Neurodiversity: A Focus on Strengths in the Special Needs Classroom
Neurodiversity: A Focus on Strengths in the Special Needs Classroom
PUBLISHED: Thursday, March 07, 2013 by Bethany Johnsen

In a recent EdWeek commentary, Appreciating Special Education Students’ Diversity, former special education teacher Thomas Armstrong made a compelling call for a paradigm shift in special education away from a diagnosis of deficits and toward a model that focuses on students’ strengths. Citing research into the possible evolutionary benefits of ADHD, the creativity associated with mood disorders, and the interpersonal strengths found in people with intellectual disabilities, Armstrong advocates “neurodiversity," the idea that neurological differences should be respected rather than pathologized. Although the term was coined by autism activists, the concept can be expanded to include other special needs in the belief that celebrating neurological or developmental differences among people will generate better results in the classroom than labeling such differences as “disabilities.” To learn more about this approach, you can read the transcript from Armstrong’s online chat, “Understanding Neurodiversity to Build a Strengths–Based Classroom.”