Neurodiversity is a term used to describe neurological differences in the human brain. It sees the diverse spectrum of neurological difference as a range of natural variations in the human brain rather than as a deficit in individuals. It is an umbrella term that includes both conditions that are life-long and those that can develop throughout life, including acquired illness or brain injury, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, intellectual disability, mental health, and Tourette syndrome. Neurodiversity deliberately rejects the medical model of diversity that frames human differences as disorders that need to be cured in favour of a more social model of diversity as a natural occurrence.
Neurodiversity is extremely common and all teachers are likely to work with a number of neurodiverse students in the course of their careers. The strengths-based approach of neurodiversity has the potential to increase awareness and understanding about neurological difference while also reducing social stigma. The positive framing of difference in the neurodiversity model can also assist teachers and schools who may be thinking about how to support neurodiverse students to be successful learners.
An increasing number of studies exploring interventions for students with learning differences and difficulties emphasise the importance of taking an additive or strengths-based approach rather than characterising the challenges associated with forms of neurodiversity as problems to be fixed.
The concept of neurodiversity represents a strengths-based model which acknowledges that, while some children learn and think differently, these are simply differences and not deficits. The neurodiversity model shifts the focus away from the challenges that a neurodiverse individual may experience to the strengths that they possess. Designing learning programmes and tasks that allow children to draw on their known strengths can create opportunities for students to access the curriculum in ways that suit their individual abilities. Another benefit of the strengths-based approach of the neurodiversity model is that support can be provided to students who present some of the characteristics of neurodiversity but lack a formal diagnosis.
How well does your school understand the importance of emphasising the strengths as well as the challenges of neurodiverse students?
How confident do you feel to design learning programmes that allow your neurodiverse students to use their strengths while also tackling the aspects of learning and school life that they find more challenging?
How confident do you feel to act as both a facilitator and role model for approaches to neurodiversity in the classroom?
Trish and Fay Purdie-Nicholls discuss the underpinning principles for teaching and leadership, and the core practices they have developed to enable neurodiverse learners to demonstrate their intellect and capability.
"I found this section really informative – the case studies make it really easy to see how to take the next step... into the classroom"
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