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Which Tech is Most Empowering for Neurodiverse Students?

Neurodiverse minds always think outside the box. They’re proof there’s no”right” way to learn. In fact, unique strengths can be found in their differences. It’s often simply a matter of cultivating them.

Right now it’s estimated 30% of the population identifies as neurodiverse – and that number is growing. Since many learners aren’t diagnosed until they get into a school environment, it’s critical these learning spaces have adequate accessibility resources on hand.

Want to make sure you’re nurturing everyone’s individual gifts? Ahead are some of the strengths-based tech tools helping make classrooms more welcoming for all types of learners.

The Neurodiversity Movement

Over the last three decades there’s been a growing movement to destigmatize learning differences and foster the unique talents of the neurodiverse. The term was coined in the 1990s as a way to classify and empower those with dyslexia, who have ADHD, or are on the autism spectrum.

“Neurodiversity” is a popular term that’s used to describe differences in the way people’s brains work.

As Child Mind Institute explains,”‘Neurodiversity’ is a popular term that’s used to describe differences in the way people’s brains work. The idea is that there’s no”correct” way for the brain to work. Instead, there is a wide range of ways that people perceive and respond to the world, and these differences are to be embraced and encouraged.”

These learners are proof you don’t have to think like everyone else in order to be successful. What you do need are learning environments that use thoughtful tools to make information more accessible.

Basic Communication: Voice-to-Text and Screen Reader Tools

No student should be cut off from communicating. But for nearly a third of the 1 in 54 children diagnosed with autism, the sensory processing challenges they experience can make speaking and/or writing a significant barrier.

To help with the myriad speech and language impairments of the neurodiverse, developers, special education teachers, and school IT administrators are collaborating on tools that help them more fully engage.

For example, devices with screen reader tools can help students with autism-related social impairments participate in class discussions or group projects. Some of these tools have even been programmed with the ability to”speak” in a student’s own pre-recorded voice.

In the future, other sensory sensitive augmented and virtual reality programs may promise to pick up where more traditional curriculum leaves off. For those who experience mobility issues or have trouble with concentration, they could provide once unimaginable learning experiences!

For now, remote lessons with personalized instruction have also inspired many speech and occupational therapists to follow suit. And armed with cost-effective talk-to-text tools and stylus pens that allow students with learning challenges to draw what they need to communicate, neurodivergent learners can better demonstrate their knowledge.

Problem Solving: Block Building Kits & Tech-Supported Visuals

Didactic lessons don’t always work well for the neurodiverse. Hands-on and visually-engaging materials can help hard-to-grasp subjects stick when other teachings fall short.

Sometimes it takes seeing or experiencing a concept in action to make the connect. It’s one reason playful approaches that incorporate physical materials and tech tools are so impactful. Legos or other building block kits are known to help neurodivergent students”think with their hands” as they work to understand everything from physics to coding. Be it building a robot or doing math problems on movable blocks, a focus on embodied cognition can be transformational.

Additionally, teachers have also had success pairing verbal instruction with visual materials: a process known as dual coding. It’s at once less for a student with learning differences to decode while also giving learners two ways to process and retain information.

Popular visual materials take the form of:

  • Digital drawings
  • Flow charts
  • Computer-generated diagrams
  • Editable timelines
  • Infographics
  • Animations
  • Mind maps

With every new neurodiverse student that enters the school system, the less a universal”normal” feels true or helpful. By encouraging diverse ways of thinking and engaging with the world, educators can unlock the inherent gifts of every learner.