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Book Review: Neurodiversity in the classroom

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Started by Tara O'Neill 28 Mar 2014 2:43pm () Replies (2)

Neurodiversity in the classroom

Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life

By Thomas Armstrong  2012

Review by Tara O’Neill


This inspiring book brings hope to students with diverse learning needs.  Thomas Armstrong takes on a strength based approach moving from a paradigm based on deficits to one of cultivation of strengths.

Neurodiversity has  an ecological perspective where by a favourable environment is established using positive niche construction.  There are 7 areas that are used to develop this positive niche construction.  Teachers can develop plans to develop learner’s strengths.


  1. A comprehensive assessment of a student’s strengths,
  2. The use of assistive technologies and Universal Design for Learning methodologies,
  3. The provision of enhanced human resources,
  4. The implementation of strength-based learning strategies,
  5. The envisioning of positive role models
  6. The activation of affirmative career aspirations, and
  7. The engineering of appropriate environmental modifications to support the development of neurodiverse students (Armstrong, 2012, p. 4)


The different disabilities covered specifically are “The joys of ADHD, The Gifts of Autism, The Strengths of Students with Intellectual Disailities, The Bright side of Kids with Emotional and Behavioural Disorders”.


There are lots of suggestions and ideas to implement this approach including books and websites.  www.ascd.org

 Included in the book is a Neurodiversity Strengths Checklist an assessment tool to help identify learner’s strengths.  Also a suggested method of making IEP’s strength based.

This is a very practical and easy to read book.  The ideas are ethically, culturally responsive.  The assessment tool is reflective and inclusive.  For example, while the backdrop is the American Education System, the ideas would easily fit with the New Zealand curriculum because they use the strengths of individual learners.   Any teacher could pick up this book and instantly find helpful ideas.


Armstrong, Thomas. (2012). Neurodiversity in the classroom - Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life. (J. Houtz Ed.). USA: Genny Ostertag.




  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 01 Apr 2014 12:57pm ()

    Thanks for sharing your review Tara, I particularly like that we can access the first chapter.

    A few quotes that stood out for me:

    Teachers should not seek to "cure," "fix," "repair," "remediate," or even "ameliorate" a child's "disability.


    "The brain is in no sense like any kind of instruction machine, like a computer. Each individual's brain is more like a unique rainforest, teeming with growth, decay, competition, diversity, and selection" (quoted in Cornwell, 2007).

    Image Source

    The neurodiversity-inspired educator will have a deep respect for each child's unique brain and seek to create the best differentiated learning environment within which it can thrive.  
    Educators ought to know what students in special education are passionate about—what their interests, goals, hopes, and aspirations are. Studies suggest that children who have the capacity to surmount adversity usually have at least one adult in their lives who believes in them and sees the best in them (Brooks & Goldstein, 2001).

    Be curious about how our kids see the world!  

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