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Celebrating Neurodiversity with Dr. Manju Banerjee and Maggie Beattie Roberts

Celebrating Neurodiversity PodcastThis week on the podcast, we’re celebrating Neurodiversity Week with a special interview on neurodiversity in education.

Today we are joined by Heinemann author Maggie Beattie Roberts, and Dr. Manju Banerjee. Dr. Banerjee is Learning Disabilities Ambassador-at-Large and former Vice President of Educational Research and Innovation at Landmark College. She has over 35 years of experience in the field of neurodiversity and postsecondary disability services.

Maggie and Dr. Banerjee dive into the history of the neurodiversity movement, what it means to be a neurodiverse learner, and what an inclusive classroom looks like.

 

 

Below is a transcript of this episode. 

Maggie: I, Manju, need to let you know that I celebrated my birthday yesterday, as we were preparing to record this conversation and chatting with you feels like the ultimate birthday present. I am so excited to look over the pages and pages of notes I took the moment I heard that I had the opportunity to talk with you and be in conversation with you and your decades of work. And what an honor to celebrate my birthday with being able to celebrate in all things that you know, and have experienced and have dedicated a life to teaching us. And so I can't wait to start. Hello.

Manju: Oh my goodness Maggie. Thank you. Thank you for that and a belated, but very heartfelt, happy birthday. It is my honor and pleasure to talk with you, especially because this is an opportunity to share what both of us know to a much larger audience. And when you think of the ripple effect of what this kind of an initiative does for educators, for students and for parents of neurodiverse individuals, it's just so powerful, it takes on a life of itself. So thank you for this opportunity and I'm looking forward to answering your questions.

Maggie: You had just kind of talked about neurodiversity just there in your beginning, and maybe we just start there. What is neurodiversity? And how has the terminology or understanding evolved over time?

Manju: Yes, that's a great question. And just like other things that evolve and change over time, the concept of neurodiversity has also evolved and changed over time. But broadly, neurodiversity is both a point of view and it is also a belief and it is also neuro-biologically based. It presumes that neurological differences that we have such as learning, attention, mood, sociability. These are all part of the natural variability of humans and are equally important as biodiversity or diversity in socioeconomic status or socio-diversity, et cetera. So it neutralizes any stigma associated with being different. And that in itself is powerful.

Just to give you a little bit of the history, the word neurodiversity was coined by Judy Singer. She is an Australian sociologist in the late 1990s, and this was actually used in her thesis that she talked about neurodiversity. But at that time she was talking about neurodiversity as a need for us to recognize and respect these different diversities, which make up the fabric of who we are as humans, and not be segregating and separating by differences but rather celebrating differences. It was a pretty novel concept. And at that time, her focus was on autism. And so, what happened over time is people associated the word neurodiversity with autism, at least in the beginning, in the late 1990s. But since then, it has become, I would say, one of the greatest social movements that's emerged in the 20th century. And this term, neurodiverse or neurodiversity, has been embraced by both the educational world, but even more so in the world of corporate America.

But let me pause before I elaborate on that for a minute and talk to you about the power of language and the power of terminology. When we have a common vernacular then we can communicate, then those barriers in communication fade away because otherwise, words come with emotional baggage or social baggage. And we all know that, and that becomes a deterrent. So neurodiversity, as you can see, is so much more powerful than learning disability or student with a disability or a difference. So I just want us to focus, and the audience that hears these to think about this, the power that you have just by using language that you use. And later on in our conversations, I'll share some more about the power of language and actually some of the research based on that.

But coming back to the point I was making about how it's been embraced by corporate America. There are many, many programs and supports that have been developed by these large companies like Fidelity, J.P. Morgan, Hasbro, Microsoft that actually actively go out and seek neurodiverse individuals as employees for a whole host of different reasons. But the power of being neurodiverse is being recognized more and more by these large companies, not from a pollyannish perspective, but because they bring value, they're value added to the overall mission of the organization. I don't want to say that there are certain features, characteristics associated with different differences because that's not necessarily the case that I want to make. But what I want to say is finally the time has come for us to recognize the strengths and not just constantly focus on the deficits of neurodiversity.

