Neurodiversity is a term used to describe a range of natural variations in the human brain. As a concept it acknowledges we all learn and think differently. These are simply differences, not deficits.
Neurodiversity includes conditions that are life-long and those that can develop throughout life, including acquired illness or brain injury, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, intellectual disability, mental health, sensory processing disorders (SPD) and Tourette syndrome.
How does Magic Garden respond to children who have diverse needs?
Magic Garden embraces all aspects of neurodiversity under a larger umbrella of diversity and inclusion, with a genuine respect for ‘otherness.’ Otherness covers differences in race; in languages and cultures; lifestyles and beliefs; physical and mental conditions, characteristics, gender, and abilities; personalities and inclinations; geography and economic circumstances. We appreciate the amazing complexity of humanity that surrounds and includes us all.
Our focus is building on the strengths, progress, growth, and development that is visible for an individual, rather than the challenges they may experience. We seek to understand and learn from each other, wherever possible taking up spontaneous moments to advocate and model inclusion.
Having trouble or experiencing difficulty often brings us to consider what we most need to learn as human beings, so rather than seeing neurodiverse behaviour as potential barriers to learning, we aim to use a lense that allows us to focus on the individuals' strengths. This allows our community of learners to make a difference in the life of a child and their family and do whatever it takes to advance each child’s development and learning gently and skillfully in a socio-cultural environment.
At a practical level, our teachers design activities with multiple entry points from novice to expert, allowing children to draw on known strengths and create opportunities for learning and development suiting individual abilities.
Teachers observe learners' interactions and interpretations of the stimuli provided (called provocations). Teachers help increase a child’s quality of experiences, by using an emergent curriculum, where our teachers are consistently monitoring and reflecting on how to build on and evolve children’s working theories and identifying teachable moments. Teachers aim to extend and reinforce their learners' ways of being, ways of doing and ways of seeing, in our Reggio inspired play-based environment.
Our Teaching team meet regularly to discuss strategies or initiatives for children who may need additional support. We unpack what is going on in the child’s life right now – seeking first to understand. Our collective experience as a teaching team will draw out suggestions for future action such as:
Building and fostering reciprocal relationships with each family
Regular consulting with the family
Teachers actively seeking more positive moments to engage with the learner
Teachers using specific, consistent language to set boundaries with the child
Shadowing the child’s play to offer support in the situations they find difficult or tricky
Scaffolding by modelling and suggesting strategies the child could use to resolve conflict
Identifying and using spontaneous teachable moments throughout the day
Planning specific group times to advance children’s skills or thinking
Providing additional specific resources
Seeking specialist advice from outside agencies
Continuing dialogue between our teaching team and with the family as progress is made to identify, monitor, progress and resolve any issue that may arise or the long-term teaching plan.
Practical steps we use to minimise potential barriers to learning for individuals or groups of children at Magic Garden include:
We are careful to be clear about what families can expect from Magic Garden at the pre-enrolment stage so all parties are sure that the child’s well being and learning can be supported to the fullest potential in this environment.
We provide a very good teaching ratio to ensure there are teachers close at hand to scaffold children through sensitive concepts such as equity, fairness and social competence.
Our environment is carefully structured to provide many learning setups so that children can spread throughout the centre to find something that aligns with their particular interest or working theory, where they can work in small groups or individually.
The routine of the day allows children time and space to explore the environment at length; revisit ideas or resources multiple times; and use materials in their own way.
Our collective teaching style fosters respect for others, and the environment, so there is a culture of harmonious living, empathy, co-operation and whanaungatanga.
There is a mindset of flexibility that allows teachers to adjust their expectations to meet the needs of a child, rather than a child having to conform to the needs of the programme.