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Neurodiversity is a Strength with Gloria Niles

Welcome to Episode 52 of the Think UDL podcast: Neurodiversity is a Strength with Gloria Niles. Gloria Niles has a background in special education and neurology and is the Director of Distance Education at the University of Hawaii, West O’ahu. Today Gloria and I talk about neurodiversity and how it is often considered through a deficit model. We will talk about how identity and intersectionality may shape our conceptions of neurodiversity, and we will explore ways to use a strengths-based, talent-focussed approach. This positive, flipped approach helps to promote equity and inclusion for all students! Gloria has graciously made several resources available to us such as the Intersectional Identity Wheel and a sample Inclusion Syllabus Statement, and you can find them on our website at I think you’ll find this conversation revealing in what assumptions we make, and what systemic issues all of our students, especially our neurodiverse students, face in higher education today.


Follow Gloria Niles on Twitter @teachtoreachme

Inclusion Syllabus Statement Add this to your syllabus in order to move away from deficit thinking into positive strengths-based thinking.

Intersectional Identity Wheel Understanding how we live and move through this world 

Autistic Self Advocacy Network FInd great resources here about how Autistics advocate for themselves
Todd Rose’s The Myth of Average TED Talk Lillian mentions this talk that dispels the flawed assumption that there is some sort of “normal” or “average” student.


This transcript was auto-generated and my have inaccuracies. We will post a corrected transcript as soon as possible.

Lillian Nave  00:00

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 52 of the think UDL podcast. neurodiversity is a strength with Gloria Niles. GLORIA Niles has a background in special education and neurology, and is now the director of distance education at the University of Hawaii, West Oahu. Today, Gloria and I talk about neuro diversity and how it is often considered through a deficit model. We will talk about how identity and intersectionality may shape our conceptions of neuro diversity, and we will explore ways to use a strengths based talent focused approach. This positive flipped approach helps to promote equity, and inclusion for all students. GLORIA has graciously made several resources available to us such as the intersectional identity, we’ll add a sample inclusion syllabus statement, and you can find them on our website at think I think you’ll find this conversation revealing in what assumptions we make, and what systemic issues all of our students, especially our neuro diverse students face in higher education today. Thank you, Gloria, so much for being with me today on the think UDL podcast,

Gloria Niles  01:58

thank you for having me.

Lillian Nave  02:00

It’s great. I am excited about our conversation, because I’m very interested in neuro diversity. And including that in all of our discussions of diversity. And so that’s why I sought you out and wanted to talk to you. So I want to just start out with my first question that I asked all my guests, and that is what makes you a different kind of learner.

Gloria Niles  02:25

I love this question. And, for me, I need time at the beginning when I’m learning something to really access and build information. An example of that is if I start reading a book on a subject, and the author references another book, I’m gonna like, divert over to that book and and build some more information. But what really makes me different is how I internalize the information. And it’s always helpful for me when I have the opportunity or the creative latitude to sort of describe my mental schema or my mental map of the information. And that’s how I internalize and really own the information. And so examples of that way back when I was in high school, I, I took a lot of STEM classes. And I would always come home and rewrite and diagram my notes and color code them. And my siblings thought I was crazy. spending all this time rewriting my notes every day. And then even in teaching when I taught neurosciences for a number of years. And I would create my own course packets by drawing diagrams of tracks of the nervous system and things like that. So now working in faculty development, I, you know, I make a lot of infographics and I enjoy putting together a slide presentations. So I think that’s what makes me different learner is just the way I represent my my mental maps or my mental schema of information.

Lillian Nave  04:10

Wow, that is so UDL. Right, so related to those Exactly. Means of Representation. And when you said color coded, oh my goodness, I color coded everything in the high school. And I don’t know if you had to do this, but we used to have to cover our books with mess. And then I could then use whichever marker was going to color code with whatever notebook right? So yes, and then I would put the laser marker on top of my math but that we have a man that brings back memories having to cut up approach with

Gloria Niles  04:46

four different

Lillian Nave  04:51

Yes. And I remember seeing something recently on social media like somebody was trying to figure out which color is going to go with Your math notebook. And I, for some reason, it was always blue to me like I was going to do a math. So I had some sort of plan as to what the color coding was going to be. But and then of course those file folders. Yeah, the file tabs. Oh, yeah, like a five subjects.

