Neurodiversity will be a new concept and new set of vocabulary within many schools. The LEANS curriculum introduces neurodiversity concepts, and explores how they impact primary school experiences. Importantly, LEANS shows how we can hold a positive attitude towards neurodiversity, while also recognising the challenges faced by many children in school.
LEANS explains neurodiversity to pupils in the following way:
Neurodiversity means that we are all different in how we think, feel, and learn, because our brains process information differently. Your whole class is diverse, not just in the way you look or what you enjoy doing, but also in the way your brains work and how you think, feel, and learn.
LEANS stresses how many different things the brain does—and thus why information-processing differences can have such profound effects across different domains. As one story character reflects, this is how her dyspraxia (DCD) diagnosis can affect her memory and her feet at the same time!
To help explain neurodiversity and neurodivergence in the classroom, LEANS uses the metaphor of trees growing in a woodland. One group of trees is in the majority—this woodland is an environment that perfectly meets their needs for water, shade, etc. Other types of trees are growing there, but they are minorities, and this environment is less ideal for their needs. The metaphor makes clear that the less-common trees are having a hard time growing in the woodland. A willow tree is not inherently “better” or “worse” than a beech tree—they are only different, with different needs. It is important that when talking about neurodiversity and differences between people, that we don’t end up minimising the impact of those differences. We want to recognise the struggles some children face in school and so that’s reflected in the woodland metaphor too.
Three big things to know about neurodiversity content in LEANS
- LEANS is a neurodiversity introduction. We hope it will be only the start of your class exploring this topic. It’s also not possible for one resource to cover every possible situation, or experience!
- It is about neurodiversity within primary schools, rather than all of society. Starting close to home helps keep this topic accessible and relevant for everyone.
- The materials focus on lived experiences over diagnostic labels. It doesn’t give facts about a list of diagnoses. It stresses that neurodiversity includes everyone in the classroom, and that neurodivergent people may not have diagnoses.
Read more about what LEANS is—and isn’t—on our resource overview page, and our FAQs page.
LEANS neurodiversity content for teachers
You do not need to be a neurodiversity expert to adopt LEANS in your class. Teachers delivering LEANS may have varying levels of neurodiversity experience when they get started with the programme, from beginner to expert!
The Teacher Handbook gives a neurodiversity topic introduction—not a full account of current thinking on neurodiversity. LEANS’ content…
Is meant to help you feel prepared to teach this topic at primary level.
Explains how neurodiversity terms and concepts fit together with terms you may already know, like ASN, SEND, or ALN.
Provides ready-to-use, child-friendly explanations of tricky ideas.
Signposts possible ethics and safety issues around teaching neurodiversity.
Suggests further neurodiversity reading, for those who want more detail.
Looking for more in-depth neurodiversity content right now? We suggest the Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre’s neurodiversity pages. These cover a much wider set of topics than does LEANS, including neurodiversity as a social movement, healthcare, ableism, and workplaces.