Maggie: I mean, there's so many things that we could touch on just with that. One being which systems pick up on inclusive practices first, or which ones are positioned to do that. But even just thinking about that common vernacular, that we have a shared understanding of a term, that literally speaks kids and adults into existence and how powerful that is. And I appreciate the historical lens that you give us for that term, neurodiversity, neurodiverse. And thinking about over the past few decades, just how that umbrella has really grown. And so if I think about I was ... One of the best days of my life, I was diagnosed with ADHD in my late 30s. And it was a moment of feeling like there was a part of me that had been 2D all my life. And then all of a sudden was 3D because of that terminology. Am I correct to say that under the umbrella of neurodivergence, would ADHD be considered underneath that umbrella?

Manju: Absolutely. So let me point another thing that I think is really important that you bring up is, so why do we still have these disability categories and labels such as ADHD, such as learning disability, such as autism? All of which, by the way, fall under the umbrella of neurodiverse. Right now, we are at a very interesting juncture where some of the legal rights that are best told by law, which are non-discriminatory by law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and in the K through 12 IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they follow a certain terminology and vernacular. And therefore using that label allows you to have certain unalienable rights. And where we need to move is to marry the broader understanding of this as a movement, as a matter of pride, and be able to identify neurodiversity as someone needing those legal protections as well. But that was a long winded way of saying, yes, the umbrella is large enough to include these different diagnostic categories.

Maggie: So the way that you talk about it as a movement, as this being one of the great kind of evolutions of our time. With that, comes this maybe unearthing of assumptions, we may not even know that we had.

So even if I position myself as someone who was diagnosed with ADHD later in life, it gave me a whole new lens to look at things that I had always assumed were just, I'm a slow reader. I'm not a good reader. I was taught reading out of an SRA box and I was constantly yellow mustard. And that's not a good color. It's like, you knew that. And so this time that we have to give space to what assumptions might we have in terms of the neurodiverse community. And maybe even how we can be more aware of them if we're not even seeing them quite yet.

Manju: Absolutely. And what a great point. Yes, we do make assumptions. Even the best of us with the best of intentions we make certain assumptions about neurodiverse students. And I'm going to highlight maybe about three or four of them, and I will couch it as points to ponder or caveats to keep in mind. And the first one I've kind of alluded to it a little bit earlier is the fact that it's really important as educators for us to understand that these diagnostic labels and these diagnostic categories do not define the individual student. That is really important because when we make the assumptions about behavioral, educational and functional, if you will, manifestations based on a diagnostic category, then we are writing that person off, we are setting lower expectations and we are just doing a disservice, not only to that student, but to all the other individuals related like the parents, the broader community as a whole.

So let me give you an example. So let's say Johnny is dysgraphic and his writing is full of spelling errors, or maybe grammatical errors and so on. But if as educators we make assumptions, oh his writing is poor because he's dysgraphic, we are selling this student short. So it's really important that as teachers, we have very clear in our mind when we set assignments what the rubrics are for that particular assignment. If the rubric is spelling, or grammatical, or syntactical accuracy, then that's fine and you can grade accordingly. But if it's the content you're looking for, don't you sell the student short because of his sloppy handwriting, or spelling errors, or grammatical errors, and punctuation and so on. So that was just one example. You know there are so many, so it's really important that while yes, that is true, that we have certain characteristics associated with different neurodiverse subgroups and populations, but generalizing that to every student is a mistake that we often make, even without thinking about it. If you're okay with it, I'll share a couple more.

Maggie: I would love to hear a couple more. Yes. Because I was thinking about my own, like why do we do that? Even with myself, we build these categories. I know I do it when I'm seeking control or when I'm seeking clarity or where I want just something concrete in this job that's so beautifully the opposite of concrete. And so really helping us think about going beyond the label and having that be a sense of where is this child coming from, where are they going? And helping us have that bird's eye view can be a more empowering category, right? As opposed to something kind of myopically focused on a label.

