Colorful illustration representing different ways people learn

Neuroeducation-Based Strategies for Neurodivergent Students.

Neuroeducation implies understanding how the student's brain works and how the nervous system affects their learning. Neuroeducation is an interdisciplinary field that combines neuroscience, psychology and education.

By integrating scientific insights into educational practices, neuroeducation seeks to optimize the learning experience for all students, including those with neurodivergent traits.

When it comes to neurodivergent students who have neurological differences such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or other learning conditions, neuroeducation can provide valuable insights and strategies for their education. 

Thus, this article intends to highlight the contributions of Neuroeducation to the creation of learning environments for neurodivergent students:

1. Embrace Different Learning Styles:

Each human being is unique and therefore has its own style of learning. Some learn by listening to lectures; others benefit by fixing the matter through texts; and there are still those students who broaden their knowledge in a practical way.

The VARK method, developed by Neil Fleming in 1992, concerns the way learning occurs through four cognitive skills. Vark is the acronym for Visual (visual), Auditory (auditory), Read/Write (read/write), and Kinesthetic (kinesthetic) learning style. Let's check out each of them:
  • Visual: students with a visual preference learn best when information is organized visually, such as in maps, diagrams, tables, video classes, infographics, and symbols.
  • Auditory: learning aural preference has to do with retaining and understanding information that is spoken or heard, as in the case of seminars, debates, podcasts, read-aloud, songs, or interviews.
  • Read/Write: in this style, knowledge is best absorbed when it is structured in the form of words, emphasizing reading and writing in all its forms, such as texts, books, handouts, manuals, abstracts, articles, reports, surveys, and schemes.
  • Kinesthetic: kinesthetic students like to learn by doing, either through movement or concrete experiences, so that they can transform what they have learned into real-life practices. For these students' learning, the ideal practices are those that contain practical exercises, gamifications, sports activities, staging, and laboratory experiments.

Neurodivergent students have diverse strengths and challenges. It's essential to avoid making generalizations and instead focus on understanding each student's unique learning profile. It is important to emphasize that neurodivergent students, as well as neurotypical ones, learn through their senses and, therefore, it is necessary to use several strategies that contemplate the different ways of learning.

2. Structured learning environment:

Neurodiverse students are more susceptible to sensory overload. According to an article published in Harvard Business Publishing Education, here are some tips for an inclusive learning environment:

  • Try to be sensitive to the environment you are creating for your students and allow them to make their own adjustments in terms of noise in the room, lights that are too bright, the feel of the chair the student is sitting in, the texture of the floor, etc.
  • Provide a structured, predictable environment that reduces distractions and helps students stay focused. Clear routines and goals, visual schedules, straightforward information, and well-defined deadlines can help neurodivergent students understand expectations and manage their assignments effectively.
  • Be clear and direct in your communication. If you ask a question and a student doesn't respond right away, slow down and give them some time. If they still don't respond, try asking, “Would it help if I asked the question differently?”

3. Assistive Technology:

Harness the power of assistive technology tools and software to support learning for neurodivergent students. For example, text-to-speech software, speech recognition tools, and apps designed for specific learning challenges can provide assistance with reading, writing, organizing, and note-taking.

Assistive technology has the possibility to increase engagement and foster independence among neurodivergent students. Traditional learning methods may not always cater to their diverse needs, potentially leading to frustration and disengagement. With assistive tools, students can actively participate in classroom activities and assignments, boosting their confidence and motivation.

For instance, interactive learning apps and adaptive software can transform mundane tasks into interactive and engaging experiences, making learning more enjoyable and effective. Additionally, assistive technology promotes independence by enabling students to navigate their educational journey, gradually building their autonomy skills.

Many assistive tools focus on enhancing executive functioning, organization, time management, and social skills, which are vital for independent living and employment. By familiarizing neurodivergent students with assistive technology, they gain invaluable experience and confidence in utilizing these tools in higher education, workplace, and daily life scenarios. 

4. Emotional Support:

Providing emotional support for neurodivergent students is crucial for their overall well-being and academic success. Here are some strategies and approaches that can help:
  • Recognize that each neurodivergent student is unique and may require different types of support. Work with them, their parents, and any relevant specialists to develop individualized plans that address their specific needs.
  • Help students develop self-awareness by encouraging them to understand and embrace their neurodivergent traits and strengths. Teach them about neurodiversity.
  • Teach students techniques for self-regulation and emotional management. This may include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, or providing a designated calming space where students can retreat when needed.
  • Facilitate positive social interactions among students by promoting understanding and empathy. Encourage neurotypical students to be allies and create opportunities for neurodivergent and neurotypical students to work together collaboratively.

5. Professional Development:

It's important for educators to stay updated on the latest research, strategies, and interventions related to neurodiversity and neuroeducation. Collaboration with specialists, attending workshops or conferences, and accessing online resources can help teachers enhance their knowledge and skills in supporting neurodivergent students.

6. Learning and memory: 

Neuroeducation research can help educators understand the processes involved in learning and memory formation. Strategies such as multisensory learning can also be incorporated into classroom activities to enhance student retention of information. By engaging multiple senses, multisensory learning seeks to provide a more complete and engaging learning experience. It can help students connect more deeply with the content, making it more meaningful and memorable. In addition, this approach can also benefit students with different learning styles, such as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, allowing each one to use their strengths during the learning process. 

The core idea of multisensory learning is that when students are exposed to information through different sensory channels, they have a better chance of understanding and assimilating the content!

7. Attention and engagement: 

Knowledge of the brain’s attentional mechanisms can assist teachers in creating engaging learning environments. By employing techniques that promote active participation, novelty, and relevance, educators can capture and sustain students' attention, leading to improved focus and learning.

It's important to recognize that implementing these approaches requires dedicated training for educators and ongoing support from the educational system. Educators need access to professional development opportunities that deepen their understanding of neurodiversity, neuroscience, and evidence-based instructional strategies. Additionally, adequate resources and funding should be allocated to ensure the effective implementation of neurodivergent classes in schools.

Source:

  1. Santa Catarina, Ministério Público de. As Entrelinhas do Autismo. Carta Educacional da Neurodiversidade. Brasil, 2022. E-Book.

About the Author:

Daniela Silva

Daniela Silva is a Brazilian Education and Mental Health Writer. She holds a BA in Pedagogy; an MBA in Personnel Management and a postgraduate certificate in Neuroeducation. Working as an educational writer since 2012, Ms. Silva is a regular contributor to several educational websites, such as oc87 recovery diaries, The Ability Toolbox, 4W, Inspire the Mind, Psychreg, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, New Heights Educational Group, and Texas HomeSchool Coalition.

Author’s Website

Back to blog

OUR MISSION

Be your biggest, baddest neurodivergent self.

Learn More

How it all began

An inspiring story of drive and success.

Our Story

Awareness

Planting seeds & inspiring the next generation.

Build Awareness

Contribute to our cause

We offer a variety of ways for you to support our mission.