Neurodiversity

Mocha w/ Monique [1/28/2020] with Sarah Barnes

The Myth of the Normal Brain: Embracing Neurodiversity (by Thomas Armstrong): In the basement of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) headquarters in Sevres, France, a suburb of Paris, there lies a piece of metal that has been secured since 1889 in an environmentally controlled chamber under three bell jars. It represents the world standard for the kilogram, and all other kilo measurements around the world must be compared and calibrated to this one prototype. There is no such standard for the human brain. Search as you might, there is no brain that has been pickled in a jar in the basement of the Smithsonian Museum or the National Institute of Health or elsewhere in the world that represents the standard to which all other human brains must be compared. Given that this is the case, how do we decide whether any individual human brain or mind is abnormal or normal? To be sure, psychiatrists have their diagnostic manuals. But when it comes to mental disorders, including autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intellectual disabilities, and even emotional and behavioral disorders, there appears to be substantial uncertainty concerning when a neurologically based human behavior crosses the critical threshold from normal human variation to pathology.

A major cause of this ambiguity is the emergence over the past two decades of studies suggesting that many disorders of the brain or mind bring with them strengths as well as weaknesses. People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), for example, appear to have strengths related to working with systems (e.g., computer languages, mathematical systems, machines) and in experiments are better than control subjects at identifying tiny details in complex patterns [1]. They also score significantly higher on the nonverbal Raven’s Matrices intelligence test than on the verbal Wechsler Scales [2]. A practical outcome of this new recognition of ASD-related strengths is that technology companies have been aggressively recruiting people with ASD for occupations that involve systemizing tasks such as writing computer manuals, managing databases, and searching for bugs in computer code....CONTINUE READING


Discussion


What is Inclusion Consciousness? Being conscious of inclusion, being aware of all kids. 

When our generation was in school special education was probably segregated (differentiated between special and general education). Now it’s called inclusion: The educational practice of educating children with disabilities in classrooms with children without disabilities. 

10-20% of our students qualify for special education services. Each school has unique inclusion programs to address these needs. 

Inclusion also recognizes that every individual has unique needs and addresses their curricular needs. Inclusion for students with disabilities expands their lifespan with autism there is less institutions, students with down syndrome’s reading levels improve. Students who are typical develop students also do well or there is no change (they do not do worse by being placed in an inclusion setting). 

3 Shifts in Thinking of Planning Instruction:

  1. Belonging is a human right (students must feel a sense of belonging in the classroom before tackling comprehension and math). 
  2. In order to treat someone fairly I must treat them differently. Give students what they need instead of giving them all the same thing. 
  3. Every teacher is an inclusive practitioner! We think about who are students’ are even before we begin planning their project. The thought, “How can we design projects that will be accessible to all students.”


Questions and Answers


What happens when you have a case where students are disrupting others? How do you make sure their needs are met and the class is getting what they need. 

K-2 is tough and they are still figuring out how to be in a classroom. What we tend to see is that it shifts in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. What Sarah does is talk to students using clear language about what the needs of others are and explain what it means to have that disability. She then explains that this is some of the ways you can help the classmate and yourself. We are teaching children how to be empathetic and to embrace diversity. 

What can we do when we are not supposed to disclose personal information about students? How do we talk to our students about it? 

We can still talk about disability and needs without putting labels on certain children. We can talk to the family and child about what they would be comfortable sharing. It is most important to respect the needs and wants of that particular family.

If you do not have time to speak to families beforehand and students have questions, you can talk about the topic holistically. 

Does HTH have a standard across classrooms? Or does it vary from class to class?

It varies from class to class based on the needs of the class. When you are having conversations with students, you can utilize books to share information with students (but you have to be careful with books because we don’t want to go the route of pity). 

Knowing the percentages and who we are going to staff the school. Why is there not enough funding for staff and resources?

Funding does not follow students with disabilities, all schools get block funding so that is a budget problem that all HTH schools are dealing with and all public schools in general. But the support that they receive now we are working on making classrooms least restrictive so the hope is that the scaffold will eventually go away. But we will adapt to the needs of students as we grow. 



Next Steps:Talk to teachers about pausing and making sure it is okay for them to explain a situation or recalibrate after an incident (maybe we can do that today in the CPI training). 

Ideas: We should have this conversation at Open House/ Parent Night!