Emily Scannell Helps Rewrite the Narrative on Disability | WMU Alumni Skip to main content

Emily Scannell Helps Rewrite the Narrative on Disability

Emily Scannell

While attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, plenty of adults have it, too. In fact, it’s estimated that over 8 million adults are living with ADHD. Yet despite the numbers, many people believe this condition only affects children, is not a real disorder or is simply the result of bad parenting.

Thankfully, alumna Emily Scannell (B.S., M.S. ′18, Occupational Therapy) is working to help rewrite the narrative on misconceptions like these.

As part of her post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy (OT) through Boston University, Emily recently co-authored “Wonderfully Wired,” an interactive children’s book focused on introducing kids to neurodiversity. The book features Priya, Lou and Jalen (cartoon brains) who each dance differently and use different strategies for success at school.

“It’s a lesson and celebration around the idea that each person’s brain is different and wonderfully wired,” she said. "I’d like to thank my co-author, Karen Jacobs, and illustrator Shannon Dennis for their hard work and collaboration in bringing this book to fruition.” ES Book Launch

While she’s proud of co-authoring “Wonderfully Wired,” Emily feels most fulfilled by her role as a school-based OT with Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA). “My days are never dull, from supporting organization skills, handwriting and scissor skills, self-regulation skills, toileting and dressing, and more!” she said. “I’m proud that I get to collaborate with hardworking and caring educators and students in a supportive community setting. I'm also proud that I continue to keep an open mind and grow my OT skill set.”

After graduating from Western Michigan University’s nationally recognized occupational therapy master’s program (recently replaced by the three-year OT doctorate), Emily moved to Marquette, MI. In addition to her job at Marquette-Alger RESA, she also works PRN (as needed) at UP Health System-Marquette in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation and teaches part-time in Western’s OT program.

The reputation of her alma mater’s OT program was a big reason why she decided to enroll here. “WMU had and has an excellent program,” she said, “and I was drawn to it before I even started at Western. I wanted to become an OT because I knew it would lead to a career of helping people do what they want to do, in a way that would allow me to be creative, social, reflective and physically active.”

WMU professors and staff members who made a lasting impression on Emily included:

*Kate Bates, “who gave me opportunities to become confident in my leadership skills and first introduced me to backpacking.”

*Dr. Michelle Suarez, “whose way of working with families and children has inspired me, and who, still to this day, is sincere and generous with her time and support as I grow as a professional.”

*Dr. Maureen Mickus, “whose energy, passion and encouragement have sparked my interest in expanding my education and my global perspective, in the past and present.”

“Also, Dr. Ben Atchinson and the entire Occupational Therapy Department,” she said, “and Lisa Batten, Kathleen King, Chris Sligh, Fareed Shalhout, and Dr. Jim Eckert.”

Emily’s love for WMU is also shared by her sister, Maggie (B.B.A. ′19), and her dad, Thomas Scannell (B.S. ′85, Electrical Engineering; MBA ′93), professor of marketing at the Haworth College of Business. “I received a Legacy Scholarship, as well as scholarships for merit through admissions and the Lee Honors College, and for study abroad through the Haenicke Institute and the college of business,” she said. “I’m very thankful for this support.”

Beyond academics, she fully seized the day during her time at WMU. “I had the opportunity to be involved in many awesome programs and opportunities that deeply enriched my life personally and professionally,” Emily said. 

ES Graduation
Tom, Jane, Emily, Maggie and Mark Scannell in front of CHHS for Emily's graduation. 

Some of these opportunities included Student Activities & Leadership Programs (LeadCorp Internship, Bronco Bash Zone Captains, Leaders Unplugged Trips, Leadership Signature Program); Lee Honors College (Peer Student Success Team Mentor [PSST]); First Year Experience (Fall Welcome Ambassador); Office for Sustainability (WeSustain Internship); United Campus Ministry (Volunteering with Kids); Alternative Spring Break (Florida and Kansas); Study Abroad (Business and Culture in Germany, Ireland International Perspectives on Aging, and Dominican Republic Global Perspectives on Pediatric Rehabilitation); Wesley Alternative Spring Break (Nicaragua); St. Thomas More (Retreats and Dinners); Rec Center (IM Sports); and Academic Integrity Committee. 

It’s no wonder why Emily offers these words of advice for current Broncos: “Pause to notice the incredible opportunities and supportive people at WMU. Make the most of both.” 

Super Bronco Family
The Scannells are the very definition of Super Broncos! 

Being actively engaged on campus yielded a lot of fond memories, too. Specifically, Emily mentioned sitting outside the College of Health and Human Services eating lunch with her cohort, hosting events at the Lee Honors College with her coworkers, backpacking on Leaders Unplugged trips, and going to potlucks at the Gibbs House.

“Also, when College Game Day came to campus, riding my bike around the hilly campus at night, trying to place a geocache on campus, and game nights in Ackley Hall and Zimmerman Hall,” she added.

As far as formative experiences, she recalled how completing Level 1 rotations at Unified Clinics and Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital had a big impact on her career. “They gave me hands-on experience in a safe and empowering environment that formed the foundation of my career as an OT, a career I am extremely thankful for,” she said. “I learned in those two rotations, which were very different settings, how to apply the occupational therapy process and treat all people with dignity and respect.”

Emily, Mark and Maggie Scannell with Buster. 

Outside of work, Emily enjoys spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors camping, swimming and hiking. “My favorite is a dip in Lake Superior,” she said. 

Do you have an alumni success story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Submit your stories to WMUalumni.org/YourStory.