By Martina Brady
FIU: Support for Neurodiverse Students
College is a time in which many students struggle with mental health. The pressures of challenging courses and new responsibilities can be a tough adjustment for those with different brains. According to the APA, 86% of students with a mental health condition leave school without graduating. But with proper support, neurodiverse students can have better outcomes. For students at FIU, the university has a variety of accommodations for different brains, both on-campus and online.
Depression & anxiety
Depression and anxiety are both chronic conditions, characterized by either persistent sadness or stress in everyday situations. These disorders often occur at the same time, and share symptoms like irritability, lack of sleep, and problems concentrating.
Counseling can help you learn coping skills and challenge negative thinking patterns. Through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), FIU offers limited, short-term counseling. Sessions last 30-45 minutes and occur every 2-3 weeks. If your condition is more severe, your counselor can refer you to a community provider.
Additionally, FIU offers online therapy called Therapy Assistance Online (TAO). TAO includes Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Behavioral Activation (BA) therapies, all specifically geared towards anxiety and depression.
To learn anxiety relief skills, CAPS provides “virtual, psycho-educational, drop-in workshop sessions” for students. Some of these classes include Managing Social Isolation and Anxiety in Crisis, Anxiety Toolbox, and #adulting.
For on-campus stress relief, biofeedback treatment can supplement counseling or be used on its own. This therapy teaches you to be aware and control your body’s breathing rate, temperature, and muscle tension to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
Autism spectrum disorder
Students with autism have wonderful gifts, but also face unique challenges navigating the college environment.
FIU’s Embrace initiative is dedicated to the well-being of students with many different development conditions. FIU Embrace can help you with medical and legal services from a person-centered perspective. They also offer social support, peer coaching, academic help, and post-college career development.
If you think you may have ADHD, you can make an appointment for screening through CAPS. If you have already been diagnosed, you can transfer care to FIU Student Health Services. On-campus students can benefit from medication management services, for help with prescriptions and monitoring use.
For classroom support, students with learning differences can register with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). FIU offers specialized low-distraction testing rooms, with extended time and assistive technology. According to FIU, students who take advantage of DRC services have better GPAs and graduation rates.
In addition, FIU offers an ADHD series in their workshops. These classes can help you cope with ADHD and learn helpful study strategies. Other workshops include “Improve Reading Comprehension and Retention” and “Improve Math Understanding and College Math Study Strategies”.
If you struggle with negative body image or an eating disorder, FIU has services that can support you through the stresses of university life.
The Body Acceptance Program (BAP) is designed to help students with unhealthy dieting and body image issues. BAP connects you with a psychologist, a registered dietician, and a doctor to care for your physical and emotional well-being.
CAPS on-campus group therapy also includes the Body Acceptance Group, where students can discuss body image, weight, and food. In this group, you can learn to express your emotions using healthy skills instead of eating disorder behaviors.
The struggles of coping with PTSD and trauma can make it difficult to succeed in college, both academically and socially.
FIU’s Victim Empowerment Program (VEP) provides free, confidential care to students who have experienced threatened or actual violence. With 24 hour support, VEP promotes healing and supports forming healthy relationships. The program includes a trained counselor and advocate that can help you access community resources, speak with legal representatives, and even accompany you to court hearings and
In addition to the VEP, FIU’s group counseling includes the The Seeking Safety Survivors Group to help you reduce impact of past trauma, and learn how it affects your current relationships.
If you struggle with intrusive thoughts and compulsive rituals, FIU offers a specialized treatment to help you cope.
For students with OCD, FIU offers the “Free Your Mind” counseling group. Using exposure therapy, this group helps you challenge beliefs that lead to obsessions and compulsions. “Free Your Mind” is based on response prevention therapy, a treatment designed specifically for OCD. In addition to counseling, Biofeedback therapy may also be helpful with stress management.
College can be a difficult time for all students, but those with different brains may need extra support to succeed. If you are neurodiverse, FIU offers a wide range of resources to help you make the best of your university experience.
To learn more about mental health services at FIU, visit studentaffairs.fiu.edu
Martina Brady is a student at Florida International University majoring in English. She is currently a staff writer for PantherNOW, FIU’s student-run newspaper. Martina has previously been recognized for her research on bilingual education under the No Child Left Behind Act. In the future, she plans to continue her career in research and communications. Martina has synesthesia, and considers herself neurodiverse. In her spare time, she enjoys playing guitar, cooking, and writing fanfiction. You can find her on LinkedIn here.