Gloria Niles  05:18

Had to coordinate that to the notebook?

Lillian Nave  05:20

Yes. Oh, yeah. Oh, those were great times. I always loved getting the school supplies. So yes, separate nerds. Okay, well, that might be why we are both very interested in the brain and Universal Design for Learning ceramics. I’m excited about this one. Okay, so, you, having taught the neurosciences and having a real understanding of the brain, I really want to talk to you about neuro diversity. And so you have done a lot of educating of other other folks about neuro diversity as part of diversity and, and, you know, really using that as a positive. So the first question I have about that is talking about how it’s often explained or talked about, and that’s as disability. So what are the different paradigms of disability? And can you kind of give us a sketched out version of what they are with a medical, social and cultural definitions or paradigms of disability? Okay, great.

Gloria Niles  06:31

So let me step back just just a bit and talk about two paradigms. And then I’m going to talk about those three models that you mentioned, a great. And so I look at disability from two different paradigms. The first one is an impairment paradigm that focuses on limitations of an individual that deviate from an established norm. The definition of disability is the limitation of one or more life functions, right. So it’s focused on limitations. And those limitations are due to an impairment and impairment. And so then the opposite paradigm is the diversity paradigm that there are differences. And they’re acceptable, those differences are okay, they’re part of the human experience. And it’s not necessarily different as an impairment or bad because you don’t fit within the norm. Now that branches out into three models of disability, one is a medical or a deficit model, also called a pathology model. And that’s the one that’s most commonly used. And it’s what our laws like ADA and Id EA are based on. And this is where there’s a checklist that requires a diagnosis by a qualified individual to say that, okay, you are impaired enough to have this disability. Because these things need to be changed or corrected. And so we have to give you some accommodations, so that we don’t see those impairments in you, and we make you a little bit more like the norm. We have to fix you. In other words, and the social model of disability, I like to call it an access model. Where it looks at the barrier is not in the individual, what’s disabling the individual is access to the environment. Now those access or those barriers could be environmental, they could be attitudinal barriers. They could be structural barriers. So an individual who is a wheelchair user would have a barrier if they can’t access a door, or there’s only stairs in a building and no elevator, right? Yeah. So it’s not the impairment is not necessarily the individuals use of a wheelchair, the disabling factors in the environment, right that. And so it shifts to more of that diversity paradigm where it’s not an it’s an individual difference. We need to look at ways to remove the barriers to access. And then the third model is a cultural model, where the ways an individual experiences the world based on how their body or their nervous system has developed. It can create a culture and the most common example of this is the Deaf culture with Deaf used with a capital D. They have norms, they have language that they use, they have ways interacting, they have ways of socializing and experiencing the world. And oftentimes members of the deaf community referred to deaf game rather than hearing loss. And the artistic community is, is also developing an identity. In the DSM four before we moved to the DSM five with the one Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella for there were all of the different categories. There’s autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD, NOLS and, and particularly the the Asperger community, and now the autism community have formed an identity. And they’re, it’s something they’re proud of it’s way they interact and experience the world, and it’s become a culture and an identity. Wow.

Lillian Nave  10:53

Yeah. I am interested to in that movement from that DSM. Right, you had to have that diagnosis. So that is the deficit. Right, the negative and in order to participate fully, I mean, we have that really ingrained in our educational system. Yes, order to participate fully, you have to have this diagnosis or, and then you get certain things. Yes. added to your education, and why can’t we just start thinking about the holistic education to incorporate all these people to begin with? Right, right. Right, everybody? Yeah, I often I’ve got a talk that I give sometimes that’s called teaching all the students who have not just the ones you wish you had.

Gloria Niles  11:42

I love that.

Lillian Nave  11:43

Yeah, we we kind of we don’t realize it, but I think we have in our head, the kind of students we want in our class. Yes. And we just don’t get them that we get the kind of student we have in our class, not the kind of student we want. Right? Yeah. Okay, this deficit thinking plays into the pair paradigms here. So we talked about how, you know, much of our education educational system, really we don’t realize is shaped by this deficit thinking and accommodations that we have in, in higher ed, I know, as a professor, I will get notices from our Office of Disability Studies or disability services, sorry, and say, This student needs this maybe extra time, write a test, or, or, or you need to make sure that your readings, I have a screen read, you know, our screen reader available or things like that. So and I know that I hear from many colleagues, that then that becomes a problem, or that becomes one more thing they have to do.


