Psychology, Students, Study Abroad

Countering misconceptions about disability through academics and work experience

November 08, 2019

Fourth-year Simon Fraser University student Natalie Morrison chose to major in psychology to explore variations in human development and ability, which she can apply to her future teaching practice. She added a minor in learning and developmental disabilities – an interdisciplinary combination of education and psychology – to learn how to support students with diverse abilities, a passion she acquired after volunteering in the special education department of her high school.

            Morrison currently works as a community support worker to help adults with disabilities feel included in their communities and plans to apply to SFU’s professional development program (PDP) after graduation to become a special education teacher. Her job and her studies help her understand why other people may react negatively to the behavior of individuals with disabilities. “Perhaps they are from another country where people with disabilities do not have equal rights. Perhaps they are uneducated on the countless wonderful qualities that people with disabilities offer to our community,” Morrison shares. “I try and consider why people are acting the way they do by thinking critically about the situation instead of just jumping to conclusions.”

            To enhance her knowledge about people with disabilities and become more involved on campus, she volunteers as a research assistant in SFU’s Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab. She also pushed herself out of her comfort zone by moving halfway across the world alone to complete an exchange term in Melbourne, Australia in January 2018. 

“I strongly encourage everyone to study abroad if they can! It allows you to travel while still completing your degree and to actually immerse yourself into another culture instead of just visiting a country,” Morrison says. “SFU challenges me to think critically about what I am learning and apply it to the world whether that be in my job, travelling, or in academics.”