Empowering lives for 90 years!

Berkeley College Virtual Forum Addresses the Career Development Needs of Students who are Neurodivergent

Monday, January 25, 2021
Contact: Chanel Donaldson
Senior Associate, Media Relations


Photo of Speakers at Forum on Career Development of Neurodivergent Students

Photo Caption: Experts participate in “Supporting the Career Development of Students who are Neurodivergent,” a disabilities awareness forum hosted by Berkeley College on Friday, January 22, 2021. Pictured are Sharon McLennon-Wier, PhD, CRC, LMHC, Director, Disability Services, Berkeley College; Ihor Andruch, Career Counselor, Berkeley College; Maureen Anderson, Integrated Employment Specialist, NY State ACCESS-VR, Manhattan Office; Wanda Murray, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, NY State ACCES-VR, Manhattan Office; Michael J. Smith, President, Berkeley College; Lydia X. Z. Brown, J.D., Policy Counsel, Privacy and Data Project, Center for Democracy and Technology; Vincent Mas, Disability Services, Berkeley College; and an ASL Interpreter for the forum.

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Experts at a disabilities awareness forum sponsored by Berkeley College on Friday, January 22, 2021, discussed the challenges faced by people who are neurodivergent, which describes individuals on the autism spectrum, and the resources available that can help people with neurodivergence and disabilities overcome biases and thrive in their educational and career pursuits.

“The pernicious lie of ableism is that disabilities must be masked and hidden,” said Lydia X.Z. Brown, Policy Counsel for the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, based in Washington, D.C. Brown said people with disabilities often spend their lives in obscurity.  “In every space that I am in, I try to model, share, and create spaces where those who are around me will understand that even if the rest of the world will not honor and support them for who they are, I will…we must move together with nobody left behind,” added Brown.

The event, titled “Supporting the Career Development of Students who are Neurodivergent,” was hosted by the Berkeley College Offices of Disability Services and Career Services. Experts emphasized the need for greater inclusivity and support of those with disabilities in education and workplaces.

Michel J. Smith, President, Berkeley College, said in his welcome, “At Berkeley College, we know that neurodivergent individuals really succeed and reach their potential when they have the personal will to do so and you marry that with the necessary support network around them.”

“Most people who have disabilities unfortunately are unemployed or underemployed,” said Sharon McLennon-Wier, PhD, Director, Disability Services, Berkeley College, and co-organizer of the event. Underemployment means that an individual’s skills and educational level do not match with the work they are doing or how they are compensated for that work. Those with disabilities may be paid less than other workers for doing the same work.

McLennon-Wier also shared labor statistics for neurodivergent individuals. According to the National Autism Indicators Report on Vocational Rehabilitation, people on the autism spectrum are most likely to work in office and administrative support roles, 22% according the report, followed by food preparation and service, which makes up 16% of autistic workers.

Sharon McLennon-Wier, PhD presents at forum on Career Development of Students who are Neurodivergent

Photo caption: Sharon McLennon-Wier, PhD, provides an overview of national labor statistics for individuals who are neurodivergent during the Berkeley College Seminar titled “Supporting the Career Development of Students who are Neurodivergent,” on Friday, January 22, 2021.

In addition to promoting a culture of acceptance in educational and employment spaces, vocational rehabilitation enables persons with disabilities to access, maintain, or return to employment. Vocational rehabilitation helps individuals explore careers, locate jobs, and provides short- or long-term support in the workplace. Jobs in which neurodivergence would be an asset include those that require close attention to detail, the identification of patterns or repetition. Companies like Home Depot, Walgreens, Microsoft and Etsy are known for actively recruiting employees with disabilities.

More than 250 guests attended the event, representing an audience of educators, disability services providers, academics in the fields of psychology and disability, and public sector and government representatives, as well as Berkeley College faculty, students, and staff.

Wanda Murray, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, and Maureen Anderson, Integrated Employment Specialist, of the NY State Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), Manhattan Office shared ACCES-VR’s job placement support and employment services. ACCES-VR provides vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities to provide opportunities to work in jobs integrated within their communities and to reach their individual employment goals.

“We provide training and job placement [based on] whatever the job seeker’s interests, goals and skills are,” said Murray. “We try to hone the training so they can obtain employment on a competitive level in the field of their choice.”

Added Anderson, “sometimes people ask me if employers are open to hiring people with disabilities and I would say that there is a fair amount of bias. But they love that I can reach out to a really large network to ask for resumes and refer them to an employer for free. They also appreciate the fact that we offer their staff cross training on disability issues, disability etiquette and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). There are some businesses that really get involved with us.”

“At Berkeley College, our students are not just numbers. They are multifaceted individuals, each with a unique set of needs and career goals and this is how we treat them,” said Ihor Andruch, Career Counselor, Berkeley College. “Attitudes are changing as employers come to see neuro diverse people as a human asset that society should treasure.”

Berkeley College celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2021. The theme commemorating this milestone is “Empowering Lives for 90 Years!” Visit the 90th Anniversary webpage for more information.

About Berkeley College
Berkeley College, founded in 1931, is a career-focused institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that offers students Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College also offers continuing education programs to enhance career credentials.

Berkeley College has campuses in Midtown Manhattan and White Plains, NY, as well as in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park, NJ, with more than 4,900 students enrolled. In addition, Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, for seven consecutive years. The website address is www.BerkeleyCollege.edu

The mission of Berkeley College is to empower students to achieve lifelong success in dynamic careers.


Empowering lives for 90 years!