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Supporting Neurodiverse Learners

How to implement changes and things to keep in mind for course design 

Do this:

  • Make your courses and expectations as clear as possible.
    • Why? ​consistency, structure, and support for dealing with changes are helpful for students with difficulty paying attention. Being prepared for new tasks and knowledge will help students follow along and maintain the pace of the course.
      • Give clear, written directions

      • Give plenty of warning when directions or expectations change 

      • Make assignments clear and check in with students to make sure they understand what is needed of them

      • Provide tools for students to organize their learning such as folders and calendars

      • Be consistent and follow through with plans

      • Recap previous lessons or units at the start of the next module for multi-part courses

      • Let students know all the materials they need to successfully participate

  • Allow flexibility toward students’ behavior but provide positive reinforcement when behaviors match your expectations.
    • ​Why? Explaining what your expectations are as a teacher and how students can meet them will help students contextualize their learning, know when they are meeting course expectations, and understand why they are being asked to modify behaviors if that occurs.
      • Plan in frequent feedback and attention to positive behavior

      • Assist students who become overly absorbed or hyper-focused on topics that are particularly interesting to them

      • Build in or allow students to take breaks or leave their chairs

  • Recognize different modes of displaying mastery and learning 

    • Why? Neurodiverse students may not learn, retain, and display mastery of information in “traditional” ways such as reading and writing long essays; structuring multiple ways to access and display a grasp of course material will allow students to learn more material and demonstrate success.
      • Allow students to choose assignment types that have the same outcome, such as a written essay or a multimedia project

      • Break assignments into smaller, regular pieces rather than large, unmanageable projects
      • ​Include multiple media such as videos and graphic organizers
      • Maintain a setting with low levels of non-essential sensory inputs