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Why Your School Needs a Neurodiversity Program and Tools that Support it

Updated: Jan 8

Neurodiversity is precisely that — diversity. While the terms neurodiversity, neurodivergent, and neurodivergence are relatively new, the conditions underneath are not. What is more recent to most is understanding these conditions and how they affect a person’s day-to-day life. Currently, the actual number of people who are neurodivergent is unknown, but it is thought that up to 20% of the population might be neurodivergent — and some studies show up to 30%.

Neurodivergent is when the brain processes information differently than is what is considered standard. Because the term covers several conditions (such as ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, Anxiety, and more), neurodivergent students will present differently in the classroom, depending on the condition and severity. Common neurodivergent flags are constantly forgetting homework, continually disrupting class, and difficulty staying focused, speaking, writing, or comprehending certain assignments and directions. Some students will have obvious symptoms and may already have educational plans in place. However, some children don’t present any symptoms but are struggling inside. This is because their brains are, for lack of a better layman’s term, “wired differently” and need information presented to them in ways that make sense to them. Their “acting out” is usually a form of frustration. The bottom line is that students with any conditions that fall under neurodiversity deserve the same opportunities as other students, and there are numerous ways to integrate programs and tools that help them succeed. One. Neurodiversity Aligns with Other DEI Programs and Policies

Almost all schools have DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies and programs. DEI programs promote vital values that foster respect for every person and circumstances different from their own. There are some naysayers of these programs, which we won’t address. We do want to say that we believe acknowledging and addressing inequities is beneficial for every student if done correctly and with the right intentions. While these differences are apparent for some groups, for some neurodivergent people, their condition is not easily seen, or their behavior might seem like a personality quirk. By adding neurodivergence to your program, you begin to understand the complexities behind these conditions and will have an easier time incorporating tools that help these students thrive. As a neurodivergent person, who was diagnosed in adulthood, I can now see the many ways I would have flourished if neurodivergence had been recognized and modifications had been made for me to flourish. Two. Social Development Outside the Classroom What is learned inside the classroom often translates outside. Many neurodivergent students have difficulty in social situations. There are numerous reasons for this, and they vary by child. Common causes include that often, their behavior is misunderstood, isolating them from others. Another is the pressure from trying to find their place inside and outside the classroom, combined with being different, causes anxiety and feelings of isolation. Research has found that 50% of autistic students struggle to create and sustain friendships. In terms of one’s personal development, a supportive social network impacts a person’s quality of life. Not having this support can lead to severe implications. Introducing diversity in school begins to pave the foundation of understanding and helps alleviate the weight that “being different” can bring. Three. Prep to Change the Future The world needs different voices, which must be nurtured, not silenced. You get the same result when you attack a problem the same way every time. This is why diversity and neurodiversity are so important. Every person brings a unique voice to the table, and through those new ways of looking at things, we can find changes that truly impact our world. Setting all students up for success is critical, and including ways to support neurodivergent students raises the bar for all students. Did you know many geniuses fall into being neurodivergent? This is often why smart kids feel bored in a traditional school setting. Ways to Help

Set Staff Up for Success Preparing school counselors, teachers, administrators, and other staff will help bring awareness to identifying and supporting diverse students. Provide easily accessible resources and access to training. It’s one thing to have a DEI program. However, it’s more important that your school lives by its policies every moment of each day. A policy itself does not change anything. Your school must implement the resources, tools, and services that will bring about real change to impact your students and the world. Talk to Professionals in Neurodiversity Professionals that specialize in neurodiversity are rising in every area of the country. They can help implement programs, bring resources to aid in discussions, and offer tools to consider for everyday learning. Reach out to Tracey for more information. Create a Self-Advocacy Friendly Environment Like any other group, neurodivergent people deserve a seat at the table — especially when speaking about neurodiversity and their needs. For neurodivergent individuals, self-advocacy provides them opportunities to actively advocate for appropriate accommodations and support. This includes providing a space for them to express their unique challenges and what resources/tools they need to be successful. It also allows them to participate in decision making processes for their own well-being. Visual Planning Add visual planning to your program. 65% of all individuals are visual learners, so a visual planning program supports a majority of your students. In particular, visual planning is critical for neurodivergent students. A visual planning app, like THRIVE, is a simple tool that can help a student go from 0 to 100 in a few clicks. Learn more about THRIVE for android and apple Neurodiversity is another part of DEI, and by adding it to your school’s program, you show your overarching commitment to all diversity of every type. The topic of neurodivergence should be integrated into both classroom lessons and policies dedicated to promoting equity in teaching and learning. Equal treatment results in equity only if everyone starts with equal access to opportunities.

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