Understanding and Celebrating Neurodiversity in Education
Children spend the majority of their time in school each week. With one-in-seven folks being neurodivergent, it’s important to consider and celebrate it from an early age. So, what is neurodivergence?
What is Neurodivergence?
Neurodivergence is a lay term that describes people whose brains develop or work differently than others for some reason. It reflects a fundamental biological fact that the human brain comes in limitless varieties. In fact, a neurodivergent person’s neurotype is different from most of society in one way or another. There are different types of neurodivergence including:
- ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- And More…
In fact, there is an infinite variety of neurodivergence in society. As with neurotypical people or those whose neurotypes are similar to most people in society, every person is different. For example, a person with ADHD can be quite different from an individual with autism.
On the other hand, two autistic individuals can be completely different too. Some neurodivergent individuals prefer to refer to their condition as a difference in processing similar to a computer program. For example, one person might be running on Apple while another might be running on Microsoft. But things can really get difficult for neurodivergent children when the world is built for folks that run on Apple and not Microsoft.
Working with Neurodiversity in Education
The most important thing to understand is the child and neurodivergence are not separate. For example, if you try to take autism from the child, you will be taking away his or her entire being. This should be the foundation when working with neurodivergence in a school setting. If a student wants to learn journalism online then you can help them with understanding the qualifications for disabled journalists. The key is to work with the child and his/her needs and not around their neurodivergence.
What Can You Do?
The first step to a neurodiverse-friendly learning environment is to understand neurodivergence and its sub-types. We all will benefit from learning more about fellow human beings. In fact, there are some great resources out there to get started in the process.
There is a wealth of knowledge online. You can find many factsheets and downloadable PDFs on all types of neurodivergence as well as suggestions for activities. You can print out these resources and share them as an excellent starting point.
Sure, teachers need to understand the needs of their neurodivergent students as a starting point. But it’s not enough. In fact, it’s important to teach their students about what it means to be autistic, to have OCD, ADHD, Tourettes, or any other type of neurodivergence.
Here are Some Approaches You Could Take
- Teach children and young individuals that every person is fundamentally different in order to encourage empathy and acceptance among them. Let them know that one person’s needs may vary greatly from another person’s.
- Let them know that people are brilliant in their own skin and encourage the students to take pride in their uniqueness. Let them view themselves as part of a diverse classroom & wider school community.
- Make sure that every pupil feels valued and knows that they have an impact. Encourage teachers to understand the strengths and needs of each student.
- Try to normalise different variations in learning styles by modelling different ways of undertaking tasks. Allow for flexibility by letting them know that no single method is the right way.
- Weave neurodiversity into the curriculum and teach about it explicitly. You may teach about popular figures in history who were neurodivergent.