Our traditional school system spends a great deal of time trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Thankfully, in recent years, there has started to be a greater appreciation and respect for those whose brains seem to be wired a bit differently. Yet, there is still much work to be done.
One of the gifts of homeschooling is that we can educate our children as they are. We can encourage their strengths while helping them work with their challenges. We can find what works for each child to help him or her learn.
In Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences, Thomas Armstrong, PhD emphasizes that “there is no standard brain, just as there is no standard flower, or standard cultural or racial group, and that, in fact, diversity among brains is just as wonderfully enriching as biodiversity and the diversity among cultures and races.”
Gifts of Neurodiverse Individuals
While acknowledging the very real challenges that brain differences such as autism and ADHD can bring to individuals and families, Armstrong invites us to value the particular strengths that those with various brain differences may have.
He also brings up an interesting point that brain features that societies value have not always been the same. For example, our society places a great deal of value on a person being able to read, something that dyslexics find difficult to do. But for much of human history, literacy was something relatively few possessed. Those with dyslexia tend to be very creative and have strong visual-spatial skills, gifts that are beneficial to every culture. This does not negate the fact that children today need to learn how to read, but it does offer a different perspective.
By the same token, those with autism struggle in social situations and with communication, but they often enjoy solitary pursuits and can focus on details for long periods of time. They can gain encyclopedic knowledge of areas that they are interested in.
Those with ADHD have been described as “hunters in a farmer’s world.” They are always on the move and always vigilant. In a world that values central-task attention (paying attention to whatever is being demanded of them), those with ADHD are good at roaming attention, noticing many things at once. They are also creative and good at thinking out of the box.
Our world is full of neurodiverse people. Each of our children has strengths and weaknesses. If we can appreciate each of them as being the unique child that God created instead of thinking of them as being somehow deficient, we can begin to celebrate their differences instead of trying to make them into our image of what they should be. As Dr. Armstrong states, “Every child is on a unique journey that is not unlike the growth of a flower.” The world would be less beautiful if it only featured one type of flower. So it is with people. “A neurodiverse world is a rich world.”
Interested in Learning More about Homeschooling Neurodiverse Children?
For those interested in learning more about how to homeschool neurodiverse children, How to Homeschool Your Learning Abled Kid: 75 Questions Answered by Sandra K. Cook is a valuable resource. Cook has an M.S. in Instructional Design and homeschooled two differently abled children for ten years. She offers ideas for teaching various learning styles and intelligences as well as tips for selecting curriculum. Cook discusses ways to have your child tested for learning challenges and how to get help. She also covers assistive technology, homeschool management, and record keeping.