Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Neurodiversity - Learning and Teaching

Neurodivergent Student Experience in Teaching and Learning

In this section, you can find information about making your teaching and learning environments more accessible for your neurodiverse students.

While many of these adjustments are essential for students with a neurodivergent condition, they will also make your teaching more inclusive for all students.

Teaching and Learning spaces have the potential to be an uncomfortable and overwhelming space for neurodivergent students. Here's a video explaining the neurodivergent student experience. Animation made by Robyn Elison.

Universal Design

There are lots of options that can accommodate neurodivergent students and reduce this potential anxiety. Designing the curriculum, learning objectives, assessment design, and teaching from the outset with inclusion in mind can mean that reasonable adjustments are considered from the beginning. Universal Design provides a helpful framework that allows you to preempt certain considerations and needs. Individual reasonable adjustments are also easier to implement after this process has happened.

Helpful Guidance from Open University about Preempting Support

General Advice

  • Clear consistent language which is explicit can reduce confusion and support neurodivergent students in achieving in assessments and engaging in teaching and learning.
  • Engaging in different learning styles such as visual supports (charts, mindmaps, diagrams, etc) or audio (videos, podcasts) can support learning by offering different engagement techniques.
  • Neurodivergent students often require more time to process and engage in material. You can support this by allowing for processing speed in group discussions, providing materials in advance, and splitting up large chunks of information to prevent students from becoming lost.

Here is some advice outlined in the new Code of Practice for Disabled Students that advises on how to support students before, during, and after a learning session:

Before

  • Ensure the lecture or seminar is designed in an accessible manner.
  • Ensure lecture slides are designed with accessibility in mind: Microsoft PowerPoint accessibility guidance.
  • Make sure the Moodle page (or other module presentation resource) is designed in a clear and accessible format: Accessible Moodle Design
  • Make sure lecture capture is accessible: Guidance on accessibility of Echo 360.
  • Let students know in advance when a session will not be lecture captured.
  • Make lecture/seminar materials available in electronic format at least 24 hours before the teaching session.

During

  • Speak clearly and succinctly, providing clear step-by-step instructions for any tasks that students need to do.
  • Be mindful of anxiety issues around directing questions at specific students.
  • Briefly describe any visual images (i.e. graphs or pictures): Audio description guidance.
  • For longer sessions, e.g., 2 hours plus, ensure there is a sufficient break of 10-15 mins.
  • Be mindful that some students may need to leave taught sessions more regularly due to their disability.

After

  • If possible, briefly review lecture transcripts for readability (see here for information on how to review transcripts in Echo 360).
  • Transcription support is available in the form of human editing of any available automated transcripts that are problematic in terms of accuracy, requests are considered on an individual disability need basis by the Disability Team.
  • If there are any issues with accessibility in the teaching room, report them to Estates.
  • Consolidate learning and be open to questions from students (?)

The Learning Design Consultancy Unit has created a quick Accessible and Inclusive Practice taken from the student-led panel session:

"So, I think something I really feel that needs to happen is that they do record all of the lectures. And even if they don't want to let everybody have access to them, they need to at least give them access to people who have a reason to need them, like me"

Lecture Experience: Autistic Students (Portsmouth Uni)

Support Learning in Lectures

  • Record to allow students to repeat and review in their own time.
  • If there are reasons why it can't be recorded be honest and open with students. It is possible to allow only specific students to have access to recorded lectures
  • Use interactive tools such as Padlet/Vevox which allow anonymous participation.
  • Encourage students to sit nearer the front so the back rows can be made available to students who may need to be closer to an exit.

Supporting Students in Seminars

  • Provide tasks and questions before the seminar to motivate engagement and give time to prepare.
  • Clear expectations of what is expected from a session. Perhaps have written prompts on the board for students to return back to.
  • Do not pick on students to answer questions.
  • Use interactive tools such as Padlet/Vevox which allow anonymous participation.

"And that was either, you could have it have your name, or you could just make it anonymous, which was really good for me, because I'm someone who would be quite shy about asking questions"

Seminar Experience: Autistic Student (Portsmouth Uni)

Labs

"A useful starting point is to think through the tasks or activities that students are going to be asked to perform. What do you usually expect students to be able to do? Are there foreseeable ways in which some disabled students might be enabled to do these things differently, and can appropriate planning help to make that more likely?"

Creating Accessible Practical Classes for Disabled Students Link opens in a new window(Strathcyde University)

Lab Session Experience: Autistic Students (Portsmouth Uni)

Moodle and Electronic Communication

  • Use Moodle checklists to help organisation.
  • Use a consistent format/template on Moodle and label content clearly.
  • Ensure up-to-date content and links.
  • Tell students when a new resource is added or changed.
  • Use reminders for upcoming deadlines and tasks.
  • Avoid walls of text- break information down.
  • Be clear about time expectations for activities and reading- for e.g. if you have 'x' amount of time do 'y'.
  • Use a consistent mode of communication and inform students of how you will communicate with them.

Online Teaching

Accessible Remote Meeting Guidelines - UCL Guidance

Recommended Practice for Inclusive Virtual Learning - University of Nottingham Guidance

Turn cameras on for lip reading and speak clearly for captions.

  • Shorter breakout rooms are preferential.

Inclusive Teaching Spaces

The space in which teaching and learning take place can have a significant impact on the experience and engagement of neurodivergent students. It is important to consider how conducive the learning environment is for different students.