Supporting Student Neurodiversity in Teacher Practice

Jennifer Shwetz
Neurodiversity is a recent term used to signify a diversity of thought for individuals with intellectual diagnoses such as autism and ADHD. This is a significant shift from historical conceptualizations of these conditions, which were ground in medical or charity models, and supported a deficit-based, 'othering' narrative, centering the voices and ideas of (often) neurotypical 'experts'. In contrast, the concept of neurodiversity reframes these conditions as natural and valuable variances in
more » ... ught. In doing so, the focus shifts to the expertise and agency of neurodiverse individuals themselves. The concept also aligns with overarching critical theories such as critical disability studies and critical pedagogy. However, these emerging ideas are just beginning to take hold in educational settings and shape teacher practice. This study explored the educational experiences of four neurodiverse young adults (each on the autism spectrum). The interviews and findings focused on two key questions: what are the lived educational experiences of neurodiverse students? and what strategies can teachers incorporate into their pedagogy to best honour the neurodiverse qualities of autistic students? Centering the knowledge and experience of neurodiverse individuals, rather than external sources of 'expertise', was a key goal in the critical mandate of this study. Participant responses addressed four major themes: questioning the purpose and benefactor of education, exploring the impact of appointed versus natural expertise, understanding neuro-specific challenges, and recognizing the power of relationships. Five significant suggestions for pedagogy also emerged, providing ideas about best practices for all students, not just those that identify as neurodiverse. These suggestions focus on providing heterogeneous learning opportunities, honouring neurodiverse students (and their allies) as experts of their learning needs, supporting self-advocacy, recognizing the complexity of neurospecific challenges, and focusing on genuine and open relationships. iii Preface This thesis is an original work by Jennifer Shwetz. The research project, of which this thesis is a part, received research ethics approval from the
doi:10.7939/r3-qkq3-8g28 fatcat:jesz6uq3zffnvnc7qjqruww2n4