By Saranya Rengaraj, Founder-Director of Third Eye (a centre for autistic children)
Neurodivergent learners constitute a sizeable number of children at any given time, and it is now felt that fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance, will address stigma and hardships faced by them besides making them productive citizens by aiding their education.
In fact, ACCESSIBLE education is crucial for neurodiverse learners as it ensures equal opportunities for them to thrive academically and socially. By providing tailored support and accommodations, accessible education allows neurodiverse learners to access, and engage with, educational content in a way that suits their unique needs.
Accessible education promotes inclusive learning environments that cater to diverse learning styles, communication preferences and sensory sensitivities. It also fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance, reducing stigma and promoting positive mental health. Ultimately, accessible education empowers neurodiverse learners to reach their full potential and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to society.
Key uses of accessible education for neurodiverse learners…
- Tailored Support: Accessible education provides individualized support to meet the specific needs of neurodiverse learners, such as providing additional time for assignments or examinations, offering visual aids or alternative formats for information and implementing assistive technologies.
- Accommodations: Accessible education ensures that accommodations are in place to create a level playing field for neurodiverse learners. These can include modifications to the learning environment, such as providing a quiet space or reducing sensory distractions, as well as adapting teaching methods to suit different learning styles.
- Inclusive Learning Environments: Accessible education promotes inclusive classrooms where neurodiverse learners are valued and respected. It encourages collaboration, understanding and acceptance among peers, fostering positive social interactions and reducing stigmatization.
- Personalized Learning: Accessible education recognizes that neurodiverse learners have unique strengths and challenges. It enables educators to personalize instruction, allowing learners to progress at their own pace and focus on areas where they excel, fostering a sense of achievement and self-confidence.
- Skill Development: Accessible education focuses on developing essential skills beyond academic knowledge, such as self-advocacy, problem-solving and self-regulation. These skills empower neurodiverse learners to navigate challenges, build resilience and succeed in various aspects of life. Overall, accessible education for neurodiverse learners aims at creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment that maximizes their potential, fosters their well-being and prepares them for success in education and beyond.
The understanding of neurodiversity in the last two decades or so is slowly changing on how people think about the topic and how we treat neurodivergent people. This concept of neurodiversity that emerged during autism awareness and rights activism, is adding to the growing understanding of neurodivergent people and thereby making them more acceptable. Our schools and classrooms must catalyze this empowerment with accessible education.
What is neurodiversity?
The term, ‘neurodiversity’, is used to explain the distinctive ways our brains work. Although everyone’s brain may develop similarly, no two brains function alike. Being neurodivergent means having a brain that works differently from that of an average person.
Common Neurodiversity Conditions
▪ Autism, or Autism Spectrum Conditions
▪ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
▪ Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
Many neurodivergent persons experience different emotional and behavioral symptoms. They may face issues with such soft skills as emotional intelligence, social interactions or the ability to work effectively in a group.
Signs of Neurodiversity
▪ Struggling with reading and writing
▪ Limited eye contact with others
▪ Finding it difficult to cope with crowds
▪ Aversion to bright lights
▪ Aversion to loud and/or sudden noises
▪ Aversion to social situations
▪ Difficulty in following instructions
▪ Difficulty in playing with toys appropriately or playing with peer group
▪ Inability to identify common objects