Facsimile of self-portrait drawing of Leonardo da VinciImagine that Leonardo da Vinci was a child growing up in contemporary times and school authorities had to determine whether or not he should receive an IEP (Individual Education Plan).  Here’s what the meeting might look like:

Video Transcript

Principal:  ”Okay, I think we’re ready to start.  Who wants to get the ball rolling?”‘

School Psychologist:  ”Well, I ran him through some tests, but his attention was all over the place.  He kept looking at a part of the wall in my office where the plaster had fallen off, and said he saw a battleship fighting a dragon.  I’m wondering whether he needs a workup by a psychiatrist to rule out possible psychotic features.”

Learning Disability Specialist:  “I’m concerned that he occasionally writes backwards.  As you probably know, this is a soft sign for neurological dysfunction.”

Classroom Teacher:  “Yes, I’ve seen those reversals in my classroom.  He never seems to get any work done.  He’ll start one thing and then lose interest.  He’s always doodling in the margins of the worksheets I give him.  And when he’s not doing that, he’s looking out the window daydreaming.”

Learning Disability Specialist:  ”I’ve also noticed that in my remediation sessions with him.  He appears to be a good candidate for psychostimulant medication.”

Classroom Teacher:   “Yes!  That would help me SO MUCH!  Last week, we found him in the boiler room with a screw driver.  He said he had a great idea about how to improve the heating duct system in the school.  We had to put him on detention.”

Learning Disability Specialist:  ”He’s falling way behind in reading and most of his other academic subjects, although, his math and science aren’t too bad.  I recommend that we take him out of his art class for more one-on-one remediation to focus on his spelling, handwriting, and phonemic awareness skills.”

Principal:  “That sounds like a great idea.  And can you set up some workable instructional objectives.  I’m concerned that with the Common Core Standards to meet he’s just going to be lost.  And then what’s going to happen to him?  I mean, he can’t exactly make a living by doodling, now, can he?”

Actually, I think he CAN, and he DID!

Teachers!  Don’t let this happen to the little Leonardos in your classrooms!   Find out as much as you can about their gifts and abilities.  Read my book:  Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life

For more information about neurodiversity, see also my book The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain.

This page was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.

Follow me on Twitter:  @Dr_Armstrong

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Cover of book The Power of NeurodiversityColor cover of book Neurodiversity in the Classroom



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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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4 Responses
  1. Hello Dr. Armstrong, we’ve corresponded in the past … but I thought I’d let you know I just successfully completed my PhD on the ‘nature of learning’ (Simon Fraser Uni., Vancouver, Canada) and I think you’d be interested in my research results and conclusions. My main conclusion – from a study of autobiography and a fieldwork research study – is that learning his highly idiosyncratic in nature, much more so than previously recognized, and that personalized approaches to fostering student learning are an appropriate though often overlooked pedagogical gesture.

    I’m happy to send you a copy of the abstract, the complete dissertation (200 pp) or both. I cite your work and many others (e.g. Howard Gardner, John Miller) building support for personalized approaches to support ALL students.

    Best wishes, Michael Maser
    michaelrmaser @ gmail.com
    michael maser.net

  2. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for getting back in touch! Did you do any work with Kieran Egan at Simon Fraser? I’d like to see what you’ve done – it sounds fascinating – but because of time limitations, make it the abstract for now. I’m a big fan of idiosyncratic learning!

  3. What a thought-provoking video concept! It’s a powerful reminder that some of the world’s greatest thinkers and creators might have been sidelined in our modern educational system. Embracing neurodiversity and understanding that different minds have their unique strengths is essential. Kudos to Dr. Armstrong for shedding light on this important topic. Every classroom might just have a budding genius with potential like Leonardo da Vinci. Let’s make sure we nurture and support them instead of stifling their brilliance.

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