What does neurodiversity look like in a classroom? First, it provides an inclusive membership, where people of all labels and those without labels are able to learn together. In order to bring this about, we need to abandon the “one size fits all” mentality that has guided education for too many years. Instead of a cookie cutter classroom, we need to craft a dynamically integrated approach that provides many different ways for students to absorb and express their knowledge of the curriculum.
A key tool in this endeavor is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL originally emerged from the fields of urban design and architecture, and refers to the process of crafting practical solutions to meet the needs of those with disabilities but at the same time benefitting those without labels as well. Good examples of UDL devices include speaker phones, curb cuts in sidewalks, and closed captioned television. Curb cuts, for example, benefit those with physical disabilities, but also those with bikes, skateboards, and baby carriages. Closed captioned television benefits those who are deaf, but also those who are learning how to read.
The classroom should be chock full of UDL methods and materials that enable those who are neurodiverse to learn in ways that are congruent with their brain differences, and also benefit non-labeled kids as well. I think particularly of multiple intelligences approaches, that allow kids, for example, to learn through kinesthetic, musical, spatial, interpersonal, naturalistic, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical modalities.
Kids who have disabilities in one area, will have the opportunity to learn through one or more of the other intelligences. And those who are strong in an area, will have the opportunity to become even stronger. For example, a child labeled ADHD who needs to move in order to learn, should have the chance to learn his threes times tables by walking around the classroom counting and jumping up on every third number. A dyslexic child can learn to read by using a rebus reading program, or by drawing pictures for vocabulary words.
We know that multiple intelligences activities of this kind are good for ALL kids, not just those with neurodiverse conditions. In the next few blogs I’m going to highlight some specific examples of UDL devices that are high tech and that benefit individuals with disabilities as well as those without labels. In the meantime, for a good website that focuses on UDL in education,go to the CAST website.
For more information about implementing neurodiversity in school settings, see my book Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life
This article was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Armstrong