Mm hmm.

Lillian Nave  12:50

So Gee, how can we start to rethink how we g it’s kind of a big question how we do everything right, Gloria?

Gloria Niles  13:00

How do we change the world? Yeah,

Lillian Nave  13:03

yeah. So yeah, we look at that nervous neurodiversity paradigm and think of a different way to go about

Gloria Niles  13:12

it. But that’s a great question. And you just described the process, that typically happens, a student has to have documentation, first of all, from a qualified provider that they have this diagnosis, that they, they qualify, and there’s a lot of students who struggle, but don’t necessarily check off enough boxes to be deemed, okay, you have a learning disability, or you have ADHD, and therefore you need these accommodations. And then as you described as a professor, before you meet the student, you’re getting this letter of accommodations that says the law says that you have to provide this for this student. But from the deficit perspective, as you also described, as you know, that the students we wish we had don’t only students who wish you had, you’ve already created or triggered an internal bias against the student because you’ve been introduced to the student, before even meeting the student by their limitations, right. So it’s like meeting and say, Hey, you know, my biggest challenge is, before I even tell you, my name

Lillian Nave  14:32

is long right? Where the semester begins? Yes. Right.

Gloria Niles  14:35

And, and so that’s the problem and it creates systemic ableism is what it creates. Not that any professor necessarily is intentionally being able to test against a student, but it’s the way the system is designed. And so it’s not that we’re saying that a particular professor is in ablest and is just Eliminating against a particular student or as biased against a particular students. But it’s the way that the system is designed. It’s the way that the laws are interpreted, and the laws are but based on this deficit paradigm, but if we change that through things like the UDL framework, and the UDL guidelines to removing barriers based on the social model, and looking at divert the diversity paradigm, particularly neurodiversity, because the when I sort of informally survey participants in in my workshops and things I asked, you know, what are the common disabilities that show up in your student population, and it’s always learning disability, ADHD, attentional issues, sensory processing, what we call hidden disabilities, per se, they’re not really things that you would notice just seeing somebody walking across campus, per se. And by shifting to the idea that there is not this sort of prepackaged norm of the way somebody is supposed to learn, and that we all learn in the same way, and it and expanding that to diversity, just like there are people of all different shapes and sizes, different hair colors, different hair, textures, different ages, different skin tones. The same way about the nervous system, our nervous system has developed in a unique way we eat, it’s like a fingerprint, we each have, you know, a very specific and very unique way that that our synapses have connected in our brain that make us who we are. And that’s just different. It’s not necessarily bad. It’s just different. And so if we think of our teaching in a way of how do we embrace and remove barriers for anybody, then we open up the space for our neuro diverse learners to show up as their whole self.

Lillian Nave  17:06

Yes. Wow. So and that difference? I love that you just said it is not. It’s not bad. It’s not a deficit. It’s just different. And in fact, different. It’s different. And some of those could be incredible strengths.

Gloria Niles  17:22

Absolutely. Yes.

Lillian Nave  17:23

Yeah. So So how does that strengths first thinking play play into, you know, what you’re what you’re talking about?