Manju: Absolutely. You know, to pick up on that point, we often as educators, when we see a student who's not engaged in the classroom or is showing disruptive behaviors, we kind of often tend to assume that the student is not motivated or the student is being willfully disobedient. But pause to think about the fact, maybe this is the coping strategy that the student is using because of his neurodiversity or her neurodiversity. One of the things we don't realize is for many students with executive function challenges, it is physically exhausting to focus and be attentive in the classroom for X number of minutes or a certain period of time. And as educators, we make assumptions. Yeah, you should be able to pay attention for this 45 minute classroom. This student who is trying to do that is completely exhausted. So you are going to see behaviors that might show fatigue, but it is not out of a lack of interest or being disengaged. Now I'm not, again, I'm saying some of the students could be disengaged

Maggie: Yeah.

Manju: But overall, it's really important to kind of look at, possibly drill down a little deeper into a behavior that you see in the classroom and try to understand that. There are many ways to do that. You can have a conversation with a colleague who's a special educator, talk to the student, especially if they're in high school and higher grades and kind of have a conversation like I noticed you seemed really tired in class today. Is there anything I can help with? Maybe you prefer a book or recommend something they can watch. So helping students find tools and resources to be focused is important.

Maggie: I think about that fatigue category, right? I taught seventh and eighth grade in Chicago and I notoriously had my 801 class that started pre eight o'clock in the morning. And nine times out of 10, most kids, including myself, we really wanted to have our heads on the desk. And I know that, I think that when we see kind of physical signs of fatigue, it's very quick to also think about just physical fatigue, not enough sleep, not enough food. But to really also pair that with cognitive fatigue, the fact that many students and adults will need a reset and are cognitively exhausted.

And there's been a lot of cons for being an educator, a human, a parent, through this global pandemic. I do think one silver lining is I feel like we all really understand that term cognitive fatigue, in a way that we may not have ever really understood that. And so even just kind of creating those partnerships in our mind, if I see a student that's exhibiting fatigue which I would assume is maybe disengagement, I could also think physical fatigue or cognitive fatigue. Those little moves, Manju, I think are really powerful.

Manju: Absolutely. Those are really, really important to understand. I mean, another caveat that I want our educators and the audience to think about is we hear a lot about research and research based strategies and evidence based strategies. And those are really important, you do want to use in your instructional approach strategies that are evidence based, such as active listening or reading strategies and so on. But it's also really important to remember that not every evidence based strategy will work for every neurodiverse student. And it's really important that you spend the time to find out what strategy. So understanding the profile of the student is really important.

I'll give you a very powerful example. And this was brought home to me by Dr. Matthew Schneps, S-C-H-N-E-P-S. He is the founding member of the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Very, very dyslexic himself. We became friends over some research we did together, but what his research showed was that not everyone who demonstrates symptoms of dyslexia benefits from audiobooks. Audiobooks, yes, the majority of students with a reading problem related to chronological awareness challenges benefits from audiobooks. But even within dyslexia, there is a subgroup for whom the issue is visual processing and eye tracking.

And for those students, actually what really makes a difference is the spacing of words in a sentence, on a page. And it's the white space. And so he showed, and was part of this research I was involved in with him, is that when you read on a much smaller device, like a phone or an iPad and you can only see three or four words per sentence, for these students, the eye tracking becomes easier and they're able to read much better. And they actually benefit from that rather than from audiobooks. Yeah. What a great, so we are moving closer and closer with this umbrella term neurodiversity into a marriage of three great fields. One is educational. One is legal, as I mentioned, and the third is medical. So we are learning so much more of how the human brain learns. And as we learn more about it, we are adopting these discoveries into how we teach. And then I think legal kind of lags a little behind, but we're definitely getting there.

Maggie: I know. Come on.

Manju: We're getting there.

Maggie: So those discoveries, I mean, just even trianguling that in my notes here, education, legal, medical, and just what we have access to with neuroscience via the human genome project I've heard you kind of talk about. And it opens the door to lots of other strategies that might work for kids. And also it's like we're being asked to hold both, right, lots of strategies that can work and also holding this parallel truth that not one strategy is going to work for every kid. Are there any other kind of teaching strategies or learning strategies that seem to be like the one that you just shared in terms of accessing the print that would be helpful for us as teachers in the classroom to know about?

