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WIU JIDE Initiatives in Accessibility Committee Spearheads New Fundraising Effort

The Western Illinois University Justice, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (JIDE) recently proposed an initiative through the Accessibility Committee to proudly launch its latest fundraising initiative supporting neurodivergent students as they transition beyond high school. Recognizing the significant challenges many neurodivergent individuals face upon graduating high school and losing access to school-based accommodations and resources, the committee has made it their mission to bridge this gap and provide support.

Recently, JIDE was awarded a $1,000 grant from Autismazing covering resources for this initiative and snacks to further support the students. This organization is a North Carolina-based nonprofit formed by a parent and aunt of an autistic individual that is looking to expand its reach by sharing resources with the WIU Sensory team.

At the forefront of this initiative is a strategic partnership between WIU's Political Science Department and the Initiatives in Accessibility Committee. Together, they are working to address the transitional hurdles faced by neurodivergent students.

Julie Curless, from WIU’s Speech, Pathology, and Audiology Department, has collaborated closely with the Western Illinois Divergent Support student group (WINDS) to identify the specific needs of neurodivergent students. Through this collaboration, a comprehensive spreadsheet of requested items has been compiled, ensuring that the support provided is tailored to the preferences and requirements of the students.

"We're dedicated to ensuring that every neurodivergent student feels supported and empowered to succeed,” Curless said.

Additionally, the committee is excited to highlight the work of Museum Studies Professor Angela McClanahan Simmons at WIU-Quad Cities on the Virtual Sensorium project. This innovative platform, accessible via any web browser, promises to provide invaluable resources not only to the campus community but also to a broader audience. By offering hands-on training opportunities, the Virtual Sensorium will empower students to enhance their skills and thrive in an inclusive environment.

“We are impressed with the passion of Dr. LaFrance, their colleagues, University partners, students and community partners. We deeply appreciate the accomplishments and plans of the Initiatives in Accessibility Committee, JIDE, WIU Student Government Association, WIU Political Science, and other organizations and persons who have inspired impactful action at the University,” Autism Amazing President Deborah Kania said.

“This grant is the beginning of what I hope will be a long-term partnership with Autismazing, with potential opportunities for student internships and workforce development training in addition to on-campus sensory support. We have already learned a great deal from them about needs relevant to neurodivergent students and young adults, as well as creative fundraising techniques such as their ice cream for breakfast fundraiser. We hope to be able to provide student-centered opportunities for hands-on learning that benefits WIU as well as Autismazing and the other organizations with which we have partnered in initiatives, supporting students with Neurodivergent conditions, such as ASD, ADHD and PTSD,” Political Science Professor and Project Coordinator Casey Lafrance said.

For more information on JIDE, visit

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