Teachers are not aware of the reality of neurodivergent students; and the ignorance hurts


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adjective: neurodivergent; adjective: neuro-divergent
differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal (frequently used with reference to autistic spectrum disorders, [adhd, rsd, or bpd]); not neurotypical.

Many students within our school are some form of neurodivergent; whether that be autism, ADHD, BPD, or something else amongst the spectrum. With so many people in our school facing these circumstances, surely it makes sense to have things in place like codes and shifting the structure of our to keep these students right on track. Unfortunately not.

According to ADDitude, “What’s more, their distrust in my ability to determine what I needed led to more punishment and less empathy — an all-too-common outcome for [neurodivergent] students. To my teachers, I was an ‘unruly and lazy’ … child who was ‘making excuses,’ ‘not working hard enough,’ ‘unmotivated,’ ‘disrespectful,’ ‘distracted,’ and on the ‘wrong track.’” This is unfortunately a very common experience amongst neurodivergent students. Ethanei Robinson, a student with ADHD, gave us their input.

“Have you ever experienced a nonverbal or sensory episode during school?”
“Yes I have. I … sort of go silent and zone out a lot. It’s hard to manage.”

“Have you ever felt secure enough to tell a teacher you’re having one?”
“Kind of. There’s always great teachers … [who] would notice when I was going nonverbal. Other times I didn’t say anything at all.”

“When you haven’t felt comfortable enough to say anything — why is that?”
“I didn’t trust the way they’d react. I tried my best to hide it and suffer through it, especially when it felt like something that wasn’t ‘important enough’, despite it being awful to manage. I thought if I told them … [would tell me] to ‘get over it’ or something.”

“Do you think it would be helpful to keep teachers more aware of these sorts of things?”
“I feel like they should 100% [be more aware]. That would have saved me personally so many moments of worry and stress and junk like that. I understand if teachers really can’t pick up on it, but I think it would be better to be more aware so [students] can be more comfortable saying it.”

“Do you think burnout [ “the next level up from chronic stress. It’s more than a state of mental and physical exhaustion: it’s what happens when you reach a point of mental and physical exhaustion – and you keep going.” ] is important to be aware of, especially for teachers, and [important] to accommodate for students?” “Yeah, everyone should be aware of burnout. It’s super dangerous if it gets out of control with burnout, and I feel like schools do a pretty terrible job of managing or lessening burnout since it’s just a constant stream of knowledge. The current two day weekend doesn’t do [anything] for relaxing students or keeping us from burnout.”

“Are neurodivergent students more likely to experience burnout? What are your experiences with it?”
“Yeah, we’re more prone to burnout. Especially because so much of school makes us manage things that we lack in comparison to other people. Like executive functions. It’s little things that neurotypical people wouldn’t notice, like managing schedules and trying not to stim, that can make us burn out so much faster. It’s bad enough telling [neurotypical] students to just ‘push through it’, but it gets so much trying to tell us [neurodivergents] to try and push through burnout when it’s so much harder for us just to do the things most students are expected to.”

Eatheni herself is just one student amongst many who feel the same way. Neurodivergent students have such a hard time managing their days. So what can we do about it? What can we do to solve such an ignored issue, despite its growing consequences?

Listen to the students! Listen to their requests.

Some people have already started some progress, making cards that express the situation at hand and what this might mean for their schoolwork to place at their desks for teachers to see. Neurodivergent people are slowly making progress, but progress shouldn’t stop here. We can all try our best to make everyone aware.

Maji, Z. (2021, January 25). The ultimate add accommodation: Ending the systemic oppression that leaves me unbelieved, untrusted, unsupported. ADDitude. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from http://www.additudemag.com/systemic-oppression-adhd/.

Moorcock, A. (2019, July 23). Neurodivergent Burnout: The cost of closing the gap. Me.Decoded. Retrieved October 12, 2021, from https://www.medecoded.com/neurodivergent-burnout-the-cost-of-closing-the-gap/.