Knowledge building: Autism and sensory processing differences
Knowledge building: ADHD and executive function
Knowledge building: Co-occurrence and mental health
Knowledge building: Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
Part 5. Designing routines and environments to support inclusive practices
Knowledge building: Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia
Knowledge building: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Knowledge building: Speech and language differences

Neurodiversity in schools

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Welcome to the course! This online course is designed to help teachers, school leaders, and others who work with neurodivergent students in schools to understand neurodiversity and common neurodivergences present in the classroom. It will explore what educators need to know and understand about neurodiversity, and introduce strategies and approaches at the school, classroom, and individual student level that effectively support neurodivergent students.  

The impetus for this course 

In 2023 The Education Hub undertook a survey that captured the perspectives of teachers, parents, people working in supporting services, and neurodivergent students. The student respondents commonly wrote that they wanted their teachers to have access to professional development on neurodiversity, which primarily focuses on creating greater understanding and empathy, as well as teaching them ways to better support their students. As one respondent wrote, ‘The biggest impact you could ever have is by educating teachers and schools on the different disorders, what they look like, how they feel and the challenges for the students. If a teacher doesn’t understand these disorders, they can’t first of all empathise with their students or support them’. This course endeavours to do this, and more.  

While a single course cannot cover everything that teachers, school leaders, or others who engage with neurodivergent young people need to know about neurodiversity or how they can best work with and support neurodivergent children and young people, we have endeavoured to develop a course that provides a comprehensive introduction to neurodiversity in schools, and allows participants at different stages of their journey to follow slightly different pathways and to engage in different ways.  

The aims of the course are to support you to: 
  • Learn about general and specific strategies for supporting neurodivergent students in a range of contexts  
  • Build knowledge and understanding of many of the most common forms of neurodivergence 

The course is made up of readings, videos with a range of experts including teachers, specialists, parents, and students, and practical activities designed to help you relate what you are learning to your own practice. There are spaces to think, share, reflect, and discuss ideas and practice with other participants (if you are doing this course with colleagues from the same team or school, you might like to consider setting aside some time to work through some of the reflective questions as a group). Throughout the course, you will be encouraged to reflect on your current practice, evaluating the inclusivity and accessibility of your classrooms and schools, and plan how you might modify your practice to support all students’ learning. The workbook component of the course enables you to organise your learning and plan how you will apply it in your practice. We encourage you to complete the workbook exercises because they will help you to translate the theory of what you are learning in the course into practice. There may be elements that you are already using and applying, but the workbook has been designed to support you to evaluate your current practice and take a comprehensive, coherent approach to supporting neurodivergent students. 

The knowledge-building sections of the course allow you to learn more about specific forms of neurodivergence such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other specific learning differences. You will learn what different kinds of neurodivergence may look like in the classroom, and how you can support your neurodivergent students to succeed and thrive in their learning using general strategies that are effective for all students, as well as more individualised practices that respond to a specific need.   

In this course, you will explore the following topics:  

  • Neurodiversity and the neurodiversity paradigm  
  • Building partnerships with students, families, school staff, and other professionals to support neurodivergent students  
  • Key principles and school-wide approaches to create inclusive support  
  • The Universal Design for Learning framework 
  • Supportive environments and effective routines  
  • The importance of executive function and emotion regulation, and how to support them in learning programmes  
  • Understanding and responding to challenging events in the classroom  

What the course does not cover 

There are limitations to what any course can offer, and we want to be upfront about some of the areas which this course does not cover. 

  1. It does not provide guidance on funding applications or navigating different educational support and funding systems. 
  2. It does provide introductory guidance and detail on specific approaches that research indicates can support neurodivergent students such as structured literacy, Universal Design for Learning, and mental health support. However, we acknowledge that the often extensive training which many of these approaches require is beyond the scope of this course. 
  3. Many neurodivergent students require specialist support from trained professionals. It is not the intention of this course to suggest that teachers should perform these roles, nor to provide detailed guidance on speech language therapy, occupational therapy, and other forms of specialist support. Our focus is on things that teachers can know, do, and change which will make school a place where more neurodivergent students feel well and can thrive. It also provides information about different specialist support roles and effective ways that teachers and schools can engage in partnership with them.  

  

Navigating the course

 The course has been designed to provide a coherent, curated pathway through the content. The ideas often relate back to those presented in previous parts, and the activities in each part of the course are designed to build on one another. The course alternates between longer parts which explore a specific concept or approach to practice that is important for the effective support of neurodivergent students, and shorter knowledge-building sections which focus on a specific form of neurodivergence (note that there are no workbook activities in the knowledge-building sections). However, we also realise that this pathway may not work for some participants. You may already have a firm grasp of the ideas and strategies being covered in particular parts of the course, and therefore may skip over them. Or you may have a particular area of interest or need, and therefore start your course journey from the part of the course that engages with that topic.  

We encourage you to engage with the content in the way that best works for you, and with lifetime access to the course, you are able to return as and when you need. We do, however, hope that in time you will explore the content contained in each part of the course. Often when we return to information that we know already but which is presented in a new form and context, it raises new observations and reflections, serving to deepen our understanding and practice. Similarly, engaging with content that we might not necessarily think immediately relevant to our needs or situation can in fact surprise us with unexpected but beneficial learning.  

Thank you for joining us on this course – we hope you will find it both challenging and rewarding.