Gloria Niles  17:32

Sure. So neurodiversity as as a framework, as a paradigm, is really becoming a movement, a culture, so to speak, you know, there are, there’s a Stanford neuro diversity project, they just had a summit last month, where they’re really bringing to light for both educational institutions and for employers, that this is a community of individuals who are diverse. Yeah, just like any other form of, of diversity that your company would be embracing, and, you know, embrace neurodiversity. And so neuro diversity focuses on a strength based talent focused approach. And so it changes the way that we shift from describing disabilities by their deficits or limitations to describing based on the talents or the strength characteristics. For example, I taught special education for about 10 years, mostly with students with autism. And so I had classes that were specifically for only for students with autism, whether it was early childhood, three and four year olds, all the way up through no middle schoolers, but they were autism specific classrooms. And what I noticed is that when all of the students are on the spectrum, that there was sort of this culture that developed within the class, now they’re all unique and different. But the way they interacted and their strengths and their talents, and so redefining, sort of, you know, autism has social communication challenges, and they, you know, they have a narrow focus of interest, and they, they’re only interested in one particular topic. But really, if we shift that to, to a strength based talent focus, and we would describe autism by saying they’re individuals who are excellent at pattern detection, they are oftentimes technologically inclined, they are honest to a tee. They’re very reliable. And so instead of saying they present We would say that they have a narrow area of specialization that they like to focus on. Yeah, you know, and, and that they’re technologically inclined, and that they need to develop very trusting relationships before they communicate, and they might communicate differently. And so if we look at it from the strengths that a particular neuro divergence may create, whether those are attentional, for example, ADHD gets misunderstood a lot. A lot of times it’s that not that you can’t focus because a lot of times people with ADHD hyper focus, right,

Lillian Nave  20:44

right. It’s something they’re interested in for sure. If it’s

Gloria Niles  20:48

a Yeah, they hyper focus, and sometimes what they’re focusing on, they can’t necessarily control. So if they’re sitting in class, and there’s a fly landing on the desk, right, their attention might be diverted to where that fly is gonna go right next, or what the fly is doing. But they don’t necessarily have control over that. You know, like, stop pay attention. I’m lecturing.

Lillian Nave  21:11

Yeah, right. Right. So you bring up a couple things. One of the recent advocacy agencies that I’ve heard of is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Yeah. And I can see that the identity of, of autistics wanting to really advocate for them for oneself as a group rather than an outside group trying to advocate which may not have your best interests in mind. So I know there are many different autism groups. And I have learned in the last year, how important it is to listen to the people who actually are on the autism spectrum. And to do look at where are you getting your information? Yes, yeah. And who are you listening to? Our I think, two of the questions I’ve started to ask about autism and what what is my, you know, when I interact with students on the spectrum, when I act with my my friends and family members, what questions Am I asking? And even when you say, a SM, which is the diagnosis, diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder, using that word disorder? Is that negative? Rice ability? idea?

Gloria Niles  22:38

Yes. Yeah. Same with attention deficit disorder. Right. Right.

Lillian Nave  22:44

So I mean, this is a whole reframing that I think, is really important. I so appreciate the time you’re taking it to educate so many others, about this reframing and thinking about Oh, not not the Oh, I’ve got to do this now because of making this accommodation. But rather thinking in the positive, like, I read been reading quite a few and listening to quite a few different autism books, and understanding specially childhood autism. And one of the things that I constantly see is reframing in the positive, so things like if you’ve got somebody who is on the autism spectrum, and they are really hyper focused, usually on one thing, and then it might switch after a couple months, somebody really likes trains, I’m gonna tell you all about trains, I know their wheel size. I know, you know, how fast they go, how much coal is needed, you know, I could tell you everything about trains, and then maybe next year, it’s, I can tell you everything about how you make a rubber band and how elastic they are, and how big they’re, and instead of thinking of the, I don’t want to talk about trains, or you know, this is this is the, you know, 47th time you’ve told me about the rubber band MC, thinking about it as instead of obsessions or maybe a negative word like that enthusiasms



Lillian Nave  24:04

Right? Just reframing it in a positive light, changes the perception and I think changes the interactions too. Yeah. So we need to be thinking about our students who are diverse, and diverse in their hidden, I guess I would say hidden diversities in their neurodiversity. What are the positive things that they’re bringing to our classes? And how is that making us better teachers? I think,

Gloria Niles  24:32

right. So

Lillian Nave  24:34

how does nothing you work on and talk about his identity and how does identity intersect with this?

