Neurodivergence: why is it overlooked?
BY XOCHITL GRANDE
Out of sight secluded classrooms are located in the basement of the school building.
These separate classrooms are where the excited and welcoming neurodivergent students find their own unique person in this hectic world.
With the help of EC teachers, neurodivergent students immerse themselves to be a part of the school environment as much as possible. Each EC separate classroom includes one lead teacher and three instructional assistants, this helps to ensure the needs of neurodivergent students are met. The term neurodiversity focuses on the positives of developmental disorders and the concept of viewing brain differences as normal rather than deficits. This concept helps reduce stigma when it comes to learning and thinking differences.
“Disability is something that we don’t often think about with inclusion and there’s various categories of ways people are excluded,” Michelle Fahey, Instructional assistant in the EC separate mentioned.
Neurodiverse students in the public schools education system are often left at the short end of the stick. Awareness month is important to help people recognize disabilities on a larger scale.
“Disability awareness month is very significant for many reasons. The more people know about different dis abilities the better they can understand the struggles and hardships people with disabilities and their families go through on a daily basis,” Dustin Fussel, a lead teacher in the EC unit stated.
October is National disability awareness month and its purpose is to educate people about the issues neurodivergent people experience everyday. April is also another month where we can come to appreciate neurodivergent people and their contributions to society.
“Autism advocacy networks pushed April to become acceptance month (instead of autism awareness month as it was before) because they wanted to change this idea of ‘yes it’s fine that you’re aware of autism but you need to be okay with autism being part of society and what that means,’” Fahey explained.
At DSA there are several neurodivergent students that are part of the regular education system. People may not be aware of these students because it is not obvious, however neurodivergent students are encouraged to be in the mainstream classes if they can.
“The least restrictive environment is that students have to be in a separate classroom from the mainstream, and there’s a reason for it. Most students with disabilities can be in the mainstream classroom; they just need extra support, that's where inclusion comes in. Basically if a student can be in the mainstream class, they should be,” Fahey clarified.
PHOTO CREDIT: XOCHITL GRANDE
Best Buddies club takes place during lunch every Wednesday between the academy and the gym buildings. All students are invited to volunteer and be part of this community.
Although some neurodivergent students are able to attend the mainstream classrooms, there are also other students that are placed in a different environment where they are secluded not only from peers, but also from their education and the school entirely.
“Unfortunately, in many schools students with disabilities are kept separate from general education students. This does not allow proper exposure, which in turn hinders the opportunity for students to gain the social skills to interact with each other,” Fussel mentioned.
There are many problems the neurodivergent education system is facing. However what is most important now and that is something everyone can do is being aware of the different kinds of disabilities in our community, and gain a better understanding of what it means to live with a disability by spending time with neurodivergent students in our school as well as being able to empathize and understand them.
“Some people might be afraid of people who look and act differently. This is because they haven't had the opportunity to spend time with each other to realize they are the same,” Fussel concluded.