For neurodivergent learners, accessibility is key. Often classrooms, teaching methods, tools, and websites are not designed with students who have different needs in mind. This is due to outdated ways of thinking, which assume those who are neurodivergent are not present in a “normal” classroom setting because they are likely in some other special program.
However, people who are neurodivergent are just as capable as anyone else. Being neurodivergent simply means that the brain might function in ways outside of what is considered typical, such as variations in mood, learning, attention span, and socialization. Though neurodiversity does encompass autism, it also includes other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder.
Being neurodivergent does not mean you aren’t capable; it simply means you may need a different learning method. In truth, everyone learns differently; this is not specific to neurodiversity. So teachers need to provide a flexible learning environment that is accessible to all.
As a neurodivergent student, it’s also important for you to speak up for your needs and find other tools and methods that work best for you to benefit your studies. You must always be an advocate for yourself and remind others that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
Communicating With Your Educators About Your Needs is Essential
Just because you are neurodivergent does not mean you should feel weird or different, especially when it comes to having your needs met in the online classroom setting. Everyone has needs that vary, and everyone benefits from different learning and teaching techniques. You should feel just as confident speaking up for your needs as anyone else to ensure you get the most of your educational experience.
It’s also important to advocate for yourself to de-stigmatize neurodiversity in all settings, not just the classroom. The more you speak up and help others understand your needs, the more people will understand and accept that there are all different kinds of brain functionality, and one is not necessarily better than the other.
When speaking to a teacher, if you find that you are struggling to express your needs, try identifying what exactly your needs are first and writing down a few examples that could help. For example, if you are more of a visual learner, you could write down and suggest ways your educator could make changes to help with that, such as using digital whiteboards instead of just verbally lecturing and using other visuals to help convey complex concepts.
Tips for Learners Who Need Help With Organization
In some cases, if you are struggling to stay ahead and on top of school tasks, it could be that you have a hard time staying focused and organized. This is a common problem for neurodivergent learners, and while it’s helpful to have a teacher that gives you reminders to keep you on task, there are things you can do yourself to help.
- Declutter your computer. It’s easy for anyone to let their desktop and digital files become disorganized, but it’s even more common amongst those who are neurodivergent. Set aside some time to go through and reorganize everything and then make a habit of putting everything in the proper folder right away going forward.
- Label everything. Clearly labelled files and folders that are easily accessible will help you quickly find what you need so you don’t waste time or get sidetracked by something else.
- Use nesting systems. Instead of having a lot of separate folders, try nesting folders within one another to create nesting groups. This will ensure that everything is neatly organized and is exactly where it should be when you look for it.
Apps That Can Benefit Neurodivergent Students
In addition to requesting that your teachers use specific tools in the online classroom and keeping your digital workspace organized, there are numerous apps available that can help you depending on your needs. These apps are available for all learners as, again, everyone has different needs and learning styles, but they can be especially helpful for neurodivergent students struggling in certain areas.
Apps to help with executive disfunction:
Apps to help with overstimulation:
- The Miracle Modus
- Emergency Chat
Apps for those who struggle to take notes:
- Natural Reader
Additional Tips to Help Neurodivergent Students
Everyone can struggle to study and stay focused. Juggling school with other daily tasks and responsibilities can be overwhelming. So it’s essential to consider what works for you and what doesn’t to improve your learning experience. Don’t avoid acknowledging your needs and differences simply to blend in or seem like everyone else. You are a person with unique needs, and that is perfectly okay.
The tips below can help you acknowledge your needs so you can advocate for yourself and have your needs met to improve your studies:
- Identify your strengths. Try focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t. This can help you better understand where you excel. Knowing your strengths and how you learn best can help you make improvements in areas where you may need a little help.
- Embrace your perspective. Just because you may see things differently from others does not mean you are less than and don’t deserve to have your needs met. Again, everyone is different. Lots of students struggle in different ways and have to talk to their teachers so they can make changes that will help them do better. Your needs and perspective are just as important, and the more you respect and love yourself and your differences, the more you will feel comfortable speaking up for yourself and your needs.
- Work smarter, not harder. If you find that you are struggling or behind in any areas, you should not force yourself to spend even more time working. This will only lead to burnout and more stress. Instead, take a step back and consider if there are more efficient ways you could be doing things. For example, if you struggle to stay on task and often waste time, use one of the apps above to help you stay focused. You can also simply set timers for yourself that push you to do 30 minutes of focused work and then give you 10-20 minutes of break time before another focused session.
While you may have a good support system, in the end, no one can advocate for you as well as you can. Everyone has wants and needs that must be met for them to succeed, and you are no different. Advocating for yourself as a neurodivergent student starts by doing your own work to identify where you can make improvements and finding tools and apps to help. But the next step is voicing your needs to others to ensure that your needs are acknowledged, and changes are made to address them.