One thing parents tell me when they relate their neurodivergent children’s experiences at school is that they wish teachers understood their children better. We know the job of a teacher is a complex one, and balancing the many and varied needs of a large group of students with minimal resources is expected. I agree with parents that many teachers do not have an understanding of neurodivergent students needs, which makes supporting them even more difficult. I hope this information will help change that. It is the first in a series I am developing called Tips for Teachers.
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Image Description: at the top of the image is the heading “Tips for Teachers: Supporting Neurodivergent Students”. Th heading in in white chalk like font on a chalk board green rectangular background that covers the width of the image. Information in the image is presented in three columns across the page. Text in the columns, left to right, is presented below.
Learn about Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence
The word Neurodiversity refers to the fact that there is a lot of variety in human brains, the same as there is a lot of variety in human bodies.
The word Neurodivergent is used to describe a brain that differs significantly from society’s expected norms.
Neurodivergence refers to the reason for those differences. Some Neurodivergence is identified by labels like ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Aphasia, and many other things that can influence a persons learning style.
Focus on supporting and empowering
Neurodivergent students face challenges every day that other students do not. These challenges may be sensory (including heightened senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch), social, information processing, language processing (verbal and written).
As a result they often feel overwhelmed and undervalued. They may behave in ways that others will call disruptive, demanding, naughty, or attention seeking.
Accepting behaviour as a form of communication and working to understand what the student is trying to say, then finding supportive and empowering ways to interact with them will help much more than excluding and disciplining.
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Create a sensory friendly class room
- reduce visual distractions
- reduce unnecessary noise
- minimise temperature changes
- minimise strong smells
- ensure good ventilation
- provide space for relaxing and sensory deprivation
- provide sensory aids like ear defenders, sunglass, fidget toys
- provide a variety of options for seating
- make space for and encourage movement
- offer a variety of activities and opportunities for learning both inside and outside the classroom at every age and stage
At the bottom left of the page is a picture of 5 simple outlines representing people, each with a different coloured head (green, blue, yellow, orange and red) that has a brain inside. Two of the people are larger, to represent adults, and three are smaller to represent children.
Justified to the bottom right of the page is the text
Recognise diversity is valuable and desirable,
and that supporting it, rather than aiming for conformity to standards,
is necessary to give neurodivergent students the best opportunities possible.
At the very bottom of the page in small print:
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