Why instructional designers need to consider neurodiverse learners

With the recent focus on diversity and inclusion, it is time for instructional designers to understand what neurodiversity really is and how they can tailor their learning and development programs to neurodiversity learners. Originally, the term referred to people on the autism spectrum, but today the definition is broader and includes all individual differences in brain function that are considered normal changes in humans (MerriamWebster Dictionary).
There are more people with neurodiversity than people realize. One in eight people show this difference in brain function (although half of them don’t know it). People with neurological diversity can also be diagnosed with ADHD, dyskinesia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.
Neurodiversity does not affect intelligence
There is a misunderstanding that neurodiversity is a disability. Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act refers to a person with a disability as a person who “has a physical or mental disability that severely restricts one or more major life activities.” However, this is not the case for all neurologically diverse people. Many people have no cognitive deficits, but just show a different thinking process than normal.
Neurally differentiated individuals may or may not be covered by ADA, depending on the specific neurological diversity. Therefore, instructional designers must understand the needs of these people and provide a suitable learning environment so that they can make full use of the learning experience.
The environment is the key
Neurodiversity as a concept is associated with a social model of disability, where the limitations of individuals depend on social factors, such as their environment more than their physical capacities.
For example, by focusing on inclusive office design, architects will include ramps and spaces that can be used flexibly, with easy-to-adjust furniture, dim lighting, and the ability to change heating and cooling settings.
When it comes to instructional design, it is important to also consider the many factors that influence the neurotypical and neurodiversity learners of a particular training intervention.
Learner Needs Assessment
To provide the best type of training for your audience, you need to understand who they are and how they learn. Student-centered design is a viable approach, not only when considering neurologically diverse individuals. However, when conducting a training needs assessment, it is important to consider all potential participants.
It is important to understand the objectives of the learning intervention so that you can thoroughly investigate the gaps that need to be filled. Pre-assessment can go a long way in determining the student’s understanding of the training content. Using this information, you can focus on the content areas that are most missing or most incomprehensible.
It is important to note that this assessment focuses only on content and does not run any tests designed to identify potential cognitive differences.
Make sure you provide a positive experience
As you can easily understand, even if you are not a neurologically diverse individual, group learning experiences can be very stressful for people with neurological diversity. Today, most managers understand the importance (and benefits) of including individuals with neurodiversity in their team. The L&D department should do the same.
organizations continue to increase their efforts to maintain diversity, equity and inclusion. These employees must feel comfortable and encouraged to accept their differences.
L&D roles must be loyal to the quality of their support and ensure that all learning interventions, from onboarding to compliance training to capacity development, are positive experiences for everyone.
Final Thoughts
Neurodiversity provides many opportunities for organizations, but it can also present challenges for learning professionals who must ensure that all plans are suitable for their employees. Instructional designers need to study the huge (and evolving) subject of neurodiversity, and then find innovative ways to create programs that meet these needs.
For more practical suggestions on how to deal with neurodiversity in instructional design, please follow the MATRIX blog, which I will discuss in depth in the next article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *