CRSTE Cyeberconference 2010: Reflections on Participants’ Comments

Neurodiversity I'm happy to have received some comments already from participants in the CRSTE Cyberconference 2010, and would like to make some reflections on them in this post.  One issue that came up was the deficit-oriented paradigm that is too often used in special education.  One participant shared the experience of a friend who had attended special education as follows:   "They thought I was bad at something, so they tested me to find exactly how bad I was at it, and then spent the next years of my life making me do what I was bad at as much as possible."  Imagine instead if this individual had said:  "They thought I was good at something, so they tested me to find exactly how good I was at it, and then spent the next years of my life making me do what I was good at as much as possible."  What a difference this might have made in the self-concept, motivation, and transformation of this individual!  What needs to change in special education in order to effect this kind of a change in emphasis?  I don't believe that special educators intend to focus most of the attention on what is "bad" in students, but the system itself is constructed so that this is what usually happens.  There is a kind of "deficit" atmosphere that hangs over special education.  What needs to happen in order to change this emphasis to an "asset atmosphere?"  This is the sort of atmosphere that reigns over programs for the gifted and talented.  What would need to happen in order to take the atmosphere of a gifted classroom and apply it to the atmosphere of a "special education" classroom.  Of course, the concept of neurodiversity as I define it in my forthcoming book, recommends neither of tXhese kinds of classrooms, but rather a full inclusion classroom, where "normal" "disabled" and "gifted" categories are blurred, and each student is regarded in terms of her assets and challenges, achievements and needs.  One great example of such a "neurodiversity" school is the Patrick O'Hearn School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, which has just been renamed The William W. Henderson Inclusion School.  I'd like to hear from participants about other successful inclusion models that have been implemented around the country.  I feel that the term neurodiversity is one that can be useful to the inclusion movement, by providing a framework within which different kinds of brains can be nurtured in the classroom.

About the author

I am the author of 16 books including my latest: The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion (Tarcher-Perigee).
3 Responses
  1. Walter

    Thomas the Henderson Inclusion School sounds revolutionary in how we think of accommodating differences in the classroom! Is there a particular contact we should reach out to at Henderson if we would like to learn more?

  2. Janet Purcell

    I’m really liking the notion of “blurring the lines” among the categories we’ve artificially created for students. Nobody experiences disability 100% of the time, in every situation; nor is someone ALWAYS “gifted and talented”. Both conditions (and all in between) depend entirely on the task at hand. I think our challenge with inclusionary classrooms is to create collaborative learning situations where it is just as likely that the student experiencing disability is hailed as the resident expert (and the student with academic gifts as the novice learner) as the other way around. Knowing all our students well, and being aware of their strengths and capabilities will help us make the choices that lead to those situations.

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