Teaching Strategies for Neurodiversity

Mar 16, 2021 by

Neurodiversity - Wikipedia

We’re learning more about how the brain works all the time. We’re also learning to appreciate and understand the differences in the way each person thinks and learns, which is having a major positive impact on the education students receive in the modern classroom. As an educator, you’ll likely encounter many children with a range of diagnoses including autism, dyslexia, and ADHD during your career.

Every child deserves to have a high-quality education that allows them to thrive and reach their full potential. Instead of thinking about children with these diagnoses as “problem children,” it’s important to view them through the lens of neurodiversity so you can give them the academic help and attention they need in your classroom. Here are some basic teaching strategies for neurodiversity that you can implement to better serve all the students in your care.

Neurodiversity: An Important Approach for All Teachers 

Most teachers are extremely compassionate people who simply want the best for their students. With that said, it can be challenging to cope when some children learn differently or are disruptive in the classroom. In order to meet these challenges, adopting a teaching philosophy that embraces neurodiversity is key.

Neurodiversity is a term that was coined in the 1990s by sociologist Judy Singer to help reduce the stigma attached to autism, dyslexia, and other learning differences. Studies have shown that children with these diagnoses simply process information and learn differently from their peers and require a different approach in the classroom. This can cause issues in large classes without individual attention or during standardized tests that require absolute conformity.

Because you will inevitably have “neurodivergent” (children with learning differences) and “neurotypical” (conforming to established cultural standards for learning), it’s important to build your knowledge and curriculums with different types of thinkers in mind. It isn’t always easy, but it will serve your students’ unique needs and create a happier, more successful classroom.

Remember, Behavioral Issues Could Indicate a Lack of Understanding

Many students act out when they feel afraid or anxious. It’s common for students who are neurodivergent to have behavior issues when they’re having trouble understanding the curriculum because they might be overwhelmed, confused, and upset.

With this in mind, tailoring your lesson plans to meet the needs of different students in your classroom can be an effective method of preventing disruptive behavior while promoting a better understanding of the material. Classroom management is much easier when you consider the source of a child’s poor behavior because you can then take steps to correct the problem. It can sometimes be as simple as explaining a classroom concept in a different way or using different sensory tools to build understanding.

Present Neurodiversity Alongside Inclusion

Children need to feel safe and included in the classroom. Students who are neurodivergent or belong to a marginalized group often fall behind or have trouble making friends because they are excluded by their peers or the classroom’s expectations. The answer, however, isn’t always to place special needs children into “special ed” classrooms. In fact, this can be counterproductive as well as exclusionary.

The neurodiversity teaching approach supports inclusion efforts and must acknowledge intersectionality to help students thrive. Having students from diverse backgrounds, including neurodivergent children, in a single classroom helps to create a stronger, more inclusive classroom and allows all the students to learn valuable social and academic skills.

Listen – The Most Simple, Yet Effective Teaching Strategy There Is 

As an educator, you’ve got a lot to manage. You have to stay on top of classroom behavior, build strong bonds of trust with your students, teach them the curriculum, correct homework, and communicate with parents and administrators. When your mind is jumping from one thing to another, it’s easy to forget what’s most important: your students.

If you’re not sure exactly how to tailor your curriculum to meet the needs of children in your classroom with autism or dyslexia, stop and listen. Listen to what they’re saying and watch their behavior. If they struggle with language, observe them and ask their guardians for insights. Understanding where your students are coming from will help you to better understand neurodiversity and come up with new strategies to engage your students with learning disabilities and speech impediments.

In the end, it’s all about helping kids to learn in a safe and inclusive environment. There will be days when it seems impossible. But if you stop, listen, and adjust, it’s hard to go wrong. Remember, it’s all about the students!


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