Nurturing the Strengths of Neurodiverse Children
10% of the UK population is dyslexic. This means 3 children in every UK primary school classroom are developing a radically different, processing style to the majority of their peers. In recent years these children have been recognised as neurodiverse – a term, encompassing a range of neurological differences, that acknowledges their unique, increasingly desirable strengths as well as their struggles.
The current educational system, however, remains focussed on combating their weaknesses, valuing technical precision in literacy above all else. In short, in a system biased against them, our ambition for a dyslexic child’s primary school experience is that they survive, not that they thrive.
This project asks: How might we enable teachers to provide holistic, individually tailored dyslexia support in class?
They key stakeholders in this project are split into two camps: Parents and carers in the camp focussed on the individual child and class teachers as part of the educational system focussing on corporate provision - right up to the Department for Education writing policy for every child nationally.
I focussed my initial interviews on those providing support to the child directly and was privileged to interview 9 of them, each with a different personal insight into the system. These 9 indepth interviews gave me hundreds of insights which I wrestled into 14 Key insights.
I then used these key insights to write a 3 step manifesto for good dyslexia support.
Requirement 1: Dyslexia support needs to be holistic: nurturing strengths as well as attending to struggles.
Requirement 2: Dyslexia support needs to be tailored to each child individually and holistically.
Requirement 3: Dyslexia support must be available to everyone this means be provided by teachers in the classroom.
For this next stage it was important to ask what my manifesto meant in the lives of my key actors. Primary school classrooms are incredibly and increasingly diverse. With rising numbers of children with physical disabilities, language and processing impairments and complex home lives. This means teachers must teach for diversity, in this case neurodiversity.
I had to change from an individualistic dyslexia perspective to a whole class neurodiversity perspective, encompassing a whole range of processing differences - from ADHD to dyspraxia. But even my new brief faced barriers in the life of a teacher.
Barrier 1: A curriculum increasingly focussed on teaching, and testing technical precision in literacy and numeracy. Making school cultures less open to neurodiversity.
Barrier 2: Teachers are required to create rigorous data on pupil’s attainment of the curriculum. This practice discourages a holistic understanding of the child.
Barrier 3: Dyslexia support provision in class or in additional sessions, is minimal due to lack of funding and understanding. Budget cuts mean teachers are stretched to full capacity.
Barrier 4: An lack of neurodiversity training, with 7/10 teacher training providers spending less than a day teaching dyslexia support. Quality of support delivered in the classroom is a lottery.
Solution – Turning information into action and action into understanding
LARA is a weekly tool integrating neurodiversity training into everyday teaching practice. Each week focuses on a different processing style through 3 steps – ensuring neurodiverse pupils benefit without delay:
READ: a bitesize passage making neurodiversity theory accessible to busy teachers.
DO: practical advice on incorporating neurodiversity theory into their existing lesson plans.
REFLECT: a log encouraging teachers to note individual children who have particularly thrived under neurodiverse teaching principles.
As weekly data accumulates, LARA creates a profile of each child’s processing style – equipping teachers to teach more efficiently and building effective support networks around the child.
LARA is a secure system based on school servers in order to protect pupil data in line with school data policies. However, teachers and schools function in large networks with an amazing culture of sharing good practice - and this was something I wanted to capture in LARA.
LARA systems send weekly reports to the main hub providing feedback on the teacher’s experience using that week’s resource, as logged in their re ect tool. This data is then fed into an adapted lean start-up model with the academic year wrapped around such that the 3 school terms act as our learn stage and the 6 week summer holiday acting as the measure and build stages.