Playing to Students’ Strengths is Important
For any child, emphasizing their strengths as opposed to their weaknesses is vital. But I believe it is especially our responsibility to play up the strengths of neurodiverse students. Neurodiversity is the concept that neurological differences are similar to other human variations and should be recognized and respected as such.
The term was first coined by autistic people in online forums and it has branched out to include those who have dyslexia, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, or are on the autistic spectrum, among others. Often, during discussions surrounding IEPs or 504 plans, or as the end of the term approaches, we look at students’ struggles.
It is necessary to be aware of their deficits, but putting more attention on their strengths can help them gain agency and confidence and aid them in reaching their goals. Here are some of the strengths of various neurodiverse students. Dyslexics demonstrate skill in the arts, solving mechanical puzzles, visual-spatial processing, and building models.
Students with ADHD can be skilled with novelty, creativity, risk-taking, physical activities, and making quick decisions. Those on the autistic spectrum can show proficiency with machines, computer programs, mathematical equations, technical drawings, or languages. Of course, these do not describe every student with these traits and there are other strengths I didn’t mention. But they give you a good idea of how to look for your child’s strengths so you can help him or her build them.