By Alec Leos/Texan Mosaic Staff
Often times people who identify as neurodivergent don’t feel like they necessarily fit in with typical student clubs. This is why Claire Young, president of the Autistic and Neurodivergent Texans (ANT), founded the ANT Club in August last year.
“It’s nice to have a safe space when not everywhere in the world is,” Young said.
The ANT Club is made up of neurodivergent students at SPC who want to be involved in student life and also connect with like-minded individuals.
Neurodivergent is a relatively new term that is used to describe individuals whose minds work differently than others. This term is an umbrella for many diagnosable conditions, including: depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, Tourette’s and epilepsy.
“Literally anything that alters the way your cognition works would be a neurodivergent disorder,” Young said.
Identifying or being diagnosed as neurodivergent can be challenging. Young said that a lot of people who consider themselves neurodivergent struggle with social situations.
“We develop this really important, but harmful skill set, called masking, which is where you basically pretend to be neurotypical,” Young said. “That comes out in the way we socialize, it comes out in the way we do our facial expressions. Quite literally, just pretending you aren’t neurodivergent.”
Young said this “masking” is not only detrimental to a person’s mental health, but is exhausting, as well.
“I wanted a place where people could hang out, where they didn’t have to do that,” Young said. “Where we can communicate authentically.”
The club was established officially in August 2022. Young said she started seeking interest in the spring of 2022. At the first unofficial meeting, 20 students showed up.
“I created it because I was having trouble making friends,” Young said. “I figured that I would make the space I needed because I knew that there were other kids like me who needed that space.”
Since establishing the club, Young said some of the obstacles with recruiting new members has been related to stereotypes associated with the club’s name, Autistic and Neurodivergent Texans.
“I think the biggest issue was the students,” Young said. “Because it’s called Autistic and Neurodivergent Texans, I think that rings with a lot of stereotypes and a lot of assumptions…We didn’t necessarily get pushback or anything, it was just sort of hard—like it always is existing in a neurotypical space.”
Young believed establishing a club at SPC was a good fit because typically, community colleges draw a lot of neurodivergent students, who might not be ready for a four-year institution.
“Community colleges is a great practice, it’s perfect, it’s small, it’s intimate, you get to live there and not really have to worry about there being thousands of human beings,” Young said. “I think that because community college itself draws a lot of neurodivergent students, it was only fitting to create a community for those students.”
The club has been active this year, participating in several student life and social events, Young said the club is “welcoming and supportive.”
“It’s a very welcoming and supportive environment,” Young said. “I’ve made a lot of great friends in this club because you meet people who are like you and you don’t have to worry about putting on a performance.”
While Young says the club works closely with disability services and health and wellness, the group is a social club.
“This is purely a social group of people who have a safe space without having to mask,” Young said. “We’re close friends, but it’s not therapy.”
The club meets every first Thursday of the month in the Student Life building. The club also hosts “body doubling” nights as well as study nights to help other members be productive. Anyone interested in joining or participating with the ANT Club can email Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow the group on Instagram @ANTatSPC.