About the Neurodiversity Institute (NDI)

In an era where diversity and inclusion are paramount in higher education, the imperative to support neurodiverse students is more pressing than ever. At the University of Denver, we have embarked on a collaborative journey to empower faculty in creating inclusive classroom environments through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Through a generous donation, the Learning Effectiveness Program and the Office of Teaching and Learning has created a faculty development opportunity to equip faculty with the knowledge and strategies to proactively dismantle barriers for all students, especially neurodiverse students. 

objectives, key concepts, and outcomes of our two-day institute aimed at fostering faculty development and championing neurodiversity.

In this web page: 


The primary aim of our institute is to equip faculty with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively support neurodiverse students within their classrooms. Through engaging sessions and interactive discussions, participants delve into key concepts including accessibility, neurodiversity, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).


  1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of accessibility, neurodiversity, and UDL principles.
  2. Apply UDL frameworks to design inclusive course experiences and foster collaboration with students.
  3. Advocate for the needs of neurodiverse students within their home departments and programs.


Visit the accordions below to explore the key concepts defined in DU’s Neurodiversity Institute 

  • Accessibility: Accessibility means all users can perform a function or access content as is, without requiring individual support or having to provide documentation of disability. (proactive) In the classroom, instructional accessibility refers to the design of educational environments, materials, activities and assessments that are accessible to all learners, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or learning preferences. Accessibility in the classroom includes ensuring that teaching materials, instructional strategies, classroom activities and technologies used in the classroom are designed with accessibility in mind. 
  • Neurodiversity refers to how natural variety in brain structures and functions impacts our human experiences. There are a lot of negative stigmas surrounding disabilities, including invisible disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia, and Autism. Definition Citation: Neurodiversity Resource Group (NRG)A DU Registered Student Organization
  • Universal Design for Learning:

    The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) created a set of three principles with roots in cognitive neuroscience to underpin practices and curriculum for teaching and learning. The UDL principles are listed below:

    • Multiple means of representation. For resourceful, knowledgeable learners, present information and content in different ways. UDL guidelines under this principle promote the development of curriculum and instruction that includes options for physical action, expressive skills and fluency, and executive functions.

    • Multiple means of action and expression. For strategic, goal-directed learners, differentiate the ways that students can express what they know. UDL guidelines under this principle promote the development of curriculum and instruction that includes options for recruiting interest, sustaining effort and persistence, and self-regulation.

    • Multiple means of engagement. For purposeful, motivated learners, stimulate interest and motivation for learning. UDL guidelines under this principle promote the development of curriculum and instruction that includes options for perception; language, expressions, and symbolism; and comprehension. 

CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2 [graphic organizer]. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Creating a Change Culture

Integral to the institute experience is the Deliverables Assignment, designed to stimulate long-term commitment to departmental culture change regarding UDL practices. Participants are tasked with three deliverables aimed at fostering reflective growth, course development, departmental engagement, and strategic planning for systemic change:

  1. Reflective Growth: Develop a plan for further self-reflection and growth, incorporating at least two hours of research or engaged learning on institute topics.
  2. Course Development: Design a plan for how you will apply this in your classroom/student work including Universal Design for Learning principles and supports for neurodiverse students.
  3. Engage Your Department/Strategic Plan for Change:  Design a plan to facilitate a departmental activity that promotes engagement and motivation among colleagues towards UDL practices.Outline a plan to serve as an agent for change within their department, including strategies for implementing UDL in their courses and advancing a culture of inclusivity.

Deliverable Project Examples

  • Additional Readings and Discussion
    Readings and peer discussion on disability justice and ableism.
  • Course Reviews
    Participated in Course Reviews with OTL’s accessibility and UDL experts.
  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
    Ongoing dedication to SoTL research for supporting neurodiverse students, accessibility, and UDL.
  • OTL Workshops and 1:1 Consultations
    Attended professional development and 1:1 consultations with the OTL
  • Accessibility Surveys

    Creating Accessibility Surveys for all students to gain insight into access needs before class.

  • Accessibility Checker in Canvas
    Using the Universal Design Online Inspection Tool (UDOIT) to make changes to instructional materials based on accessibility check feedback.

  • Changes to Course Design and Syllabus
    As individuals and class cohorts, faculty have made adjustments to course design and syllabus with UDL and accessibility principles in mind. 

  • Changes to Activities and Assessment: 
    Using the UDL framework and student feedback, faculty have made changes to their activities and assessments to make them more accessible.
  • Instructional Accessibility Departmental Support

     Developing instructional accessible materials process with support staff and graduate students.

  • Ongoing Trainings and Student Partnerships 

    Implementing department trainings, facilitating student panels, creating student-faculty partnerships.

  • Inclusion of UDL in Course Proposals & Teacher Evaluation
    Departments are including UDL and accessibility in course proposals and teacher evaluations.

  • Changes to Values and Missions
    Inclusivity and accessibility added to department/program values and mission statements.

Current Impact

The OTL is grateful to continue to partner with colleagues in the Learning Effectiveness Program, Dean of Students, faculty, administrators, and students. The impact being made would not be the same without the cross-campus support and engagement.

