By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

For decades, the month of April has been designated as a time to promote awareness and acceptance for the vibrant community of individuals with autism. While the neurodiversity movement has incredible merit, Communications and Media Arts: A.S student, Matthew Wightman, believes that we are more alike than different, regardless of diagnoses. As a young boy, Matt was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). In 2013, his diagnosis was officially changed to Autism Spectrum Disorder. While ASD is part of Matt’s identity, he champions that inclusivity is easier with fewer labels. 

“When I meet a new person on campus, the first thing that comes to mind is not, ‘I wonder if they are neurodiverse or neurotypical?’ Instead, I wonder if they are kind and interesting and if we will get along,” Wightman said. “I personally believe that we should support everyone all year long!”

Matt Wightman was born and raised in Windsor, NY. A Windsor Black Knight since kindergarten, Matt balanced his schoolwork with helping at his family’s business, Atwood Tool & Machine. A typical school day for Matt included a visit to “homework club” before heading home to enjoy a classic History Channel documentary and some good old country living. 

During his junior and senior years of high school, Wightman spent a portion of his day participating in Broome-Tioga BOCES’ video production program. Intrigued to learn more about media arts, but committed to studying and working locally in the Southern Tier, Matt’s next logical step after graduating from Windsor High School was to attend SUNY Broome. 

“I’ve been following the student debt crisis for a while and really wanted to avoid the negative financial effects of going to college. SUNY Broome was the right choice for me for many reasons, especially financially,” Wightman explained. “My dad works for the College, so his tuition benefits, plus my transfer credits, made coming to SUNY Broome an easy decision.”  

As Matt prepared for life as a Hornet, he partnered with the Accessibility Resources Office (ARO) to update his individualized education plan to provide reasonable accommodations for college-level test-taking. While Wightman’s specific success plan focused on testing support, the ARO team provides SUNY Broome students with a variety of services, including interpreters and note-takers, alternative format texts, assistive technology support, academic coaching, and more. 

“Like most first-time college students, my first semester was a little shaky because I was using the same study and work strategies that I used in high school,” Wightman said. But working with the ARO helped me a lot. I learned how to adapt and have been successful in my classes and in balancing my role as treasurer of the Comm Club.” 

As part of the Communications and Media Arts: A.S. degree program, Matt will dedicate the Fall 2024 semester to interning with the Binghamton Black Bears’ communications department. With the goal of becoming a jack of all trades within the realm of digital media, Wightman is excited to apply his newly developed skills from his comm classes, while gaining on-the-job experiences in local industry. 

When Matt isn’t on campus with his friends, he enjoys spending time with his parents and grandparents. 

“My family have always been my biggest supporters, especially my mom, Laurie,” Wightman shared. “She regularly went to Albany to advocate on my behalf, often without me knowing it. There is a time to micromanage, and there is a time to just let people flourish. She always encouraged me to flourish.”

Learn more about the accommodative services provided by SUNY Broome’s Accessibility Resources Office. 

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