UNE celebrates neurodiversity in screening of “Normal Isn’t Real”
The University of New England held a screening of a documentary that promotes and celebrates neurodiversity of all kinds on Wednesday.
The film, “Normal Isn’t Real: Succeeding with Learning Disabilities & ADHD,” was presented by UNE’s Faculty/Professional Staff Learning Community on Neurodiversity and was followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Krys Kornmeier and two others in the UNE community.
A neurodivergent person is someone whose brain processes information in atypical ways, such as someone with autism or ADHD.
The film features four neurodivergent and successful young adults sharing their stories of coming to terms with their learning disability and ADHD issues. These candid portraits take the viewer into the subjects' daily lives, showcasing their talents, venting their frustrations, and employing the strategies they use to manage their challenges and utilize their strengths.
“It was important that the film’s four main subjects were comfortable showing both what they are good at and what they struggle with,” Kornmeier said during the panel. “The subjects you pick (for a film like this) are the most important part in conveying the story you are trying to tell.”
One of the panelists, Molly E. Collin, PT, B.S., RYT, an adjunct professor in UNE’s physical therapy program, said she was not officially diagnosed with dyslexia until her freshman year at college. But even before the diagnosis, she knew it was important to advocate for herself to her teachers at school.
“I feel that my neurodivergence played a key role in letting self-advocacy come naturally,” Collin said.
Panelist Melodee Carter-Guyette, Ed.D., received her doctorate from UNE Online in 2019 and has taught special education to children with a wide array of learning disabilities throughout her career. Carter-Guyette, who graduated high school in 1976, had a friend who attended special education classes.
“I grew up in a time where, if you had a disability, you had a snowball’s chance in hell to go to college,” Carter-Guyette said. She was determined to continue her education in this field “because of the potential of the human spirit, which was so well-reflected in this documentary.”
Kornmeier said she hopes her film inspires school administrators to make meaningful changes in a way that embraces neurodivergent students’ strengths, such as providing classes to the whole student body that teach different learning styles.
“Never underestimate a neurodivergent person and what they can bring to the party,” Kornmeier said.