top of page

Celebrating Neurodiversity: Superseding The Deficit Model

By Katie Lillard

An outdated model

illustration of nuerodivergence

Diagnosing a clinical neurological difference is crucial for supporting individuals in their preparedness for mainstream culture and society. Identifying and implementing interventions help to level the playing field for those with learning differences in traditional classroom settings. Often, though, perceiving these diagnoses through a lens of deficit evokes feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and lowered self-esteem. Reframing these differences through a lens of ability and unique perspectives empowers students with learning differences to believe in and see their differences as the strengths that they are.

A model that focuses on measured gaps and deviations from norms can be academically and socially isolating. It is no surprise that students with learning differences (LDs) are prone to higher levels of anxiety, sensitivity rejection, and social detachment. Schools that prioritize standardized testing and uniformity are less likely to encourage growth and promote self-confidence for students with LDs. 

Celebrating unique abilities and neurological differences not only empowers students with LDs to see themselves as equal to their neurotypical peers but also shines a light on what those peers can learn from neurotypical learners. 

Many of the most well-known innovators, athletes, and creatives are/were neuroatypical.

How can schools better support a neurodivergent learner?

A foundation for supporting a student with a learning difference begins with changing the lens through which an educator sees their students. By working to understand the unique perspectives and qualities of their neurodivergent learners, educators can see the real strengths and potential of their students. They can develop more effective teaching methods that all students may benefit from. Teachers who work to understand an atypical learner's processing and communication style can connect more deeply, enhancing the teacher/student relationship and providing a safer space in which the contributions of all can be considered.

Educational environments that both acknowledge the importance of effective interventions and celebrate student individuality promote the best outcomes for learners with common LD diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and more. Finding a school that celebrates neurodivergence better supports adolescents as they develop academically, socially, and emotionally.


bottom of page