Color photo of classroom with two students and one teacher shown.This is video #10, the conclusion to my 10-video series on an Introduction to Neurodiversity based on a course I taught at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education.  In this video I focus on how neurodiversity can best be integrated into the society around it. I first look at the big picture and envision how neurodiversity fits into a broader perspective that includes a range of diversities, including those of race, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and biodiversity. Then I examine the likely resistance of special education programs to the idea of neurodiversity, including their need to identify students by disability in order to satisfy quotas and meet federal requirements, and their concern with ”raising up” special needs students to ”grade level” standards. I suggest that it may be possible for teachers to use a deficit-oriented paradigm to get student INTO special education, but a strength-based paradigm to TEACH them once they are within the system. Finally, I look at the potential for a new type of educator in the public schools, a neurodiversity specialist, who will train teachers, assess students using strength-based measures, and dovetail their duties with other diversity, equity, and inclusion programs within their schools or districts.

As I point out in my article for Educational Leadership, ”Neurodiversity:  The Future of Special Education?:

‘There are several positive initial steps we might take [to implement neurodiversity in special education programs].  First, school districts that have existing programs, departments, or offices devoted to inclusion, diversity, or equity (such as the Springfield Public Schools in Missouri and the Clark County School System in Nevada) can begin to liaise with their departments of special education to integrate the values of neurodiversity in helping students with special needs succeed. One way to begin might involve setting up a schoolwide “Neurodiversity Fair,” where both typically developing kids and kids with various learning differences would showcase their gifts and strengths through art, plays, musical performances, sports, and other creative channels.
Another strategy might be to create a classroom curriculum on the importance of diversity (in general) and neurodiversity (in particular) for creating positive changes in the world.
In addition, districts can create a “neurodiversity coordinator” role within their departments of special education. Ideally, the coordinator would be someone who has completed a thesis or dissertation on the strengths of people with a specific learning difference or on some aspect of neurodiversity. The coordinator should be familiar with the strength-based literature on kids with special needs (see notes sections of Armstrong 2011, 2012 for a good start) and competent in administering strength-based assessments. This person could advise regular and special education teachers on how to create strength-based instructional strategies for neurodiverse students and provide professional development to the district’s teachers.
Finally, special educators themselves could establish study groups, conduct action research, and do individualized study of neurodiversity using the growing body of information available in the field, effecting change from the grassroots up. Although there would be significant challenges involved in bringing about this change, the benefits would be many. We owe it to our neurodiverse students to give them the best, most innovative ideas education has to offer.”

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I’m the author of 20 books including my latest, a novel called Childless, which you can order from Amazon.

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