Artificial Intelligence in Teaching & Learning

AI, Generative Production, & Accessibility

Melissa Clark

How Can College Students With Diverse Neurotypes Harness AI?

Facilitator: Melissa A. Clark

Cofacilitator: Melanie E. Gagich


How Students with Different Neurotypes Can Use AI and Generative Production

Below are several examples of common neurotypes that are likely present in your classroom. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, and instructors should be aware that neurotypes frequently co-occur. For instance, it is not uncommon for learners to have both autism and ADHD. In these cases, it is important to work with the student to identify the most pressing challenges and to come up with creative solutions. Additionally, not all students who share the same neurotype will share all of the same challenges and strengths. One of the main benefits of advanced language models is that they can help instructors provide individualized support.


ADHD is one of the most common neurotypes for college students in the United States, affecting approximately 2-8% (Dupaul et al., 2009). Students with ADHD may struggle with time management, (e.g., procrastination), organization, concentration, and memory (Kane et al., 2011). College freshman and students living away from home for the first time may find themselves more vulnerable to these challenges without the parental support they had throughout their K-12 education. Consequently, they may earn lower grades (Advokat et al., 2011) and have lower self-efficacy (Heiligenstein et al., 1999, Blase et al., 2009).

Support strategies for these students should therefore target time management skills, organization, concentration Here are some strategies to try with students who have ADHD:

Ask the language model to help them break down an assignment into smaller components, structure an outline, or give tips for motivation.

Sample Prompt and Output

Input: Can you help me break down an assignment into smaller parts?

Chat GPT: Of course! I’d be happy to help you break down your assignment into smaller parts. Please provide me with some more information about the assignment, such as its topic, length, and due date, as well as any specific instructions or guidelines given by your instructor. That way, I can provide you with more specific guidance.

Input: The directions say to review my answers to the guided reading questions and summarize and critique an ethnography. The paper should be about 12 pages and is due in 10 weeks.

Chat GPT: Great, let’s break down your assignment into smaller parts:

  1. Review Guided Reading Questions: Start by reviewing your answers to the guided reading questions. Make sure you understand the key concepts and themes of the ethnography.
  2. Identify Ethnography: Select an ethnography that you want to summarize and critique. Consider choosing an ethnography that you found particularly interesting or relevant to your studies.
  3. Summarize Ethnography: Write a brief summary of the ethnography. This should include the main themes, concepts, and arguments presented in the book.
  4. Critique Ethnography: Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the ethnography. Consider the author’s methodology, use of sources, and potential biases. You can also evaluate the book’s contributions to the field and any limitations or gaps in the author’s analysis.
  5. Organize Your Paper: Create an outline to organize your paper. Consider breaking it down into sections such as Introduction, Summary of Ethnography, Critique of Ethnography, and Conclusion.
  6. Write Your Paper: Using your outline, write your paper. Make sure to support your arguments with evidence from the ethnography and other sources.
  7. Edit and Revise: Once you have finished your first draft, take some time to edit and revise your paper. Check for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that your ideas flow logically and clearly.
  8. Proofread and Submit: Finally, proofread your paper carefully and make any necessary final revisions. Submit your paper by the due date, keeping in mind any formatting or citation requirements specified by your instructor.


Sample Prompt and Output

Input: Can you tell me more about how to create an outline?

Chat GPT: Sure, creating an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and ensure that your paper has a clear and logical structure. Here are some steps to help you create an outline:

  1. Start with a thesis statement: Your thesis statement should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your paper. This will serve as the foundation for your outline.
  2. Identify key sections: Consider the main sections of your paper, such as the introduction, summary of the ethnography, critique of the ethnography, and conclusion. These will serve as the main headings of your outline.
  3. Break down each section: For each main section, break down the key points you want to make. These will serve as the subheadings of your outline.
  4. Organize your points: Arrange your subheadings in a logical order that supports your thesis statement. Make sure that each subheading flows naturally into the next one.
  5. Add supporting details: Under each subheading, add specific examples, evidence, or quotations that support your argument.
  6. Revise and refine: Once you have a rough outline, read through it and revise it as needed. Make sure that your outline is clear, concise, and supports your thesis statement.

Here is an example of an outline for a paper summarizing and critiquing an ethnography:

  1. Introduction
    • Background information on the ethnography
    • Thesis statement Summary of ethnography
  2. Main themes and concepts
    • Key arguments
    • Use of sources and methodology
  3. Critique of ethnography
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Biases and limitations
    • Contributions to the field
  4. Conclusion
    • Recap of main points
    • Implications for future research
    • Final thoughts

Remember, your outline should serve as a roadmap for your paper. It should be detailed enough to guide your writing, but flexible enough to allow for changes as needed.



Sample Prompt and Output

Input: What can I do to motivate myself to work on each of these components?