Gloria Niles  24:41

so important, because there’s a huge intersection between I talk a lot about intersectionality. out, which really involves all of the multiple attributes of our of our self identity, whether it’s our race ethnicity, it could be our age group, it could be our attractions or sexual orientations, our gender expression, could be geographical or cultural could be even our interest in our music, musical genres, or our dietary needs, or preferences, you know, all of these things make up our identity and some of the things in our identity we, we define for ourselves, and others are assigned to us. Yeah, and we’re learning more and more in the work on identity that a lot more, we should provide people with the space of a lot more agency to define their identity. But from the deficit perspective of disability, as we have, you know, painted the picture of, you know, your introduction to this student as a letter of accommodation that outlines their limitations. That can have a negative impact on self identity, particularly in, in educational environments, and I and I use my son as an example, a lot of you, he’s an adult now and, and has given his consent for me to talk about his experience. And he is, he’s neurodiverse. He, when he was in pre K through 12th grade, at his experience as an African American male, who was also neurodivergent. In school. The focus was on figuring out what was wrong with him. You know, why don’t you learn at the rate that, you know, why aren’t you reading the way we expect you to read? And why aren’t you writing? Why can’t you spell? You know, why can’t you what all of these things that were wrong with him. And so when it came time for the transition as he was going through high school and starting to think about careers, or post secondary education, my family has a very long history of like, I think I might have been the the fifth generation college. Wow, going. patient. Yeah. You? Yes. You graduate and you go to college?

Lillian Nave  27:31

Yeah. There’s

Gloria Niles  27:32

no other option. Right. And you get advanced degrees. That’s what we do. Yeah, you know, but he, he started to realize he said, You know, I love learning, but I hate school. And he, then he question that, why am I only disabled in school? Wow. So that aspect of being disabled, only entered his identity in a school environment. If he was shopping, if he was on the basketball court, if he was hanging out with friends and socializing, if he was at home with a family. Disability wasn’t part of his identity, it was only in the school environment, where disability became a huge part of his identity, because it was the focus on the school environment and trying to determine, you know, what are your deficits? And what do we call that deficit?

Lillian Nave  28:24

That is incredibly powerful.

Gloria Niles  28:27

Yeah. So how it can impact. That’s how, you know, the deficit paradigm can impact identity.

Lillian Nave  28:35

Yeah, wow. Yeah. And I do a lot of intercultural work, too. And so we deal with, we have an exercise about identity wheels. And yes, you know, understanding who we are. And so much of that exercise that we do, is figuring out how much this stuff actually matters, things that we didn’t realize mattered. They they really, really, really do. Yeah. And we haven’t quite uncovered or peeled back enough layers to understand how much that identity whether I guess it’s chosen, or it’s thrown upon us, has shaped us and has really shaped how we see the world and how we move in the world, how we might avoid things or choose some things. And it’s so, so very much shaped on on those many, many parts of our identity. So that’s making a huge impression on me. I actually have an intersectional identity wheel that that I’ve developed. I’ll send you a copy of it. Oh, great. We can put that in the resources. Yes. Oh, great. Yeah, just knowing that discovering that about ourselves helps, really helped me and helps my students to understand how They might be seeing the world through well that they are seeing the world through a particular lens. And what does that cause them to do? Sometimes it causes them to make assumptions that aren’t true. Right? And to make assumptions that other people live like this or other, somebody’s doing that, because they must think this Oh, no, that maybe based on your background, or your where you grew up, looking somebody in the eye is respectful where they grew up looking somebody in the eye is disrespectful. Yeah, yeah. So that we really have to pay attention to identity. Mm hmm. Yeah. So you’re bringing up a really valid point about knowing that negative identity that impacts neuro diverse students. So I really, really appreciate that. Okay, so, so what? Let’s all right, so we’re a professor, we’re teaching a class, we recognize now that we have a variety of students, that we will most likely have neurodiverse students in our class. So what does a course look like? When you have this strengths first paradigm in mind, and you are planning a class either face to face or maybe now I guess, mostly online? What what is what does that look like? What can we emphasize? What What can we do when we are saying, you know, what, I’m a, I’m a strength first paradigm person? What is my teaching look like?

