The Forgotten Students

New district phone policy leaves students feeling overlooked

Waking up in the mornings anxious for the inevitable sensory nightmare of the crowded hallways, the panicked nausea that comes from attempting to understand all or even most of the social cues in an average conversation, and the near-permanent stress that was the result of both of these things. 

Being a neurodivergent student makes school more than an educational environment. It makes school an emotional maze– a colossus of exhaustion.

Receiving an education is made all the more challenging when almost every decision that our authority figures make for the student body is created with neurotypical students in mind. One of these decisions is the recently implemented no cell phone policy. 

It’s this recently made decision that caused me, and other neurodivergent students to re-examine the language we use for schooling, as we now find ourselves in a much more difficult situation than before, and our previous, occasionally hyperbolic, metaphors obsolete.

Most decisions are made based on the question ‘what is best for the people?’, and the answer is unfortunately focused on the welfare of the neurotypical majority. 

A neurotypical person is a person with typical brain functions, while a neurodivergent person is anyone who has a nontypical brain function.

These nontypical brain functions range from generalized anxiety and bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses, to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or ASD  (autism spectrum disorder). 

However, there is not one type of accommodation that fits all neurodivergent individuals.

For some neurodivergent students, the new policy in place has led to positive benefits, like making new friends. For the past few years, senior Alice Liddle’s* anxiety has prevented her from forming new relationships with her classmates. The new policy was the push she needed to begin to reach out. 

“At first [having the phone policy] was really hard, but I’ve actually started talking to some of the people in my classes because there’s literally nothing else I can do,” Liddle said. 

For other neurodivergent students, however, the policy has not been so beneficial, as many students with neurodivergencies utilize their phones for various forms of self soothing. 

These forms include fidgeting and mitigating anxiety through music, as well as using self care apps like the Finch app or texting their support systems to get through tough days.  

“It makes me incredibly anxious…even the ability to have it on my desk helps because I have a popsocket,” senior Dorian Hallward* said. Hallward is an autistic student whose sensory issues and social anxiety has made school a difficult terrain to navigate, and it has only gotten harder. 

For those who are struggling with the no phone policy, there are people within the school that they can talk to.

“One of the most important things is to feel connected in some way to an adult,” School psychologist Terrin Dorathy said, “a lot of students find their person in this building.” 

Neurodivergency is complex, multifaceted, and simply needs to be recognized as part of someone as a whole. Even though more people are neurotypical than neurodivergent, this does not mean that neurodivergent people can be overlooked.

However, with recent policy changes such as this one, it’s clear that there’s no better word for Millard’s neurodivergent community than ‘overlooked,’ with this prime example of neurotypical conveniences being placed before neurotypical needs.