Working with Neurodiverse Learners – What Are Some Strategies You Can Use? Part 1
Welcome back to our ongoing series on neurodiversity and learning differences. In this third instalment, my colleague and friend Annette and I explore the essential strategies for working with adult students who may have learning differences.
Inclusive Classroom Culture
Annette starts by emphasising the importance of creating an inclusive classroom culture. An environment that feels calm, safe, and positive is vital for all ākonga (students) who come to learn with you. A conducive atmosphere fosters multi-sensory learning techniques, encouraging learners to thrive and connect.
Strategies for Learning
The conversation then shifts to specific learning strategies, such as:
- Using Graphic Organizers: Mind maps, flowcharts, and similar visual aids can make complex topics more accessible.
- Chunking Information: Breaking down the learning into small, bite-sized pieces helps in creating small wins, promoting a sense of achievement.
We then discuss communication methods that enhance learning:
- Visual Props: Displaying visual aids around the room to reinforce learning.
- Clear Instructions: Ensuring that instructions are concise and explicit to aid comprehension.
- Using Exemplars: Modeling what the end result should look like, a dyslexia-friendly approach.
What about the visual presentation of materials? We delve into various elements such as:
- Font Choices: Opting for clear, readable fonts like Century Gothic, Arial, Comic Sans, and Calibri.
- Avoiding Certain Fonts: Avoiding Times New Roman due to its lack of clarity, as Annette explains.
- Utilising Space and Bullet Points: Providing well-spaced resources, using bullet points for clear understanding.
Creating a Supportive Environment
We wrap up our discussion with a practical list of things that educators can do. Changing something as simple as a font can make a massive difference to those struggling with particular typefaces like Times New Roman.
Through this conversation, Annette and I hope to provide educators with a comprehensive guide to supporting neurodiverse adult learners. From crafting a calming classroom environment to selecting the right fonts, every detail counts.
For those interested, we’ve compiled a guide that includes more on fonts, sizes, and presentation. It’s about making your resources accessible and engaging for all learners, something we all strive for in education.
These strategies are not only essential for supporting neurodiversity but form a basis for good teaching practice that all educators can benefit from.
Neurodiversity – What Are Some Strategies You Can Use? Part 2
Educators, students, and parents often face a multitude of challenges in fostering an inclusive learning environment. A significant aspect of this is understanding and accommodating different learning needs.
In the final talk in this series we address the importance of creating a stress-free environment and offering alternative assessments.
Here’s a further summary:
Creating a Stress-Free Learning Environment
The idea is to make the environment, whether workplace or education, as stress-free as possible. Alternatives to traditional written assessments, and allowing more time for tasks that may take longer, are just some of the solutions that can make a world of difference.
It’s about ensuring that everyone can be accommodated, and that includes thinking about the physical environment. How is the space set up? Is the lighting appropriate? Little adjustments can have a substantial impact.
A dyslexia-friendly approach doesn’t mean turning everything upside down or rewriting resources; it’s about small, strategic changes. For instance, simply altering a font or background colour can make a difference to someone struggling with dyslexia. What’s important to note is that these changes don’t just help those with dyslexia – they benefit everyone.
Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark
The Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark is a framework that supports organisations in becoming more inclusive of dyslexic learners. They meet 27 standards, ranging from policies to teaching resources to staff training. Since its inception 18 months ago, eight organisations have achieved the Quality Mark, with 16 others currently going through the process.
An inclusive learning environment is about more than just accommodations. It’s a mindset that places the learner at the centre and ensures that everyone, regardless of their learning differences, can succeed.
The discussion of dyslexia-friendly approaches is a vital part of this narrative, advocating for changes that not only help those with dyslexia but enrich the learning experience for all.
Resources and Further Learning
If you’re interested in finding out more about dyslexia and related topics, there are various resources available:
- New Zealand Dyslexia Foundation: Offers valuable support and insights.
- SPELD: Specialises in assisting people with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities.
- The British Association for Dyslexia: Provides further international resources.
- Ako Aotearoa Dyslexia Resources: More resources and information
More on Neurodiversity
If you found this useful, we have more on neurodiversity and learning differences here