Over the past few years, there has been more talk about Social Emotional Learning. As part of that conversation, many educators are hearing new terms. One of those terms is neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity can be described as the fact that different people experience the world around them in different ways.
As a teacher, we have always known that our classroom was filled with students that approached learning in different ways. We were always tasked with differentiating our instruction to support those students. However, with more research being spent on brain science and the act of learning, we are understanding neurodiversity much more.
Two terms that have become more common place are "neurotypical" and "neurodivergent". These are relatively new terms. So much so, that the spell check on Blogger is telling me I am spelling them wrong. A neurotypical person is best described as someone who interacts with society in ways that are acceptable to agreed upon social constructs. A traditional, but very antiquated, word to describe these folks would be "normal".
Neurodivergent people (Me!) are the opposite of neurtypical people. Their approach to learning and processing tends to go against the accepted views of societies or educational institutions. People that have dyslexia and ADHD are a few examples of the types of neurodivergent people out there. The more I learned about being neurodivergent, the better I felt about myself. So many of my past and current struggles were able to be understood from the lens of neurodivergency. Once I understood it better, I was able to own it. I was able to be empowered by it. I no longer viewed my neurodivergence by my learning deficiencies, but through the special ways I do learn.
It can be very hard for a neurdivergent person or student to "fit in" to a structure or system that was designed for and by neurotypical people. The more I have learned about my on neurodivergent behaviors, the better I have been in understanding the neurodiversity in my classroom. You would be hard pressed to find a classroom that did not have some neurodivergent students. Those students can often be overlooked or labeled as "busy bodies", "day dreamers", "quiet types", and more because they do not fall into the neurotypical definition of a student. This has to change for our students.
One of the things I have been able to do as a neurodivergent person is share the fact that I am neurodivergent with students. I will mention that I have ADHD and that I manage dyslexia. I have found that the more that I have shared, the more that students have spoken up about how they are neurodivergent. Creating a safe space that allows for students to feel comfortable with who they are is key to any classroom.
There are are some things that you can do to support a neurodiverse classroom,
- Talk about neurodiversity in class and what it means
- Allow for fidget devices and/or bring in wobble chairs
- Let students stand or move around the classroom during a lesson when appropriate
- Avoid sarcasm
- Provide written directions whenever possible
- Break projects into smaller chunks with check-in points
- Talk to students who are neurodivergent and see what they need