UJ’s first neurodiversity centre to also cater for underprivileged communities in Soweto



Published Sep 7, 2022


The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Department of Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education will launch the first Centre for Neurodiversity at a public higher education institution this Friday.

The Centre for Neurodiversity (CND) at UJ results from a collaboration between the university, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the EU.

Based at the UJ Soweto Campus, the centre will be involved in community engagement work within the larger Soweto area as well as in surrounding communities.

The centre is one of the three centres in the country funded by the DHET and the EU as centres of excellence and national hubs, the other two being Wits – Centre for Deaf Studies, and University of Pretoria – Centre for Visual Impairment Studies.

In underprivileged communities, families usually cannot afford psychological, including neuro-developmental, services.

This centre is expected to meet these needs and allow easy access for teachers as a walk-in service for information, development and support.

“While there are various organisations and people working with people with disabilities, children and the youth with neuro-developmental disorders (NDD) are generally not looked after. Unlike physical disorders, NDDs are a cluster of disorders that are intrinsic in nature, thus not visible to many people,” said Professor Boitumelo Diale, vice-dean of Teaching and Learning. Diale is also an associate professor and educational psychologist.

Diale said that in addition, the subtle yet complicated nature of this disorder makes it challenging for both parents and teachers to intervene early enough for the children to be diagnosed and supported.

“Many children with NDD such as ADHD, autism and specific learning disorders are generally mistaken to be naughty, spoilt, antisocial, not co-operative in class or not interested in their schoolwork. This is simply because the community does not understand these challenges,” Diale said.

“It is this reason that the centre will be central not only in the training of specialists such as educational psychologists and remedial teachers, but also in training other stakeholders such as parents, organisations and communities,” she added.

The aim of the centre is to address the neuro-developmental learning needs of children and youth through a multi-pronged approach, including but not limited to:

– training teachers and other stakeholders on neurodivergent learning needs

– therapeutic and learning needs intervention for learners and youth

– parent support and development

– community engagement and empowerment.