Manju: Absolutely. What a great question. So a couple of thoughts. I mean, we all know as teachers, multisensory is better than a single mode. And we know the human brain learns best when we have information in that is presented in a multisensory modality. That's sure, that's true. We also know that repeated practice, and it's not any repeated practice, but repeated practice which is strategic, really helps embed the information into long term memory. So the greater the opportunity for practice, the better the learning. One of the, kind of a sidebar here is this notion of cognitive load. And for many of our students, they get easily on cognitive overload. Actually, believe it or not, providing too many directions or you can do it this way, or you could also do it that, that creates cognitive overload. In the literature, there are three kinds of loads that we talk about.

One is intrinsic load. And intrinsic load is the load that is, and by load I mean cognitive to recall, to manipulate the information, to store the information, all of that information processing. So the intrinsic load is the level of difficulty that is intrinsic to the task. Obviously, for example, a task which asks you to add five plus seven is easier than a task that asks you to add 3,472 to 567. Though that's intrinsic to the task so you can't do too much about it other than understand what the intrinsic, what is the student's zone of proximal learning, and then kind of target our cognitive load to that. But that's the curriculum, that's what it is.

But the second type of load is the extraneous load. And the extraneous load is more of the environmental elements and the context in which the task is presented. So if the directions are confusing or the communication is not clear, or the student is being visually overloaded, then you're adding an additional layer of load to just the task itself. And that's something teachers could be very aware of and make sure that they are providing information in simple, direct language, repeating as often as they can. And making sure they're providing the information, maybe both orally as well as in written form and so on.

And the third load is germane load. That is the load that's needed to take information from our working memory, like we are doing right now. And what are you and I doing to convert it to germane load? We're taking notes. So giving students the tools that will help them to convert that information from their working memory into long term memory. And because we know neurons that fire together, wire together. So that's the medical piece. We know that. So in education, if we can give them that opportunity for practice, we are helping them build those neurons for learning.

Maggie: I'm thinking about, I left my own classroom many years ago, but I have the best job in the world and I get to guest teach and have teaching residencies in classrooms all over the northeast and the country. And thinking about the lessons I taught this week, and there's some reteaching I would like to do. There's some going back in time. Because I really do see that, especially as we get older, and even by like teaching third grade in 2022 is very different than teaching third grade in 2002, because that intrinsic piece, the content itself is quite sophisticated. And I'm realizing how many times I am adding these extra layers in terms of the context and the tools or time or rituals or routines to help kids go through to register that information from working memory to long term memory. There's something about when you talk and teach Manju, that also feels so fun.

Manju: Yes. Oh yeah.

Maggie: There's something so fun about spending time with you or hearing your lectures online and even reading your research and it's also so matched with a lot of heart. I feel so much from you, not just your passion for this work. But, I can only imagine that is probably something I should write down and tap into. This notion of where it is fun and empathy and playful relationships with failure as you're learning. There is this piece of it that feels so human. I love that.

Manju: You really struck a chord with me on that, because let me take a step back and I'll respond to your question. For the longest time in special education, our focus has been on remediation, on finding the deficit and remediating it for our newer diverse students. But in more recent years, the focus has been an asset based approach. What are the strengths and how can we facilitate those strengths? My personal belief in there is key to that is, finding elements in the teaching environment over which students can have some sense of control. Because when they have control, that's when you create self-determined students. That is when they are intrinsically motivated. Today's society as you were talking about, the younger generation of today, where are they dwelling? They are dwelling in the world of video games and games.

Why don't we as educators find ways to select those elements of games, which are fun, which are so engaging and have students focusing on them for hours at an end, without it becoming an obsession. And without it becoming more of a detriment to learning rather than an enhancement for learning. This is not new. This concept of gamification, it's been around for a long time. But, this is something for our teachers and our audience to think about. Gamification essentially refers to bringing in of games into your teaching. Why? Because, two things. Why? Games are fun and we learn best when something is fun, because we are intrinsically motivated and engaged. And number two, most games have a probability of success built in. For many of these neuro diverse students who have never faced success because they believe no matter what they do, they're not going to succeed. But, if they're in a learning environment where there is a probability of success built in. The cards are already stacked in their favor, they're going to be more engaged.