Chat GPT: Here are a few tips to help you stay motivated as you work on each component of your assignment:

  1. Set goals: Break down each component into smaller, manageable goals. For example, you could set a goal to review one chapter of the ethnography each day or to complete a certain number of guided reading questions per week. Celebrate each small accomplishment to stay motivated.
  2. Create a schedule: Set aside dedicated time each day or week to work on your assignment. Creating a routine can help you establish a habit and stay on track.
  3. Find a study partner or accountability buddy: Work with a friend or classmate who is also working on the same assignment. You can encourage each other, share ideas, and hold each other accountable.
  4. Take breaks: It’s important to take breaks to avoid burnout. Take a walk, grab a snack, or do something you enjoy to recharge your energy.
  5. Stay organized: Use tools like a planner or a to-do list to stay organized and keep track of your progress. This can help you feel more in control of your workload.
  6. Visualize your success: Imagine yourself completing each component of the assignment and turning in a high-quality paper. Visualizing success can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals.

Remember, staying motivated is an ongoing process, and it’s ok to struggle sometimes. Be kind to yourself and keep pushing forward, one step at a time.


Generalized anxiety disorder is another common neurotype among college students. Prior to the pandemic, its prevalence was estimated to be about 15%-18%, with 63% of undergraduate students feeling overwhelmed by anxiety in the year leading up to the survey (American College of Health Association, 2018). This is thought to have grown significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its mitigation efforts (e.g., quarantine, suspension of in-person classes, dissolution of social support systems), as well as traumatic illness and loss of loved ones (Brunett et al., 2023). For the current generation of college students, these traumatic stressors occurred during the emerging adulthood developmental period, leading to a sharp increase in generalized anxiety disorder.

College students with generalized anxiety disorder experience frequent, worrisome, and intrusive thoughts that can limit working memory, processing, and information retention and therefore impact academic performance (Lisnyj et al., 2020). To cope with these feelings, students may skip classes, self-isolate, and abuse substances. In a review of an online forum for students with anxiety, many commenters wrote that sending emails to professors could trigger their anxiety. Commenters described how they used AI to help them write emails to their professors. Some of our own examples are provided here.

Use AI to help write emails.

Sample Prompt and Output

Input: I failed a test for one of my classes. I think it’s because I get so nervous during the exam that I can’t remember anything. I want to reach out to my professor in an email. What should I say?

Chat GPT: Here’s a possible email you can send to your professor:

Subject: Concern about my recent test

Dear Professor [Professor’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to express my concern about my recent test for [Class Name]. Unfortunately, I did not perform as well as I had hoped, and I received a failing grade.

After reflecting on my performance, I believe that my nervousness during the exam affected my ability to recall the material. I would like to know if there are any resources or strategies that you would recommend to help me manage my test anxiety.

Additionally, I would like to ask if there is any opportunity for me to improve my grade in this class. I am willing to put in extra effort to demonstrate my understanding of the material and improve my performance in future exams.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


[Your Name]

Sample Prompt and Output

Input: I get really anxious when my professor calls on me in class, but talking in class is one of the ways we are graded. How can I communicate my anxiety to my professor and make sure I can still get a good grade in the class?

Chat GPT: It’s understandable that you feel anxious when your professor calls on you in class, and it’s important to communicate your concerns to your professor so they can help you navigate this issue. Here’s an example email you can send to your professor:

Subject: Concerns about speaking in class

Dear Professor [Professor’s Name],

I wanted to reach out to you about my concerns regarding speaking in class. I tend to get extremely anxious when I am called upon to speak, and I find that this anxiety affects my ability to participate in class discussions.

I am aware that class participation is one of the ways we are graded in this course, and I would like to find a way to overcome my anxiety and contribute more effectively to class discussions. I would appreciate any advice or support you can offer to help me address this issue.

I am willing to put in extra effort to participate more actively in class discussions, and I would be happy to explore alternative ways of demonstrating my understanding of the course material if necessary. Please let me know if there are any options available.

Thank you for your understanding and support. I am looking forward to continuing to learn in your class.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Autism and Autism-Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism is an extremely diverse neurotype, and one that is becoming increasingly identified in adolescents and young adults. Generally, autistic people1 and people with ASD may find it difficult to read social cues, engage in reciprocal conversation, communicate social and emotional information, and transfer skills and knowledge from one domain into another, all of which can be compounded by sensory overload (Van Hees et al., 2015, Gurbuz et al., 2019). In college, autistic students may struggle to manage time, engage in group work, give presentations, maintain motivation and focus, and organize tasks.

