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How student leaders promote awareness of neurodiversity in Brazil and beyond




Posted by Rodrigo Hirooka, Regional Leader of the Brazilian Developer Community

It’s painful to realize that you’re not the same as others. Still, the experience can also shed light. As a child in Brazil, Joo Victor Ipiraj, leader of the Google Student Developer Club (GDSC) at the Federal Institute of Science and Technology of Shear (IFCE), knew he was different. He was often overwhelmed by physical sensations and felt that he had missed a social signal. He was actually relieved when he was finally diagnosed with the autism spectrum. Far from being limited, this perception gave him new perspectives on his intellectual strengths, including his ability to perceive mathematical concepts very visually and his ability to think logically and computer programming. “I was reborn into a full life shortly after receiving this diagnosis,” he said in a video he made about his experience as a person with ASD.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 160 children suffers from autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Despite the relatively common ASD, misunderstandings about state diversity and neurodiversity can make diagnosis difficult.

This newly discovered understanding of how his mind works has helped guide his educational path and career direction. Instead of attending a traditional high school where he felt he couldn’t demonstrate his talents and strengths, Joe decided to study abroad at IFCE, a college of technology that also offers high school programs. There, he studied computer science and computer engineering, learned a new programming language, and hone his developer skills.

But most importantly, he felt that he had “discovered his whereabouts.” By solving problems with IFCE, using new tools, and successfully working with others, I quickly outweighed the fear of meeting new people and going wrong. It is also useful for building them.

Participate in GDSC and expand awareness of neurodiversity

After graduating from high school, Joo decided to stay at IFCE to concentrate on computer engineering at university, where he learned new programming languages ​​and tools such as TensorFlow and Flutter. He also joined IFCE’s GDSC branch to get more in touch with new people and ideas. “I am honored to be part of this program to meet people from all over the world and improve my speaking skills, especially in English,” he says. “To me, it’s magical. I learned a lot.”

At the same time, Joo was beginning to recognize a lack of understanding of Brazil’s neurodiversity, even among the technical audience and the average employer. “Some people think we’re crazy or can’t do big projects,” he says. Even “good” stereotypes can be harmful. For example, many people with neurodiversity have the ability to “over-concentrate” and work or study for hours without interruption. “People think it’s a superpower,” he says, but such extreme periods of concentration can also lead to unhealthy and burnout syndrome.

Sow the seeds of change at GDSC events and projects

As a leader in IFCE GDSC, Joo expands awareness of neurodiversity and other types of diversity (sexual, racial, religious, etc.) and discovers the freedom and attribution that others have experienced. I decided to focus on being able to do it. “Many people don’t want to be who they want to be,” he says.

Initiatives in this chapter include planning speaker sessions with community diversity activists and experts, creating social media content in partnership with IFCE, creating workshops with other Brazilian GDSC chapters, and team core. Includes diversity prioritization when selecting positions.

He recently spoke at the DevFest event on the topic “Understanding the Autism Spectrum Disorders”, explaining the range of traits and abilities that people with autism can exhibit. He also wants to have a more speaking event in Portuguese, especially to break the stereotypes about autism in Brazil. “It’s just a student club, but we’re trying to deconstruct the very culturally strong stereotypes and prejudices in Brazil,” he says.

Fostering understanding and acceptance in Brazil and beyond

Ultimately, Joo feels that providing more opportunities and platforms for diverse people helps others. As the community continues to gather, he may be able to help people who have the same sense of difference that Joe had when he was a kid. Joe and other members of his GDSC team especially hope that these efforts will give them a better understanding of how to promote and celebrate members of marginalized groups in his home country. But his goal goes beyond mere acceptance. He states that those who feel more comfortable about who they are are confident that they will fully participate in all aspects of society. People with diverse abilities and traits offer unique skills and perspectives that can lead to benefits, especially among technical audiences and employers.

“It’s very important for people to have this opportunity to share their stories and have these environments to make people understand,” he says. “It’s very important to me and I’m very honored.”




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