Monday, 20 June 2016

Three ways to add a little more neuroharmony into our classrooms.

The next social justice frontier just might be an acceptance of everyone's own unique form of neurodiversity.  We all are different, and how we learn and manifest our intelligence is no exception. Although many proponents of neurodiversity suggest every learner is unique, much of the current focus upon neurodivergence is in it's most common manifestations: Asperger's Syndrom, Non-Verbal Learning Disabilties, Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  In the meantime, before society  begins to take a long, hard look at how a student's neurodiversity shouldn't put them at odds with society's norms in terms of socially acceptable behaviour teachers in schools around the world must learn to help neurodivergent students knowing full well that there is never a magic bullet.

So, what are some ways that teachers can bring neuroharmony into their classrooms now?

1. Start by developing at least a basic understanding of Neurodivisity and Neuroharmony. The TED-Ed Lesson Educating a neurodiverse world  is a great place to begin. Feel free to use it, customize it for your own needs, or share it with friends or colleagues. Read Steve Silberman's fabulous NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodivirsity.  While you're at it, watch Temple Grandin's seminal TED Talk The world needs all kinds of minds.  She speaks a truth that all teachers need to hear. Andrew Solomon's simutaneously heartwrentching and uplifting book Far From the Tree will leave you with a profoundly deeper understanding of difference and why difference is ironically what makes us the same.

2. Employ the concepts of Universal Design into the management routines of your classroom and the lesson structures of your classroom. What can you do to make your classroom as neuroharmoneous as possible?  The link above leads you to a fabulously deep resource that enable every teacher to create a learning environment that benefits all students. As well, Technology has had a huge impact upon how educators can help students learn and represent their learning. This list just published by ISTE contains a number of digital tools and apps that let educators make the principles of Universal Design come to life: 27 Tools for Diverse Learners

3. Start to learn how to think like a student who is Neurodivergent. One of the most profoundly humbling and eye-opening experiences as a special education teacher was the day I attended an "experience dyslexia" workshop. During that workshop, myself and 25 other teachers rotated throughout a series of simulations for a wide variety of common learning disabilties. Within 5 minutes of the dyslexia simulation I wanted to cry, yell and punch the facilitator. The level of frustration I felt changed how I teach Language Arts from that day forth. How powerful would it be for an educator to spend a day experiencing neurodiversity? The following resources (a mixture of fiction, talks, and resources from reputable websites) will help you gain understanding and empathy for your neurodiverse students.

Understanding Nonverbal Learning Disabilities

Pervasisve Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified

Asperger/Autism Network 

Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project

Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

Rosie King's How autism freed me to be myself

Alix Generous's How I learned to communicate my inner life with Asperger's

Steve Silberman's The Forgotten History of Autism  and his article The Geek Syndrome

Let's access and celebrate the LearnAbilties of all of our students.