4 Accommodations to Advocate for Neurodivergent Learners in School

4 Accommodations to Advocate for Neurodivergent Learners in School

4 Accommodations to Advocate for Neurodivergent Learners in School

As a school psychologist, I work with kids to help figure out the way they learn best. Some fantastic teachers (with the resources available to do so) will accommodate learning needs of neurodivergent learners instinctively without the implementation of formal support. 

Having a discussion with the student’s teacher is typically a good place to begin to explore the least restrictive ways to accommodate learning needs in the classroom. Here are some things you might want to ensure your school implements for your neurodivergent learner with or without formal use of an IEP or 504 plan: 

1) Small Group Learning Environments 

Large groups can be overwhelming, and it may be difficult for ND learners to volunteer information within a larger group. 

In some instances this is an accommodation, not a modification. Teachers differentiate learning by teaching students in smaller groups at differing levels within the classroom (see “differentiated instruction”), and utilize teaching strategies that benefit all learners in the classroom (see “universal design”). 

2) Previewing Schedules 

Providing agendas in advance can alleviate anxiety, but changing schedules frequently or without notice may cause difficulty for NDs accessing the curriculum. 

Teachers can review upcoming schedules with the entire classroom, or a teacher, classroom aide or paraprofessional can privately preview visual schedules with students who are having difficulty with transitions or staying focused. 

3) Sensory Needs 

Overstimulating environments may cause dysregulation, which can lead to learning difficulties. 

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are ALL dictated by sensory impulses, whether we are aware of them or not. When you consider this, you can start to realize how important it is to ensure that sensory issues are addressed so that they are not getting in the way of learning effectively in the classroom. More intense sensory needs may be best addressed by a team approach in school, which may require implementation of an IEP. Occupational Therapists are particularly knowledgeable around sensory issues and addressing sensory barriers to accessing education. 

4) Accessible & Respectful Language 

Giving ND students extra time to process language as well as giving prompts in advance and allowing the student to respond in alternative ways helps to eliminate communication issues in the classroom. Always use neurodiversity-affirming language. 

Processing issues are common in neurodivergent learners. We experience auditory language processing difficulties, slower decision making, and other subtle difficulties affecting the speed of our ability to understand or express information learned, so it is extremely important to allow for these consistently throughout the school day

Brittney Geary

About The Author

As a neurodivergent school psychologist and self- advocate, Brittney Geary, MEd CAGS utilizes her experience as an autistic, ADHD, learning-disabled person to inform her professional practice. 

She has over a decade of experience having served as a consultant and research assistant in autism research, a coach for neurodivergent adults, a school psychologist in several public school districts, a mentor and a volunteer for several neurodiversity-affirming organizations internationally. Additionally, she is familiar with supporting others in managing commonly co-occurring physical, mental, and neurological health conditions. 

She is passionate about promoting disability awareness through sharing lived experience, education and valuable resources, and would love to connect with like-minded individuals & organizations who share a common goal to embrace neurodiversity and enable neurodivergent individuals to lead more authentic lives

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