I’m leaving on Monday to present a lecture on neurodiversity at the Title I Conference in Tampa, Florida. My presentation will be February 1, 2011 at 12:45 in Ballroom C of the Tampa Convention Center. In the presentation, I’ll be emphasizing how neurodiversity represents an opportunity to reframe our understanding of children with disability labels like “autism” “ADHD” and “dyslexia” to emphasize what they do right, rather than focusing all the attention on the negative. As it turns out, individuals with autism possess enhanced perceptual functioning, those with ADHD have a strong propensity for novelty-seeking (a key component of creativity), and dyslexics often possess superior three-dimensional spatial thinking processes. It’s important for educators to understand these positive qualities when they consider how best to structure appropriate interventions for these kids. I use the term “niche construction” to suggest how we can craft environments that are in synch with the positive qualities of neurodiverse children. Instead of regarding ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity or distractibility, for example, as negative behaviors to be suppressed with psychoactive medications such as Ritalin, niche construction suggests that we accept the high energy state of the child and provide a suitable environment, which might include giant bouncy rubber balls for them to sit on (to work out the wiggles), activities like role play and hands-on learning to promote academics, and plenty of physical education to provide an appropriate channel for their energies. For kids with autism, niche construction might include sensory filters like ear muffs to shield them from loud noises, academic activities that cater to their strong interests, and opportunities to work alone in quiet spaces. The dyslexic child, on the other hand, might benefit from colored plastic sheets to put in front of their reading material, speech-to-text software to be used in writing activities, and three-dimensional “pop-up” reading materials. This new “diversity” approach promises to celebrate the gifts of each and every child, regardless of disability label, and hopefully over time will supplant the “deficit” orientation that seems to rule special education and the education of “at risk” students (who should be considered “at promise”). At any rate, I hope those of you who will be attending the Title I conference will stop by Ballroom C on February 1 to catch my presentation. See you there!