Griffith College Learning Support and Griffith Library collaborated on hosting a National Forum seminar on promoting diversity and inclusion of neurodiverse students within Higher Education. The goal was to celebrate neurodiversity, and promote how it can be harnessed to encourage greater engagement and creativity within the learning environment.
This page houses the recording of the conference, and the Change One Thing repository of online resources, compiled to support further engagement in supporting neurodiverse students both inside and outside of the classroom.
Expert speakers, Fiona Ferris: Deputy CEO of AsIAm, Ireland's National Autism Charity and Advocacy Organisation and Nicola James: CEO and founding director of Lexxic, discuss the many strengths of neurodiverse learners that can add to wider creativity within the classroom. They outline the challenges regularly faced by this cohort and consider how barriers can be addressed and supported.
Nicola James: Empowering Neurodiverse Students
Fiona Ferris: Creating an Inclusive Culture at Third Level
Orla Butler, Learning Support Coordinator and Lecturer in Inclusive Curriculum Design on Griffith's MA in Education, Learning and Development.
Dimphne Ní Bhraonáin, Deputy Librarian, Griffith College.
What does neurodiversity mean to you? Griffith learners who identify as neurodivergent were invited to submit words and phrases that convey to them the meaning of the term. Seminar attendees were also asked to consider their understanding of the term. The word clouds below compare these dual perspectives.
“This was a superb seminar that was conducted in an informal, inclusive manner. The two speakers were informative and insightful”
Very practical solutions offered that I can immediately implement into my work and engagement with students. “
“Change One Thing resource - excellent way to prompt and encourage action based on key points learned”
“identification of the variety of available resources and the contextualisation was hugely welcomed (and positive)”
“I will consult the open repository and more. I will be much more positive when dealing with students with neurodiverse differences.”
“An event like this really focusses and brings into the light, the energy required to affect real change in our institutions.”
It has given me a better understanding of the needs of my students and busted some of the ‘myths; around neurological differences.”
To compliment the seminar, Change One Thing is a collection of online resources supporting the implementation of practical, immediate changes to teaching practice in support of neurodiverse learners.
Identifying areas in which to change teaching practices can be daunting. However, it is important to keep in mind that every change has the potential to be meaningful to a learner. Once a starting point can be identified, each step may be built on to scaffold a more inclusive, flexible and engaging learning environment.
To help identify an achievable starting point to creating meaningful change, we have gathered together a range of openly available online resources to help prompt areas for potential development. This is by no means an exhaustive collection, but we hope that it provides a useful orientation.
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term, that can be used to describe neurological differences such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum and Tourette syndrome. It acknowledges natural human variations, and advocates an embracing of the benefits that different thinking can bring.
Neurodiversity in the classroom
Students with neurodiversities bring with them a valuable set of perspectives to higher education. Educators have a significant role to play in facilitating and highlighting the contribution and creativity that these students bring to the classroom.
By recognising variations among learners as normal and valuable, faculty can create an inclusive and holistic learning environment, widening student participation and supporting retention. Likewise, by understanding challenges facing neurodiverse learners, barriers to their contributing and engaging within the classroom can be significantly reduced.
Student Voices on Teaching and Learning, Ahead, Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities, 2015
Ahead asked students what they thought of current teaching and learning practice and how it could be improved.
Neurodiverse Students - Strengths and Challenges
Challenges faced by autistic students from: Fabri, M., Andrews, P.C.S. and Pukki, H.K. (2016) A Guide to Best Practice in Supporting Higher Education Students on the Autism Spectrum – for HE Lecturers and Tutors, P 3.
Inclusive Teaching Strategies, AHEAD: Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities
Ahead presents inclusive strategies that support all students, including students with 'hidden disabilities', so they have equitable access to the learning environment.
Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A Professor’s Guide, (2014), Organization for Autism Research
This video on Asperger Syndrome focuses on educating faculty, learning support and others on what it means to be a college student on the spectrum, and discusses how they might best be able to help these learners succeed.
