Graceful tropical fish circle around me as a sea turtle glides overhead. Slowly and steadily, hundreds of pink jellyfish swarm from behind and a curious striped creature moves in for a better look at what I assume is my virtual reality headset. In awe, I blindly reach out and it pulls away with alarm. The scene is so realistic I’m speechless.
Don McMahon is laughing. “You look pretty engaged right now,” says the director of the Washington State University Neurodiversity Lab located in the College of Education. “Fun is engaging and engaged students learn,” he’s been intoning, seemingly miles away in the background.
Two minutes into our interview in Thompson Hall, Katherine Grimes—“Katie,” on second reference—must leave. She can’t concentrate, because the murmurs of students passing outside the closed door are amplified to rock-concert cacophony in her ears.
Let’s try another location, I suggest. The Cooper Publications Building is quiet. But as we step through the door, Katie’s first words are, “What’s that smell?” I’ve long since relegated the ever-present odor of printing ink to the background. Katie doesn’t.
As I turn on the lights, Katie immediately closes the door to my office, her defense against more assaults on her senses. She sits in a chair, crosses her … » More …