Welcoming Neurodiversity into the Classroom

Today we had a visiting student.  He and his family are considering our school.  He has a “neurodiverse” mind.  I am an advocate of supporting and embracing the neurodiverse minds in our classrooms, as I truly believe they have a place in our society.  I know their unique approach to problems and scientific methodology enhances the classroom experience generating fascinating discussion and a creative approach to setting up experiments.  Thus, I welcome diversity in my room.

This student, within five minutes, had touched nearly every “interesting” item in the classroom.  It was difficult for him to focus on the science experiment the others were designing and carrying out.  A learning support teacher was accompanying him and her full-time attention was required to help him stay on task.   His mind went in 100 directions as he was faced with each task within the experimental procedure.  He made a myriad of fascinating connections that he had to share.  Some comments fit with the direction of the objectives while others, at the surface, seemed to take us far off task.  However, with the patient guidance of the learning support teacher, we could see the logic of the connections.  Additionally, she was able to help him stay focused in such a way that he could achieve the objectives of the lesson.  In the end it was a win-win situation in which everyone benefitted.

Dyslexic and autistic minds as well as other neurodiverse “conditions” that seem to find themselves mainstreamed more and more frequently in the classroom are challenging while simultaneously rewarding to the class.  I find that it is so much easier on all involved to have support in the classroom when mixing extremely different minds.  With proper support each type of mind benefits from the presence and perspective of the other minds.  While at times it is exhausting, in the end, I am thrilled to have neurodiversity in my science classroom.  Neurodiversity brings positive energy, more engaging discussions, opportunities for growth in collaboration between students, opportunities to gain appreciation for other minds, unique perspectives, and simply stated, a stimulating environment.  However, proper support is essential for the maximum benefits to occur.