Here's an example. When we talk about games, the language, and again, this is the power of language. We about students being on leaderboards and having leveling up to a higher level. The research has shown that when we can give students, and when we use words, such as leveling up, in a leaderboard on, let's say unique and quirky spellings. Let's say that's your leaderboard. Instead of giving a C minus or a D, you give them a level such as, you are still an apprentice, and then you will level up to maybe... Sorry, lowest level could be a novice. And then, you level up to an apprentice. And then, you level up to a master. Believe me, if you Google, this you'll find many other levels in between.

But, the research has shown that instead of giving grades, especially with the red pen, if you give them these levels and all you're doing is just changing the word from a letter grade D or a C minus to a letter grade novice. It has a very powerful impact on the student. Why? Because grades carry baggage, emotional baggage. Being a novice does not. You're a novice at this game. But yet, it helps us as educators achieve our purpose.

Maggie: It's like universal language. When I'm picking the boys up on the playground and I'm saying, "It's Friday, which means it's family Minecraft day and the fifth graders are there." And they're, "You play Minecraft?" I'm, "Yeah, but I'm a newb. I'm not that good. But, everyone's got to start there." It's not, "Oh, I failed. I got an F. It just shuts down the conversation." And so, that even piece in terms of thinking about our feedback, our assessment, our helping kids give themselves a placement that makes sense to them in their learning. That a novice or an apprentice or a newb, that all makes sense as opposed to you're a one, or it's a D.

Manju: Exactly.

Maggie: It's a quick reframe that is both kids centered and generative and movement and progress.

Manju: Absolutely. Gamification is a great tool for developing intrinsic motivation and what I call desirable challenge. If it's used right, you create what's called that desirable challenge. So, it's not too challenging or it's not too difficult. And yet it's not too easy. What I love is, you can create so many different leaderboards. You can create a leaderboard for the most creative math problem. Let's come up with that. Let's create a leaderboard for different types of exceptions to the rule for spelling. How many can you come up with?

We as educators, what we want to do is pick what is good and detour around what is not so good. That's where we need to be instead of railing against social media. It's stagnating the brains of our young kids when they spend so much time on it. That's our reality. Let's find ways to deal with it.

Maggie: In terms of that piece, we're going to have to do something. Teachers, we have to do something. So, it's either going to be, maybe what you had just mentioned. But, there also can be other things that teachers can actually do, like specific things that we can put in place that help build and foster the relationships in creating the environments, the learning environments that really help neuro divergent students. And most likely, all students really thrive. Is there anything that you've learned in your time, especially researching learning environments and building relationships with students that are things that we should know about.

Manju: Yeah. You're going to have to pardon me for this, but I have to give a shout out to Landmark College because as you know, we are only one of two in post secondary institutions that work only with neuro diverse individuals. But, one of the things that is just so intrinsic and organic to the Landmark College environment is educators and primarily advisors, but also for the faculty, working to build that trust with the students. Think about it, as a teacher, we are almost inherently in a power differential with students. We are in a position of power and that can be intimidating to students. If we want students to engage and open up, we start by building trust and it's not easy and it takes time. But, something that we use at Landmark college, I think is just very effective, are what's called non-directive coaching.

I'll share some of the tenets of non-directive coaching. This is something as teachers we can really do. We can adapt it to our particular situation. But in general, the first tenet talks about creating a non-judgmental and a safe space to fail. We do that very deliberately and intentionally. It's focused on mutual respect, mutual trust, but students know that this is safe. I can raise my hand and ask that stupid question. How many times as students, including myself have felt, I don't want to raise my hand and ask that question because I'll look stupid. But, if the teachers start by creating that environment where everyone can take good risks, that is the environment of trust. Another tenet talks about engaging in what we call, curious questioning and curious questioning is asking the where, the when, the how question, not the why. Like, why didn't you turn in your assignment?

