“When we know better, we can do better,” says BYU grad, on helping those with disabilities.
On her first day back to school in decades, BYU psychology student Rebekah Kaylor was panicked. “I parked at the bottom of the Richards Building stairs, and thought, ‘What happens if I can’t actually make it up these stairs to class?’ And then later when I sat down in my psychology statistics class, I realized I hadn’t taken a math course since 1989,” she said.
To Kaylor’s great relief, “everybody in the class was encouraging, welcoming and inviting” when she introduced herself. Just as she was embraced by classmates on that day, Kaylor’s primary focus as a BYU student has been building belonging for others. She’s done that work across many venues, as a member of the student-led BYU Psychology Department Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as a Disability Services intern for the Church and as a community prevention educator for PG Cares Coalition.
“People flourish when they feel loved,” she said. “That’s what drives me to get involved, recognizing that those in vulnerable and marginalized communities often don’t feel loved or accepted, and that makes their lives a lot harder. I ask myself, ‘As a disciple of Christ, what can I do to lift those burdens?’”
Kaylor knows personally what it’s like to be burdened with an unrecognized disability. When three of her children were diagnosed with ADHD, she realized that she shared many of their symptoms. She eventually learned that she herself had the same condition, which explained why she’d struggled to complete college as a young adult years before.
Motivated by her experience, and with her family’s enthusiastic support, Kaylor decided to return to school and gain the credentials she needed to help others with disabilities find their way. Attending alongside her freshman daughter at BYU, Kaylor researched ADHD in college students for an undergraduate project.
“In the research, I very much saw my own story, of not knowing I had ADHD and hitting common ADHD roadblocks,” Kaylor said. “There’s no one magic fix, but a multimodal approach will give these students the best chance to thrive. In helping my kids learn to accept their life framework, we work on partnering with the right resources, learning to self-advocate — and accepting that it’s okay to need and use accommodations.”
Kaylor’s BYU education has deepened her desire and capacity to help. “I feel that my compassion not only for myself and my family is expanding, but also for others. When I meet someone whose behaviors may not be ideal, instead of judging them, it’s an opportunity to look deeper at the reasons why and to ask, ‘What does that person need so that they can feel good and do good?’ I love the idea from Maya Angelou that when we know better, we can do better.”
Kaylor helped heighten awareness of BYU’s supportive tools as part of the education branch of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, housed in the BYU Psychology Department. Along with fellow committee members, she put together a packet of campus resources, and each month, works with the committee to organize an activity to support diverse or marginalized groups on campus.
Kaylor also focused on expanding resources to vulnerable groups during her year as an intern with the Church’s Disability Services in Salt Lake City. She participated in an ongoing project to develop icons that nonspeaking Church members can use on tablets to better communicate and helped create a study guide on inclusive design. Kaylor also worked with disability advisory groups that seek to better accommodate Church members with disabilities.
“Through my work in disability services, I learned that human potential is incredible,” Kaylor said, recalling times when she watched a blind person use a computer (by rapidly processing verbal commands) or offer a prayer in ASL. “If you take time to get to know people as individuals, you walk away amazed.”
After finishing her bachelor’s degree in June, Kaylor will continue her education this fall in the BYU Master of Social Work program. She looks forward to working as a trained mental health professional in school and community systems.
“Rebekah will be a great asset to the Master of Social Work program,” said BYU psychology professor Dawn-Marie Wood, for whose class Kaylor will TA this spring term. “In class and on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, she has always been professional and consistently respectful of others’ contributions, even when their opinions differ from her own.”
As she looks ahead, Kaylor is grateful for the foundation of a BYU education. “Over and over, the word that comes to mind when I think of my BYU experience is ‘marvelous.’ In class, serving on a committee, sitting in a forum or devotional, or interacting with my classmates and seeing their brilliant gifts — every piece of the BYU educational process has been enlarging and enriching.”