2022 Focus Award Recipient - Faculty

Dr. A.J. Schwichtenberg

Dr. A.J. Schwichtenberg, an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies,  has made notable efforts in neurodiversity and inclusion.

Dr. Schwichtenberg is the faculty advisor for two undergraduate groups – Best Buddies and All for Autism – which work to promote the success of both neurodivergent and neurotypical students. Dr. Schwichtenberg has been the faculty co-advisor of Best Buddies for four years, promoting growth in both Buddies and Purdue student peers. Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The purpose of All for Autism is to bring students and faculty from every area of campus together to work towards raising awareness of Autism on campus and create a safe space where neurodiverse individuals can learn and share their experiences.

Dr. Schwichtenberg has also designed and added a module on neurodiversity to her sections of the Diversity in Individuals and the Family course. This module includes an experiential activity wherein students from Shine on University (a post-high school educational program for young adults with intellectual disabilities) visit the Purdue campus to engage with Purdue students. Over four years, this experience has reached over 300 Purdue students. Dr. Schwichtenberg also advocated for the incorporation of a neurodiversity component into her department’s graduate diversity curriculum. This systemic advocacy will continue to inform our understanding of neurodiversity concepts and research for years to come.

Creating a culture of neurodivergent awareness and acceptance is also a key feature of Dr, Schwichtenberg’s Sleep and Developmental Studies Laboratory. Dr. Schwichtenberg’s lab is a pro-neurodiversity lab through which Dr. Schwichtenberg has provided research experiences for Purdue students with autism, dyslexia, and many more exceptionalities.