An overview of an online chat forum revealed that Autistic students and students with ASD use generative text production for social scripting. Social scripting is one tool that Autistic people and people with ASD use to scaffold social interactions. In the first phase, educators, therapists, and the student agree on a phrase, such as “Do you want to work with me?” Then, the student practices uses the phrase during counseling and/or in the relevant setting. Once they are comfortable, they can begin to build on or change the phrase to adapt it to different situations (Scheibel et al., 2021). AI can provide Autistic people and people with ASD with scripts to use in many of the novel situations they find themselves experiencing in college. Students with anxiety may also benefit from using AI for social scripting.

AI for Social Scripting

Sample Prompt and Output

Input: I have autism and need to work in a group for my college class. What are some phrases I can use to help me work efficiently with my group?

Chat GPT: Working in a group can be challenging for individuals with autism, but effective communication can help make the process smoother. Here are some phrases you can use to help you work efficiently with your group:

  1. “Can you please clarify what you mean?”
  2. “I’m having trouble understanding. Could you explain it differently?”
  3. “I need a few minutes to process that information. Can we take a break?”
  4. “Can we create a schedule to make sure everyone’s input is heard?”
  5. “I work best with written instructions. Can we have a written outline of the project?”
  6. “I need to take a break to recharge. Can we take a break and continue later?”
  7. “I’m good at focusing on specific tasks. Can we divide the project into smaller parts and assign them?”
  8. “Can we have a set time to check in and update each other on our progress?”
  9. “I’m comfortable working independently, but I’ll reach out if I need help or have questions.”
  10. “I want to make sure I’m contributing. Can you assign me a specific role or task?”

Remember, communication is key, and it’s important to advocate for yourself and your needs while working in a group.

1For many people, their autism is a defining component of their identity, and they prefer the descriptor, “autistic person” rather than framing the neurotype as a pathology, as is in the phrase “person with autism” (Hamilton and Petty, 2023). To acknowledge autism as a component of identity and as a neurotype that may present as a disability for others, we use both terms here.

Bipolar Disorder

An overview of an online forum for people with bipolar disorder revealed that students with this neurotype may experience embarrassment when depressive or manic episodes impact their academic performance, social interactions, and communication. Students with bipolar disorder in these forums shared that they use generative text production to write emails when they are experiencing a manic episode to help keep their messages focused and on point.

Works Cited

Advokat, C., Lane, S.M., Luo, C. (2011) College students with and without ADHD: Comparison of self report of medication usage, study habits, and academic achievement. Journal of Attention Disorders 15:656-666. DOI: 10.1177/1087054710371168.

American College of Health Association (2018) National College Health Assessment: Undergraduate Student Reference Group Data Report, Fall 2018.

Blase, S.L., Gilbert, A.N., Anastopoulos, A.D., Costello, E.J., Hoyle, R.H.,Swartzwelder, H.S., Rabiner, D.L. (2009) Self-reported ADHD and adjustment in college: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings. Journal of Attention Disorders 13(3):297-309. DOI: 10.1177/1087054709334446.

Brunett, K.M., Kinstley, C., Howard, K., Perrotte, J., Deason, R., Cordaro, M. (2023) Generalized anxiety disorder in college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: The importance of screening and early detection during traumatic stressor events. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy. DOI: 10.1080/87568225.2023.2191880.

Dupaul, G.J., Weyandt, L.L., O’Dell, S.M., Verejao, M. (2009) College students with ADHD: Current status and future directions. Journal of Attention Disorders 13(3):234-250. DOI: 10.1177/1087054709340650.

Gurbuz, E., Hnaley, M., Riby, D.M. (2019) University students with autism: The social and academic experiences of university in the UK. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 49(2):617-631. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-018-3741-4.

Hamilton, L.G., Petty, S. (2023) Compassionate pedagogy for neurodiversity in higher education: A conceptual analysis. Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1093290.

Heiligenstein, E., Guenther, G., Levy, A., Savino, F., Fulwiler, J. (1999) Psychological and academic functioning in college students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of American College Health 47(4):181-185. DOI: 10.1080/07448489909595644.

Kane, S.T., Walker, J.H., Schmidt, G.R. (2011) Assessing college-level learning difficulties and “at-riskness” for learning disabilities and ADHD: Development and validation of the learning difficulties assessment. Journal of Learning Disabilities 44(6):533-542. DOI: 10.1177/0022219410392045.

Lisnyj, K.T., Russell, R., Papadopoulos, A. (2020) Risk and protective factors for anxiety impacting academic performance in post-secondary students. Canadian Journal of Higher Education 50(2):71-88.

Scheibel, G., Ma, Z., Travers, J.C. (2021) Teaching social scripts to improve social communication for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 3(1):1-17. DOI: 10.1007/s40489-015-0062-9.

Van Hees, V., Moyson, T., Rooyers, H. (2015) Higher education experiences of students with ASD spectrum disorder: Challenges, benefits and support needs. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 45(6):1673-1688. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-014-2324-2.

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