See the latest article from CEO Samantha Pierce about building resilient students and educators published in the September issue of Family Times magazine.
Transforming Tragedies: An effort to build resilience to trauma in school
"Everyone experiences distressing events in their lives. You’ve probably heard about trauma, the emotional response to these events. Our emotional reactions to these events can have long term effects on the way we think, make decisions and relate to others. Developing resilience—our ability to cope with stress—makes responding to adversity easier."
I'm a college student going for a degree in social work, and work with NeuroDiversity Consulting to shed light on issues through that lens.
I am also neurodivergent, having been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (and working on a re-diagnosis) in my very early childhood. Most of my life has been spent seeing things through that different -- not wrong or broken, but different -- lens and filter.
I was that girl who would go on and on about particular interests -- some of which changed from year to year -- and devoured books in my spare time. I was the one trying to wrestle in this neurotypical-ruled world with my differences, and with how they changed my outlook on life. That dilemma evolved into my interest in special education and advocacy. Children receiving special education services can benefit from having a staff member in their corner who went through similar struggles. My experiences help me understand, and I care enough to help tailor curriculum and learning methods to meet student needs. I struggled with many elements in my elementary school life. I want to help in any way I can so students don't have to go through that themselves. If I can help even one student, that's worth it for me.
What/who (else) am I? In short, I'm not only a neurodivergent social work student, but a musician, writer, artist, disability advocate, and much more. I'm autistic, but that's not all I am -- it's just the way I see the world.
by Liza Citron
As teachers are going back to school, many might have an autistic or otherwise neurodivergent child in their class -- perhaps for the first time. Educators might reasonably wonder where to begin in tailoring the classroom experience to that child -- connecting to the child as an entirely new experience for the teacher. How different is the autistic experience to the neurotypical one? How does autism affect a child in their formative years? What changes should be made for the child to help them connect to the curriculum and the teacher, and to help them succeed? These are all questions teachers might be asking themselves as the “mad rush” to prepare for the school year comes into full swing.
All these questions may seem daunting to the teacher, especially ones new to their classroom. Everything comes down to paying attention to and carefully observing the child -- and, of course, listening to what they may tell you. Careful observation can tell you what the child’s most significant struggles are, and conversely, what their greatest successes or strengths are or maybe in the future.
As an autistic adult, I don’t personally know the neurotypical experience. I can, however, compare my autistic experience with descriptions from neurotypical friends and family members. My perspective helps provide insight into neurotypical and neurodivergent experiences that impact the classroom.
One of the main differences I have noted is the capacity for sensory input and susceptibility towards over-stimulation. Things neurotypicals might not even notice can be “deafening,” if you will, to an autistic individual -- and can cause either shutdown or meltdown, depending on the situation. As such, the best learning/work environment for many autistic people, and neurotypical people is one with the least sensory stimuli possible. In such a situation, it is easier to maintain concentration, and much easier to lower anxiety levels, both of which provide a more productive mental state.
Another difference to consider, especially with young children, is the theory of mind -- seeing situations from another’s perspective. Theory of mind is an aspect of human behavior and neurology that is important in relationship building and learning. Contrary to what some may think autistic people are not insensitive to what others need or want. However, it can often be difficult for us to see those needs and wants in the context of a situation. Providing an environment for role-play, or anything that requires “characters” can often help develop a person’s understanding of the theory of mind.
Every individual, autistic or not, will have their levels and specifics of needs, struggles, and strengths. The above are just two of the multitude of ways in which the autistic experience can differ from the neurotypical one. Taking the time to learn, understand, and account for these individual aspects allows educators to set themselves and their students up for success in the new school year.
Neurodiversity Rewires Conventional Thinking About Brains