Transition to University Resource for Academic and Professional Staff. Neurodiversity Hub.
While this resource is designed to support autistic students, much of the information and resources also apply to students with other neurodiverse variations struggling with the transition to higher education - support strategies; reasonable adjustments and accommodations.
Takeaways: insights, ideas and prompts for making a positive change and good practice to share with colleagues
Calls to action: direct action you can take immediately and without the help of others
Bax, K. Guidance: Designing Learning for Autistic and Neurodiverse Students, 2020, OpenTEL.
This guide aims to help raise awareness of some of the barriers autistic people may experience, and to help educators design learning, activities, tutorials and assessment that can help autistic students demonstrate their potential on a more level playing field. It was collaboratively created with a range of OU staff and students; people with lived experience of autism and of supporting autistic people in learning, and people with research expertise in autism in higher education contexts.
CAST (2020). UDL Tips for Assessment. Wakefield, MA
Using the lens of CAST’s Universal Design for Learning, this resource provides a practical guide to reflecting on whether an assessment accurately and equitably assesses learners' attainment of learning outcomes, be it through remote learning environments or in a face-to-face experience.
The Centre for Educational Development (CED) in Queens University Belfast designed the THRIVES acronym to help you to easily remember key accessibility considerations. The THRIVES image has seven basics to get you started on your accessibility journey and is an easy way to recall the fundamentals of accessibility, that can be easily printed, and includes an audio file.
Creating Accessible Documents, AHEAD, Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities
Making electronic documents that you produce accessible is both the easiest and most effective way to increase ease of access to lecture notes, guidelines and any other written material you produce for students. The key is to get into the mindset of adding the accessibility features at the creation stage.
Dos and Don’ts on Designing for Accessibility (2016), Designing for accessibility, Accessibility in Government, UK
Six guideline posters on the dos and don'ts of designing for accessibility - catering to users from: low vision, D/deaf and hard of hearing, dyslexia, motor disabilities, users on the autistic spectrum and users of screen readers.
uidelines designers should consider when creating learning resources. Full Fabric
Guidelines that designers of educational resources should consider when creating learning resources.
A great resource, which makes approaching accessibility considerations when designing presentations look easy and achievable.
Converting your PowerPoint into video and uploading to YouTube, (2020), Digital Accessibility Webinar Series #7, AHEAD,
This online session is live demonstration to the steps needed to prepare your presentation then convert it into video, with accessibility in mind, and then how to upload it to YouTube for the possibility of creating a transcript from the video.
Neurodiversity (ND) App: The Neurodiversity Strengths and Challenges Screener
The UDL framework guides the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that can be customised and adjusted to meet individual needs.
Universal Design supporting neurodiverse learners:
The key to teaching a single curriculum to a diverse group of students who learn differently is to be flexible with the delivery of information and to provide the same content in different formats. For example, many students like to digest information in the form of concise bullet pointed text, while others (e.g. students with Dyslexia) might prefer to receive information as a visual representation such as a mind map or graph/chart. So why not provide the same information in both formats giving students with different learning styles an equal chance to process the information - this is essentially what Universal Design for Learning is all about. (AHEAD, Inclusive Teaching Strategies)
Digital Badge in UDL, National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
The Digital Badge on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was developed for the National Forum by AHEAD and UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. The concept of the badge is to provide materials and a course design which individual institutions can then roll out with interested parties in their own institution.
Neurodiversity Is a Strength with Gloria Niles, Think UDL Podcast, Lillian Nave.
ThinkUDL is a podcast about Universal Design for Learning where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies in post-secondary settings with learner variability in mind.
"Join host, Lillian Nave, as she discovers not just her guests are teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how they design and implement it, and why it even matters,"
DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion in partnership with Indeed, 2020, Hiring Managers’ Toolkit for Neurodiversity, Dublin City University
Sweeney, D.M.R. et al. 2019, Living with Autism as a University Student at Dublin City University: Developing an Autism Friendly University, AsIAm and Dublin City University