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Words Adulting with FASD by Rebecca Tillou. Photo of Rebecca and logo of Indiana Alliance

Classroom Cues for Neurodivergent Youth

By Rebecca Tillou

I saw a YouTube video the other day. It had a teacher telling her class that they had 2 minutes to finish the task at hand. I stopped the video. I then started thinking about actions teachers may take that seem efficient…for the Neurotypical child.

  1. “You have 2 minutes to finish the math problems on the board, then your pencil should be down on the desk.” -I struggled with this as a child. Math was my nemesis. Still is, but Alexa has become my bestie. I would be staring at my paper, 2-3 problems left…blank. My heart would start to race. I would hand it in as it was and get it back with circles around the blank lines. My score would be ok, but minus the ones I couldn’t get to. Why a time limit? Not just for neuro divergent people in class, but for everyone. Why a time limit? I know in certain occupations, time is of the essence, but why not take the time needed to teach us to remember how to problem solve before putting time constraints on us?
  2. “You need to take off your coat, put it on the hook in your cubby, sit down, take out your math book and turn to page 37.” Um…ok. I heard 3 of those directions. I would sit there with my math book out, no idea what page to turn to. Maybe teachers can write the directions on the board? I know teachers are pressed for time. Maybe if there are pre-made written directions for tasks to be completed that are done almost daily. It will make for successful students that may struggle with multi step directions. Us neuro-diverse kiddos and adults. Success leads to happy and confident people.
  3. Picking on a student to show the class how to do a math problem who doesn’t have their hand up: When I was younger, I thought it was brilliant to pick a child who was not paying attention in class to get up and do a math problem on the board. I no longer feel the same. As I have gained understanding of struggles and challenges in a neurodiverse child’s mind, acting out is most likely the result of not understanding the content. Calling on a child who doesn’t understand to work a problem in front of the class is utter embarrassment. Choose a child with their hand up. Those that don’t understand the problem may learn the how do from their peer that is ready and willing to teach.
  4. “Write down the homework on the board in your agenda book.”- Um…ok. What if a child can’t find their agenda book? Organization can be tough for neurodivergent kiddos. Maybe, since the lesson plans are written out anyway, hand out a list of the homework assignments to those that struggle copying into notebooks.
  5. “Please stop shuffling your feet back and forth, rocking your chair back and forth, and stop clicking your pen. It is very distracting.” -Those that are neurodivergent often have sensory needs. Many of us are sensory seekers. Especially when we are expected to sit for longer than 5 minutes. There are sensory chairs that rock slightly to give that sensory input. There are fidget toys. I understand neuro typical kids in classrooms may want those accommodations also. I recommend an open conversation with the classroom, including the neurodiverse child. Have them explain how these accommodations help them focus, and in turn, help the class focus.


This blog post is part of a series by Rebecca Tillou, an FASD self-advocate and author.  To read Rebecca’s blog or to connect with her, click here

For more information about FASD- visit our FASD Guide.

What is FASD? Check Out Our FASD Resource Directory Drinking & Pregnancy

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