Gloria Niles  31:37

So it really comes down to committing to being an inclusive teacher, or professor, and having an inclusive learning environment. And and that term, of course, you know, is very popular now. Yes, yeah, being very inclusive. And my definition of being inclusive or an inclusive environment has to do with belonging. And belonging means that an individual feels safe to show up with their whole identity. Because it takes a lot of emotional tax, to suppress or hide part of our identity, when we feel that it’s not safe to, to express some aspect of our identity, whether it’s being a member of the LGBTQ community, or whether it has to do with a hidden disability, or neurodiversity. And so to be in inclusivity educator means that what are you doing intentionally to create this environment where you are creating space for your students to show up with their whole identity, but it goes beyond that, when we show up with our whole identity, and we feel that it’s safe to express ourselves our authentic selves, then we also need to feel valued, okay for it to be inclusive. And so that’s where the strength based talent focused, I want to know what your strengths are. And then together, we can co create a system that will support your challenges. So when we’re able to lead from our strengths and our talents, we feel valued. And then the third part of an inclusive environment is that the learner needs to feel a sense of purpose, what’s my purpose in this class? You know, why is it important that I’m here and what’s, you know, what, what’s the goal? Yeah, and, and so, those, those three aspects will help not only neurodiverse students, but students of any type of diversity in an inclusive environment when they feel that you’ve created a space where you’ve Welcome to their and their entire identity, their wholeness as an individual, their authenticity, and they feel valued, recognized for their strengths and their talents that can be used to overcome their challenges. And they feel a sense of purpose. Well,

Lillian Nave  34:15

those map almost directly on to the UDL principles. Yeah. When you ended with purpose. That is the why like, engaging students that need engagement. Why? why they’re there.

Gloria Niles  34:28

matter to me. Yes.

Lillian Nave  34:30

Yeah. And coming up with a purpose for your class at that Rhino for them. Right. Right. Nobody’s gonna learn if they don’t know the why.

Gloria Niles  34:38

Right. It’s not because it’s a general education requirement. And I made

Lillian Nave  34:42

that can’t be the

Gloria Niles  34:44

diversification to get my degree in some other subject. Yeah, right. The why, but why are you Why Why? Why is this important to you?

Lillian Nave  34:54

And one of the ways I’ve seen many professors do that is having students create goals. for that class, you know, for them to be able to, to add that to whatever the general goals are. So and then another idea about how that maps on could be, when you’re talking about strengths focusing, then that’s multiple ways or means of action and expression. So being able to use all of those different strengths from your students and saying I value that I want to see that in action, and offering choices to your students. So each one and that’s representation. So we’ve got all three areas of UDL in, in your explanation of why that what that looks like. Yeah. to So UDL is so important in in welcoming, yes, valuing doing, yeah. And bringing in those students, so they can be full learners along, you know, with everybody. That’s great. Okay, so I’ve got one more I, you’re making me think of a million different ways that, that this could go actually, but offering lots of options for your students. And really, it sounds like you’re finding out about who your students are, it’s great to give them the options, but then how is it that you show them that you value them? Do you have any examples of that?



Gloria Niles  36:28

I like to start classes with a getting to know you survey that, you know, lets students tell me about themselves. And I like to, to format it from a strength perspective, kind of like your your opening question of what makes you a different learner, I want to know more about them, and what their interests are, and what their goals are, and what their strengths are. And, you know, just by opening that, and also being being open and sharing, that I’m human too, and that I have strengths and challenges, too. I think that’s important. And it comes down to really building relationships. And it goes back to that saying, of people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,

Lillian Nave  37:24

right? Absolutely.

Gloria Niles  37:26

Yeah. And so when your students know how much you care, then they that builds their motivation to and it helps them find their purpose. And their value. Mm hmm.

Lillian Nave  37:39

I must say, I am a living example of that about, I had really fantastic teachers growing up and really, really enjoyed learning and, and loved it and still have many relationships with those teachers. But I did do remember one particular not great relationship where I felt totally not valued. And it made me dislike the subject so much that I didn’t take, you know, the the optional AP course whatever it was, and thought I would never like this, this the subject, I’m not going to give it away. But it turns out, that’s pretty much what I teach now. It was is closer what the subject was, and I thought, Oh, I don’t like that subject. And turns out, I really did. It’s just that that relationship was a negative one. And it was about the only one in my whole learning career that soured me on on wanting to know more about, you know, about a particular subject, a particular subject, I’ll just leave

Gloria Niles  38:47

it at that. Right.