Not that, but more like what happened? Or, how can I help? Talking about we, rather than you didn't do something. That's curious, questioning neutral listening. Another thing just really interesting is, thinking about setting goals, such as prioritizing tasks et cetera. But doing it in a co-determined fashion. We don't as educators tell the student, you need to X, Y, Z fill in the blank. But rather we say, what do you think about it? What would you want your three goals to be, to finish this assignment by Friday? What do you think you need to achieve? So, co-determining. What happens once you do that, you can then fade away the scaffolds and your words become the scaffold in the student's mind. I still hear my doctoral thesis advisor in my head when I'm looking at a piece of work or I'm reviewing a manuscript for a journal, and I can hear her say, "No, that's very sloppy. That's not good." She didn't use that word. But, essentially...

The students starts hearing because you become trained in that. Another tenet of non-directive coaching is talking about self-management of emotions. These don't happen just by... Some students, it is by observing others. But for many, they don't have people they can observe about managing emotions. Giving them that scaffold, that framework, for self calming, for example. One of the things we talk a lot about, and we've done some interesting research is around cognitive reappraisal, which is rethinking at the interpretation of a negative situation, so that it helps you helps calm you down.

And then finally, the last tenet I want to emphasize, is accountability. Yes, students can expect understanding, flexibility, a safe space to learn, all of that. But they also have to be accountable for their behaviors and they actually thrive when teachers set these boundaries and expectations as the research shows, so it's really important that as we are working with students, we are building their trust, but we are also showing them how to be accountable for their actions and decisions.

Maggie: It's even just pairing that last tenant with putting the student or person in the driver's seat by saying, "What would you do? What would be the steps you would take to solve this problem?" So, because that is a model for the student having agency, it feels then because I'm driving this, it's so much more natural to kind of crave and want and welcome accountability. Can you say just a teeny bit about that cognitive reappraisal?

Manju: Oh yes, absolutely. So, let's think of an example. You get your student and teacher gives you some feedback, which is kind of critical about an assignment, an essay you wrote, or whatever. And what do we often do? We come back, shove that into the backpack and never open it up. Never want to look at it again. And you know, we're pretty upset. We're upset at recess. Upset going home. Didn't like the comments and this is what Carol Dweck talks about having a fixed mindset.

But if the student was taught the tool to reappraise and you could do it through self-talk and say, "You know what? Okay, I got a bad grade but there were some comments in that essay from the teacher that were really powerful." Maybe I wouldn't use the word powerful, but I would say something like, "Yeah, there were something to think about." And then I go back and I talk to myself and say, "Well, what's the silver lining here? Well, maybe I could talk to the teacher. Or even if I don't feel brave enough to talk to the teacher, I could take another look at those comments and maybe there's something good in the fact that I got this poor grade."

What you're doing by doing self-talk is helping yourself calm down. Self-talk is a strategy for cognitive reappraisal. Naming the emotion you are feeling is a strategy come to reappraisal, so a bunch of different tools that you can use and the research shows that when you are faced with a negative, or an anxiety provoking or upsetting situation, people often go into behaviors like denial or refusal, or displacement, those kinds of things.

But the strategy approach that is most effective is when you do a reappraisal of the situation. And as educators, we can talk about our own difficult situation and how we used cognitive reappraisal to rethink that situation, help us calm down, and then be able to address that in a more positive way. The difficult situation in a more positive way.

Maggie: It makes so much sense because it's like you can't control. There's going to be many times that the task in front of you is quite stressful. Or if time demands, kind of are your kryptonite and here we are in the season, at least in third to eighth grade, we're in the seasons of high stakes testing at the state level and that tends to kind of be a buzz that comes to conversations around curriculum now. Or, you can even see some kids starting to get nervous around kind of just any statewide assessment. And you're right. We can't and that wouldn't be the goal to eliminate anything that feels stressful. But thinking about what are the ways that we can teach kids to help set them up for the most success to confront and move through those environments.

Do you have, in terms of any tips for supporting kiddos, especially kiddos in the neuro divergent community, as they kind of move through that season of school?

Manju: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say, first of all, to realize and that's really important for neurodiverse students is you're not alone. Start the preparation early. Work with your school's counselor, or transition person, or whoever is advising you on state assessment, any other transition assessments that you're taking.

