The quote “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it” by Stephen R. Covey couldn’t ring more true for the estimated 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) classed as neurodivergent. And if you are a teacher, that could mean there are quite a few neurodivergent students in your class. With Neurodiversity week running from the 16th (Saturday) to 20th of May, I thought now would be an ideal time to highlight the subject.
The term was originally coined in the late 1990s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, who is autistic herself. It is used to describe people who have any or more than one of the following: Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia ( to have a difficulty in the learning and understanding of arithmetic ), ADHD, Autism, Tourette’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia ( affecting language abilty and sometimes thought and perception ).
A neurodivergent brain processes information differently to someone classed as neurotypical, and this is reflected in thought, behaviour, sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions. But how can you adapt your teaching approach for neurodivergent students in the classroom? Here are four points to consider:
If you cannot easily tell what a student’s individual strengths and challenges are, then observe and ask. If you still struggle, try speaking with their parents or main caregiver to gain a deeper understanding, that can allow you to adapt your teaching to their needs.
Allow your neurodivergent students the space and time to rise to your expectations — just don’t be disappointed if it takes a little longer. They may just exceed them in style.
Ensure your teaching style is inclusive of neurodivergent students, recognising their differences but also embracing them. Look to modify your teaching style and adapt how you teach specific students. Remember to always check in with them to see how they’re feeling. Also consider using a multisensory teaching technique, a way of teaching which engages a few one sense at a time, using sight, hearing, movement, and touch.
Communication can be challenging for neurodivergent students. Typing may be an easier way for some to articulate themselves and to communicate with others. This is because they are able to control what they are saying and break it down into smaller parts.
With care and nurturing, evidence shows that a neurodivergent classroom translates to a diverse and positive working world, one filled with great promise and creativity. This is reflected in the way employers such as Google, Microsoft and Apple look to embrace neurodiversity by actively looking to recruit neurodivergent people.
Looking to the creative fields, the world has seen many achievements from the likes of David Bailey (Photographer) who has Dyspraxia and Daryl Hannah (Actress) and Temple Grandin (Activist) who both have Autism. Singer Cher is dyscalculic. Your neurodivergent students have the potential to become great achievers too.
For further information on Neurodiversity week, click on the link to its official website here: https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/neurodiversity-celebration-week-2020/
Vicky Chilton is