, she underwent a period of unsuccessful therapy and treatments, before receiving her diagnosis of ADHD in her junior year. From there, it was a struggle to receive the necessary accommodations from her school counselor. She recalls the process taking months, as the school regularly discounted her diagnosis, before finally granting her all the accommodation she was afforded: extra time on tests. 

It was a shock for her, then, when her experience at Rowan was so positive. Terry recalls both her surprise and that of her parents when they first spoke to the office of accessibility. The staff was supportive and willing to help, and provided Terry with accommodations such as isolated testing locations, extended test and assignment time, and even notetaking services. This experience is a large part of what inspired Terry to take the path she did. “That’s why I really advocate,” she said. “I want to make sure no one goes through the experiences that I did... It’s a welcoming environment; we all understand each other.” 

Terry’s involvement has led to her position as president of the Neurodiversity Club, an on-campus organization that provides a safe space for neurodiverse students to socialize, practice self-advocacy, and discuss issues related to neurodiversity in higher education. When she first discovered the Neurodiversity Club, she joined “immediately,” and instantly found a sense of community therein. Later, in the second semester of her junior year, she was elected as president of the club, a position that has helped her make changes and work towards even more positive growth. The next big goal of the Neurodiversity Club is to make their standing official and become an SGA chartered organization, something that Terry is pushing to achieve before she graduates at the end of the Spring 2022 semester. She is confident about the decision to push for SGA affiliation this year. “We’ve gotten a lot of support for the club, and I think right now is the time to make it official.” 

Advocacy and aspiration are intertwined in Terry’s life. She followed the pre-med track with plans to follow her ambitions in the field of Psychiatry. “That’s how I want to help advocate,” she said, talking about her interest in the field since her childhood. “And if not through my profession, then through some other form of community service.”

When asked what she would say to a younger person stuck in the same situation she was when seeking accommodations in high school, she responded, “Don’t get too caught up in your head. In the moment, you feel really alone, like no one is by your side...but in reality there are so many people…. Everyone moves at different paces, but you will get there. Have faith, have confidence, and continue to forgive yourself.” 

Terry hopes that the Center for Neurodiversity will become a supportive environment that will give students the resources they need to follow their ambitions, and put aside worries of failure. Besides just setting them up for success in college, she also hopes that the Center will help guide students through the steps to reaching success in their career and their lives outside of academia. 

"I’m hoping they just continue to spread the message,” she said. The Center for Neurodiversity is another step in the direction of providing sufficient support for neurodiverse and disabled students. However, it also serves as a reminder of the changes that we can make on an individual level: being kind to yourself and others, being patient and understanding, and continuing to spread the message that everyone is capable of following their ambitions. All we need is the proper support to help us get there. 

“Keep going,” Terry said—a message that everyone should keep in mind—“If you want it, work for it. That’s the end story.” 

For more information on our department programs, organizations, or events, please visit the Edelman CCCA website or the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Blog homepage. If you have a suggestion for the blog or a story idea, send us an email at ccca@rowan.edu