February 1, 2023

We Need to Recognize Neurodiversity in the Classroom

Provide an inclusive classroom environment for all students by recognizing and accommodating neurological differences.

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As scientists have hacked away at understanding the human brain, one revelation stands out among the rest: human brains don’t all function the same. Whether it be nature or nurture, there’s a significant amount of diversity within the way our neurons connect and our thoughts process. 

Traditionally, neurodivergent (involving atypical brain function) students have been overlooked in academic settings. Individuals who aren’t neurotypical (not displaying neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior) have had to struggle to emulate neurotypical patterns. This historical push for neurological conformity has put neurodivergent students at an academic disadvantage, despite neurodiverse traits not necessarily having an effect on intellect.

Now, with an improved understanding of neuroscience and neurodiversity, we have the opportunity to radically improve the education system to work for a much wider swath of learners - resulting in a more inclusive, productive, and supportive society.

Understanding Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is an emerging term that describes the individual variations in brain functioning within a population. It’s not exclusive to any specific set of diagnoses, but often refers to the presence of Autism Spectrum Disorder , ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, and Anxiety within a population of individuals without any of these diagnoses. Neurodiversity can also include uncommon neurological abilities, like synesthesia.

Neurodiveristy recognizes that these, and other conditions, are a natural part of human diversity, rather than a problem or disorder to be fixed. The neurodiversity movement seeks to promote acceptance and understanding of neurodiverse individuals, and to advocate for their rights and inclusion in society.

The Impact of Neurodiversity in the Classroom

Neurodiversity in students can affect a classroom in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Learning needs and styles: Neurodiverse students may have different ways of processing information and may require different teaching methods and accommodations in order to learn effectively. For example, a student with dyslexia may need extra time to process written information, or may benefit from using a computer with a text-to-speech program. Verifying that your programs adhere to the best practices of accessibility will help ensure all students are given an equal opportunity to learn. 
  • Attention and focus: Students with conditions such as ADHD may have difficulty staying focused for long periods of time, or may have trouble filtering out distractions in the classroom. Accommodations such as seating arrangements, movement breaks, and alternative assignments can help these students to better focus and engage with the material.
  • Social interactions: Students on the autism spectrum may have difficulty with social interactions and may need extra support in understanding social cues and navigating social situations in the classroom. This can include providing social skills training, or teaching the student how to communicate their needs and preferences effectively.
  • Sensory processing: Some neurodiverse students may have difficulty processing certain types of sensory information, such as loud noises or bright lights. Accommodations such as noise-canceling headphones, or dimming the lights can help these students to feel more comfortable and focused in the classroom.
  • Adaptability: Some neurodiverse students may have difficulty adapting to changes in routine or environment. It is important for teachers to provide advance warning of changes and to have a plan in place to support the student during those changes.

Overall, accommodating neurodiverse students in the classroom can be a complex task and may require a tailored approach for each individual student. It is important for teachers to work closely with parents, other educators, and specialists to understand the unique needs and strengths of each neurodiverse student, and to create a classroom environment that is inclusive, supportive, and respectful of all students.

Supporting Neurodivergent Students

To accommodate these needs, teachers may need to provide alternative learning strategies and accommodations, such as allowing students to move around the room during class, or providing additional visual aids to help students understand a concept.

Teachers may also need to be aware of how they are communicating with neurodiverse students, as some students may have difficulty understanding or responding to verbal instruction.

It is also important to note that, although a classroom may have a number of students with different neurological differences, each student is unique and so their needs and accommodations may vary greatly, it is essential to be open to listening to the student's and their families needs, and to work collaboratively with them to find the best approach to help them succeed in the classroom.

Creating an inclusive and respectful classroom culture that values and respects the diversity of all students, including those with neurological differences, can help to promote acceptance and understanding of neurodiversity among all students.

Why Addressing Neurodiversity Matters

Providing educational materials that are accessible to all types of learners boosts class morale, supports a more inclusive group of students, and, ultimately, can increase average class performance. Teachers have the power to define their classroom’s culture and, when that culture supports everyone, all students are given the opportunity to succeed. 

Recognizing neurodiversity in the classroom is crucial for providing inclusive and equitable education for all students. By taking the time to recognize and accommodate neurological differences, teachers can ensure that all students feel comfortable and included in the classroom. This helps create an environment where all students can reach their full potential, regardless of their neurological differences.

Teachers play a vital role in creating a supportive and understanding environment for neurodivergent students. It is ultimately their responsibility to create an atmosphere that is free of judgment or bias, and instead fosters acceptance and understanding. Teachers can do this by educating themselves on neurological diversity and the particular needs of their students, and providing accommodations and resources accordingly. By making inclusive changes, teachers can help ensure that all students are able to reach their full potential and feel accepted and valued in the classroom.

At Mastery Coding, supporting each and every student is our mission: no matter their background, economic status, or condition they may have. Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue a STEM career - and STEM advances best when all perspectives are included in the dialogue. 

Mastery Coding delivers curriculum in a way that is inclusive and accessible to students with neurodiverse needs. To learn more about how Mastery Coding supports students see Product Accessibility


Olivia has background in behavioral ecology and data analysis. She develops and implements SEO, CRO, social media strategy, and authors multi-disciplinary content for our blog, & our social media sites. She's contributed to many of the STEM tie-ins within our curriculum, authored our SEL course, and is a specialist in neurodiverse learning strategies.

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