Lillian Nave  38:49

It took me a long time to say, you know what, I really find this interesting, I think I’m going to spend a lot more time learning about it. And so, I would love to think that no, I can just learn no matter what, how hard it is, or how difficult the instructor is, and I can do it myself. But I know that it really does impact my ability to internalize it to be motivated for it to show up and do the work in order to learn. Right. salvager major change. So, okay, one of the other things that you mentioned too, is that deficit model makes the assumption that there is a normal, like there is an average. And one of the talks the TED Talks I referenced a lot is the myth of average by Todd rose, who helps bat founded the caste and UDL guidelines. And uncovering that assumption that we think there is an average student there is either a perfect way to learn or the only way to learn or that’s the best way way to learn is an assumption that I think is hurtful for getting everybody the chance to learn together. So providing those options is so important. Okay, so if you were to, let’s say, put on your advising cap, and talk to our listeners today about what’s one thing that instructors should remember about this conversation about the neurodiversity paradigm and their teaching, what would that be?

Gloria Niles  40:33

It would be to approach every learner that comes into your class. From an unbiased perspective, and an unbiased perspective means that we all have biases, it’s the way that our nervous system and our brain is developed. And we have to embrace that and acknowledge that and the more conscious we can become about our biases. Like if you get that accommodation letter, making sure that you stop and say, Wait, I, I’m making sure that I’m not biasing this student, by receiving this documentation. Yeah. And that I’m going to make sure that I reach out to this student, and find out what their strengths are. Because I’ve been given this letter that outlines you know, their limitations, and just being conscious of that, and making sure that you’re just rechecking yourself, every, you know, constantly have How am I being welcoming and inclusive and helping every learner in my class, find their value, and their purpose, and creating the space where they can show up with their authentic self and their whole identity? and creating a learning environment? That’s a safe space.

Lillian Nave  41:49

Yeah. And that’s our job. Right? That Yes, our job is not just shoot out information. Yeah, people to catch. Yeah, it is to create the environment and the way for our students to really, to be able to absorb it to be motivated by it. It’s, you know, we I used to think that teaching was just being able to have the knowledge and get it out there. Brass, not even half of it, nice building a place and environment, the the structure, knowing what our goals are, there’s so much more it’s such a complicated art, and science, teaching that I think it really requires a lot of this kind of reflection you’re asking us to do, let’s reflect on what am I thinking right now, when I received this letter? And and what should I be thinking? How should I be moving forward with this information? And how can I create the space and the place in the environment for my students to become expert learners,

Gloria Niles  42:52

right, because I think those of us who are educators, and who are passionate about our profession as educators, and what really drives that passion is that we’re lifelong learners, and we love learning. And being an educator, as you said, it’s not just shooting out our knowledge and hoping that it sticks. It’s, it’s really, I find that passionate educators, their passion really shines when they’re learning to, and and our best classes we walk away from are the ones where we learned along with our students, you know, and so, you know, think keeping that in mind, of, you know, our educator passion for learning and, and making sure that we’re creating that opportunity for our our learners. Be passionate, too.

Lillian Nave  43:47

Yeah, you know, I’m definitely going to take away what you said too, about, well, actually, what your son brought to me what he taught me, which is, I don’t want my students to say I love learning, but I don’t like school. Right? I don’t want them to, to say I, you know, this is interesting stuff, but I don’t like learn it from you, or I don’t like the system. I don’t like the way the way it’s doing it. I think that’s so important. I love learning. And we want our students to be able to love school. So we need to make it a place. Yeah. Yeah. Where they can they can continue that love of learning, right? Yeah, that was very powerful that I love learning, but I don’t like school. We don’t want to do that to our students.

Gloria Niles  44:32

Right, right. We want to make school have the perception of a place where you’re open to learning. Yeah, whoever you are, and however you learn,

Lillian Nave  44:43

right, and you can be exactly who you are. Yeah. As you do that. Yeah. Oh, great. Wow. Well, thank you so much, Gloria for an incredible conversation. And I think a real change. Hopefully in How educators and systems and universities might be able to think in a strengths based format. We were hoping for for that so that nobody will have to say that they don’t like school, right? In the future, right. Thank you so much for your time, and I appreciate it.

Gloria Niles  45:23

Thank you.

Lillian Nave  45:35

You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star the star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Apple-LAY-shun, I’ll throw an APP-uhl-at-cha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.

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