Talking about Neurodiversity

This week we are embracing differences as part of the third annual Neurodiversity Celebration Week. Launched by Siena Castellon to ‘flip the narrative’ for people with Autism and learning differences, this week is an opportunity to talk about the strengths, talent and creativity that people with neurodiversity can bring to our classrooms and to our lives.

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?

Harvey Blume, writer and largely responsible for popularising the term “neurodiverse”.

Neurodiversity in the Classroom

With an estimated 15% of the UK population considered neurodivergent, it is likely that you are teaching a number of students that fit this profile every day. You can make careful plans to include these children, using differentiation and targeted support to make sure they can access the same learning outcomes as their peers.

Unfortunately, many neurodivergent people go on to describe negative experiences of school. Siena Castellon explains that this is largely due to the common interpretation of cognitive difference as a barrier to be overcome.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the experience of neurodivergent children in our classrooms and think about how we can give them a sense of belonging and demonstrate that they are valued for who they are.

Oracy and Neurodiversity

How often do you talk openly about neurological differences in your classroom? Discussion can provide you with a meaningful forum for addressing misconceptions and promoting acceptance. There are a number of stimuli to use as a jumping off point for discussing differences, with a focus on the unique strengths that these bring, for example:

  • Amazing Things Happen’ is a short film created with the National Autistic Society to introduce children to Autism in an uplifting way.
  • The Pixar short ‘Float’ is a thought-provoking film about a young boy with a very obvious difference and a father who tries to make him seem more ‘normal’.
  • A video presentation introducing Neurodiversity Celebration Week by its founder, Siena Castellon, to help explain its origin to students.

    Our Discussion Guidelines, Talk Tactics can support you and your students to establish expectations for talk during these discussions. You may also want to introduce the role of Talk Detectives to encourage students who may be less confident in sharing their ideas, to capture and feedback reflections from the group.

To find out more about Neurodiversity visit Understood, a site which includes resources specifically for teachers looking for support in teaching neurodiverse students. 


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