Introduction

Neurodiversity is a fact of life that is often overlooked in the workplace, schools, and the  community. Individuals who don’t pick up on social cues are considered “socially awkward.” Individuals who don’t make proper eye contact are called “rude” or “nervous.” Individuals who can’t sit still regarded as “hyper.” Individuals who have difficulty communicating are thought of as “slow.” However, this isn’t the case and shouldn’t be thought of as such! The more the public doesn’t understand diagnoses like Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and dyslexia, the worse things will get for those with these conditions. Teaching students about neurodiversity is the first of many steps to creating an inclusive community that is accepting of all, neurodivergent or neurotypical.

Resources

There are many resources available on the internet for teaching students about neurodiversity, specifically autism. Each one of these materials were designed with the goal to help people understand the experiences of the neurodivergent community and express that neurodiversity is a “normal” part of humanity.

Lesson Plans

  1. Lesson Introducing the Concept of Neurodiversity: Big Deal Media provides the lesson plan “Neurodiversity: Negotiating the World … Differently” to help high school students comprehend what life is like for a person with autism and to teach them about neurodiversity. This lesson, created to be completed in one class period, consists of various prompts meant to engage students in conversation and reflection along with video clips from the film Neurotypical, which aim to educate students about autism from the point of view of an autistic individual. The main goals of this lesson plan are for students to define and recognize neurodiversity in the world around them and understand that people with and without autism or other conditions take part in the world differently.
  2. Workshop Two: ADHD – What Does It Really Mean?: Columbia provides an ADHD Workshop “to increase  teachers’ comfort with common topics of adolescent health and improve the interaction between the school and the School Based Health Clinic (SBHC).” The workshop includes an ADHD quiz to test your knowledge, the definition of ADHD and an explanation of what causes it, information on how ADHD is diagnosed and a teacher’s role, the demographics of ADHD and disorders often associated with it, and the treatment of ADHD.

Articles

  1. How to Talk to Your Students About Neurodiversity: This article aims to give teachers tips on how to teach neurodiversity to young students while also supplying examples of success from someone who has tried these suggestions in the classroom. The author recommends bringing in a professional to explain neurodiversity in a way students will understand, reading books about neurodiversity to students, and teaching students about the brain and its functions. The article provides teachers an opportunity to teach their class about neurodiversity in a creative way!
  2. A New Frame of Mind: Teaching Tolerance features the article, A New Frame of Mind, to explain “what autistic students wish you knew about who they are and how they learn.” Reading this piece is a great way for students to learn about the school experience from an autistic student’s perspective, past methods and therapies professionals have tried to “fix” autism, and the correct way to interact with autistic individuals.
  3. Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2019: The ADHD Foundation posted an article during Neurodiversity Celebration Week to educate the public about neurodiversity and the ways schools can support neurodiverse students in the classroom. (The article also supplies a list of resources, articles, and videos for those who want to learn more about the concept.) This resource is beneficial for students because it breaks down disorders or syndromes that a person must possess to be described by the word “neurodiversity” and explains both neurodiversity in the community and the classroom.

Informational Sites

  1. Neurodiversity: Definition and Information: Disabled World has a page on their website dedicated to neurodiversity. On this page, “information and definitions regarding neurodiversity including the neurodiverse movement, neurodivergent and neurotypical meanings” are given. The information provided, though it can be considered a bit dry and is not incorporated into a fun activity, is very important for students to understand because it lays the foundation for learning further about individuals with conditions like ADHD, Autism, and Dyslexia. If they don’t understand what neurodiversity is, it will be tougher for students to empathize with the experiences of the individuals who fall into this group!
  2. Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms & Definitions: Nick Walker, the author of this piece published by Neurocosmopolitanism, breaks down the most common mistakes he sees when people are writing or discussing concepts related to neurodiversity. He gives many examples of the correct and incorrect usage of terms, including neurodiversity movement, neurodivergent, neurotypical, and neurodiverse. Though it may take students a bit of practice, learning the correct way to use these terms is an important part of understanding the neurodivergent community!
  3. Neurodivergence: On Psychology Today, Andrew Solender shares his story of living with Asperger’s syndrome. He not only explains the symptoms of Asperger’s and how it differs from Autism but also opens up about his hardships with this disorder to “make an appeal on behalf of neurodivergent people living in neurotypical environments.” His struggle should teach students how tough it is to live with a developmental disorder in a world where neurodivergence is not the norm.

Conclusion

The struggles of the neurodivergent community may not disappear, but they can be lessened with more acceptance and recognition from society. Learning more about neurodivergence is the best way to make this happen. If we don’t understand what another person or group is going through, we can’t empathize with their experiences. These lesson plans, articles, and informational sites are a great place to start!

Additional Resources

  1. Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Suggested Activities: This site provides a few suggested activities for teachers to utilize during Neurodiversity Celebration Week. Activities such as inviting a neurodivergent individual to speak, putting up fact sheets, and running activities that promote inclusion and empathy are recommended. This is a great resource if you want ideas for promoting neurodivergence in the classroom!
  2. Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage: The Harvard Business Review published an article discussing how in recent years it has been uncovered that neurodiversity presents opportunities in business as neurodiverse individuals have unique abilities and may bring new perspectives to a company. The writers, however, also discuss the reasons why companies don’t use these talents, the challenges of a neurodiverse workforce, and more. This piece will be beneficial for students to read because it talks about how neurodiversity is a fact of life and should be recognized and used to the fullest.
  3. Neurodiversity: A Person, A Perspective, A Movement?: The Art of Autism runs through the history of neurodiversity, the reasons why we need terms like “neurodivergent,” civil rights and the neurodiversity movement, and other related concepts. Debra Muzikar, the writer, uses quotes to explain each of her subtopics, which causes the article to have a unique flow and makes it perfect to integrate into classroom lessons.