With learning institutions being the place where most kids most of their time, and with 1 in 7 people being neurodivergent, it’s evident that this condition must be acknowledged from an early age.
Let’s start with the basics. First and foremost, what is neurodivergence?
Neurodivergence is a term used to refer to the biological fact that there are countless manifestations of the human brain.
A neurodivergent individual’s neurotype differs from that of the majority of the population in one aspect or another. Some common types of neurodivergence include:
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
As you can tell, there are many different kinds of neurodivergence and as with neurotypical individuals (those whose neurotypes are considered standard or typical in society) every individual is different. One individual with autism can be significantly different from another individual with ADHD, and moreover, two individuals with ADHD can be totally different as well.
Some neurodivergent individuals like to refer to their condition as a variance in processing – much like computer code or software. You may be running a Microsoft PC, while I may be running an Apple computer, for instance.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that things can be challenging for neurodivergent kids when the society is built for people who run on Microsoft, but not on Apple.
Working with Neurodiversity in Education
It’s crucial to comprehend that neurodivergence and the minor are not separable. Essentially, if you take dyslexia from the kid, for instance, you eliminate the minor’s entire life experience.
This is the basis to work from when dealing with neurodivergence children in learning institutions. The key is to work with the child or teenager and their needs, and not to attempt to go around or ignore their neurodivergence.
So, what can you do?
Do Research and Share Resources
Seeking knowledge on neurodivergence and its many forms is the first step in creating a neurodiverse-friendly classroom.
We can all gain a lot from understanding those who see the world differently from us, and there are some excellent resources that can help you in this learning 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.
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It’s not just teachers who need to strive to learn more about neurodivergent individuals in society. For a more productive and exciting classroom, it’s important to teach kids about what it may mean to have dyslexia, Tourette’s, OCD, ADHD, autism or any other type of neurodivergence.
Here are some effective approaches you can use:
- Teach about neurodivergence both explicitly and by including it in the curriculum (for instance, teaching about key figures in history who were neurodivergent).
- Normalize differences in learning needs and styles by modeling various ways of performing tasks and allowing for flexibility with phrases like “no single method is the right way”.
- Develop a sense of collaboration by making sure that every person feels valued and knows they have a contribution, and by encouraging teachers to learn the strengths and needs of each student.
- Reinforce the brilliance of every person’s differences by encouraging students to be proud of their uniqueness, and to see themselves as part of an inclusive classroom and a larger school community.
- Encourage empathy and acceptance by teaching minors that every person is different and that one individual’s needs can be different from that of another individual.