So number one, start the process early and don't try to go it alone. This is advice for my parents in the audience. Work with your school. It is easier because schools have channels of communication with these testing agencies and they know the protocol. They know the process. So start with that.

The second thing is, and again, this is where legal comes in. If you have a diagnosis, you are entitled to accommodations, so make sure you have all your paperwork in place well ahead of time. Make sure that the paperwork by which I mean documentation, whether it's IEP, 504 Plan, an RTI assessment, whatever, just make sure that you have that.

When you are going to transition to college, it's really, really important to know the differences between the two laws that govern K through 12 and post-secondary. Both secondary is the Americans with Disabilities Act and to get accommodations in that sphere is a different approach than getting accommodations in the K12 world, which is governed by IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And IDEA is a special ed law. Whereas, ADA is a non-discrimination law. They're different. ADA is about access and IDEA is about ensuring that the student can meet the standards of the general curriculum. It's about success.

So again, being a aware of those differences and being aware of what are the accommodations that are approved in your state becomes really important. So work together. Don't go it alone, parents in the audience. Work with the school. If that's not possible, then try and find out as much of information from the website for the sites, but also just pick up the phone and call the office for supports for students with disabilities. That's the title they use. Not particularly a title I necessarily like, but again, we're talking about terminology and how we are trying to change terminology, exactly through blogs and interviews like this.

Maggie: Yes. You know, whether we're talking about this little moment or moments that have kind of been strung together to create a necklace, which is this episode, when you speak and when you share your research and share your observations from the classroom and with your experience of creating real schools and being in like real classrooms where kids can be shoulder-to--shoulder with other kids that might be just like them, you radiate these feelings and these notions of success and possibility and community for all and I appreciate how you're able to take a life's work on a topic and be able to go so deeply into the strands or chapters of that topic with us, while also having it be so light and full of that fun and possibility and that this is really a life's work of yours for success for all.

I will not underestimate when I say that I will probably be listening to this podcast in the triple digits, in terms of listening and re-listening, and re-listening. Thank you so much for sharing all that you have from your work and yourself with us this afternoon.

Manju: Thank you, Maggie. Thank you so, so much. You know, I've lived this. I have lived neuro-diversity, not just as an adult in my research and professional work, but as a student in school, in grade school. So, I really I've seen both sides. I really understand it. It's so important that we take an individualized approach. We don't group all neuro diverse students into one category. And to do that, we really need teachers who are flexible, who are empathetic, and who really also know how to make students trust them. That is so, so important.

We have many terrific teachers. We're learning so much in terms of the new normal that we are in and I am very optimistic about the future. I really feel it is forums like what you're doing here and spreading the word that is going to make the difference. Thank you so, so much for inviting me.


maggiebeattieroberts-11Maggie Beattie Roberts began her teaching career in the heart of Chicago and then pursued graduate studies as a Literacy Specialist at Teachers College, Columbia University. She worked as a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project for nearly ten years where she led research and development in digital and media literacy, as well as differentiated methods of teaching and content area literacy.

You can learn more about Maggie’s work, as well as access videos and other resources, at KateAndMaggie.com. Follow Maggie on Twitter: @MaggieBRoberts

Manju Banerjee pic, distributionManju Banerjee, Ph.D. is Learning Disabilities Ambassador-at-Large and former Vice President of Educational Research and Innovation at Landmark College, Putney, VT. Dr. Banerjee has over 35 years of experience in the field of neurodiversity and postsecondary disability services. She is a certified diagnostician and teacher-consultant on learning disabilities. She has published and presented extensively, both nationally and internationally, on topics such as, disability documentation and accommodations, postsecondary transition, online learning, and universal design.

Dr. Banerjee is a former executive board member of the Learning Disability Association of America. She is currently an editorial board member of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability; LD: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal, Professional Advisory Board member to the National Center on Learning Disabilities (NCLD), Learning Disability Association of America, and a consultant to Educational Testing Service, and Understood.org. She received her doctoral degree from the Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, on the application of universal design to high stakes assessment. See Dr. Banerjee’s clip on UDL.

Topics: Podcast, Heinemann Podcast, Maggie Beattie Roberts, Social-Emotional Learning, Neurodiversity

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