As of January 2024, we have made the following impact:

Unique Participants
I strongly agree that " The Neurodiversity Institute continues to influence me to reflect on the needs of neurodiverse learners."
2023 Neurodiversity Institute Participants 100%
I strongly agree that " I know how to find the support and resources that I need to adjust pedagogy and faculty development to support neurodiverse learners."
2023 Neurodiversity Institute Participants 100%

Past Participants

Summer 2023 

  • Paula Adamo, Spanish Language, Literary & Cultural Studies
  • Ramona Beltran, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Jenn Bellamy, Graduate School of Social Work, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
  • Cindy Cragg, University College
  • Stephanie George,  Graduate School of Social Work
  • Marc Guerrero, Morgridge College of Education
  • Clayton Kuklick, Graduate School of Professional Psychology
  • Brian Majestic, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Haluk Ogmen, Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Lorenzo Patelli, Daniels College of Business
  • Rachel Rogers, University College
  • Maria Salazar, Morgridge College of Education
  • D-L Stewart, Morgridge College of Education

Winter 2023

  • Rebekah Shultz Colby, University Writing Program
  • Silvia Comuzzi-Sexton, Center for World Languages & Cultures
  • David Dassler, School of Accountancy, Daniels College of Business
  • Patrick D’Silva, Department of Religious Studies
  • Karen Gieseker, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Jennifer Greenfield, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Miho Hamamoto, Center for World Languages & Cultures
  • Xue He, Center for World Languages & Cultures
  • Freyja Hofler, Graduate School of Social Work
  • Sarah Huff, Department of Psychology
  • Kamila Kinyon, University Writing Program
  • Polina Maksimovich, Center for World Languages & Cultures
  • Nancy Sasaki, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Laura Sponsler, Morgridge College of Education
  • Emily Sposeto, Center for World Languages & Cultures
  • Michael Toole, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
  • Bethany Waddington, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Mei Yin, Department of Mathematics

Summer 2022

  • Angelo Castagnino, Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Brad Benz, University Writing Program
  • Dinah Loerke, Department of Physics and Astronomy
    Erika Trigoso Department of Geography
  • Emily Barter, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Jessica Johnson, Department of Communication Studies
  • John Tiedemann, University Writing Program
  • Julie Morris, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Kathie Novak, Department of Management, Daniels College of Business
  • Kathleen Guerra, Spanish Language, Literary & Cultural Studies
  • Kiersten Hillkirk, Sturm College of Law
  • Lina Reznicek-Parrado, Spanish Language, Literary & Cultural Studies
  • Matt Hill, University Writing Program
  • Michael Caston, Department Mechanical & Materials Engineering
  • Megan Kelly, University Writing Program
  • Ping Qiu, Languages, Literatures & Cultures
  • Rachel Horenstein, Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering
  • Scott Nichols, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Sheila Carter-Tod, University Writing Program
  • Tamara Hannaway, Business Information and Analytics, Daniels College of Business
  • Tamra Pearson d’Estree, Korbel School of International Studies
  • Wilfried Wilms, Languages, Literatures & Cultures

Winter 2022

  • Aleesha McDowell, Sturm College of Law
  • Amie Levesque, Department of Sociology and Criminology
  • Andy Dvoracek, Sturm College of Law
  • Calley Marotta, University Writing Program
  • Christy Rossi, Department of Psychology
  • Claude d’Estrée, Korbel School of International Studies
  • Diane Kraft, Sturm College of Law
  • Erica Larson, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Jennifer Karas, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Jenalee Doom, Department of Psychology
  • Kelci Burckhardt, Korbel School of International Studies
  • Logan Middleton, University Writing Program
  • Nicole Turnipseed, University Writing Program
  • Olivia Tracy, University Writing Program
  • Rachael Liberman, Media, Film & Journalism Studies
  • Rebecca Galemba, Korbel School of International Studies
  • Rocio Rubio Moiron, Center for World Languages & Cultures
    Scott Johns Sturm College of Law
  • Shannon Murphy, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Laura Santerre-Lemmon, Department of Psychology

Summer 2021

  • Bridget Farrell, University Libraries
    Dan Pittman, Department of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Effley Brooks, Pioneer Leadership Program
  • Erin Elzi, Morgridge College of Education and University Libraries
  • Heather Martin, University Writing Program
  • Irina Khindanova, Reiman School of Finance, Daniels College of Business
  • Jesse Acevedo, Department of Political Science
  • Lauren McGrath, Department of Psychology
  • Lindsey Reinert, Morgridge College of Education
  • Lynn Holland, Korbel School of International Studies
  • Prachi Sharma, Engineering and Computer Science
  • Salvador Mercado, Language, Literary & Cultural Studies
  • Sanchari Das, Department of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Sandy Dixon, Department of Religious Studies
  • Scott Toney, Daniels College of Business
  • Shannon Tharp, University Libraries

Publications & Conferences

We are excited to share our presentation from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Annual Conference in 2024 and the exciting news that we have a publication with the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability (JPED) with the Association on Higher Education and Disabilitiy (AHEAD) coming soon! 


Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) (2018). Universal Design for Learning guidelines version 2.2. http://udlguidelines.cast.org

The Learning Effectiveness Program, University of Denver. https://studentaffairs.du.edu/learningeffectiveness

The Office of Teaching and Learning, University of Denver. https://otl.du.edu/