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At a glance:
  • Neurodiversity is a viewpoint that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits.

  • The idea of neurodiversity can have benefits for kids with learning and thinking differences.

  • This concept can help reduce stigma around learning and thinking differences.

The range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.'

Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological variations are known and valued as any other human variation.

These variations can include:


  • - Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD or dyspraxia)

  • - Dyslexia

  • - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • - Dyscalculia

  • - Autistic Spectrum (ASD)

  • - Tourette Syndrome (TS), and others

Put another way, a condition such as Dyslexia is a part of who the person is and to take away the dyslexia is to take away from the person.

It can also shed light on instructional approaches that might help to highlight particular strengths kids have.

One such approach is Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

More information

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socialises with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behaviour.



ADHD is a lifelong neurological condition. It affects the way the brain receives, processes, and responds to information. 

Attention refers to the management system of the brain, it's executive function – the ability to:

  • pay attention

  • organise and plan

  • initiate tasks and stay focused on them

  • regulate emotions

  • self-monitor (keep track of what they are doing).

  • There are three main presentations of ADHD. Not everyone presents the same behaviours.

  • Inattentive – students need support with organising and completing tasks, following instructions or conversations, and attending to detail.

  • Hyperactive-Impulsive – students need support with speaking at appropriate times, waiting their turn, listening to directions, thinking before they act.

  • Combined - a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive behaviours.

Developmental dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a neurologically­ based impairment that may affect any or all areas of development – physical, intellectual, emotional, sensory, social, and language.

Dyspraxia is sometimes called a "hidden disorder". Students with dyspraxia may appear to be no different from their peers until they try to learn new skills or known ones are taken out of their usual context.

Dyspraxia often occurs with, or as part of, other neurological conditions, which can make it difficult to diagnose. It is extremely inconsistent in its presentation and affects children in different ways, at different ages and developmental stages.

Children and Teacher in Kindergarten
Learning to Read

Dyslexia is a brain-based learning difference. Learners don’t outgrow dyslexia.

NZ researchers Tunmer and Greaney (2009) describe developmental dyslexia as:

  • a persistent reading and writing difficulty in otherwise typically developing children, which

  • occurs despite exposure to high quality, evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention, and

  • is due to an impairment in phonological processing skills required to read and write.

Teachers need to:

  • be sensitive when working with parents and whānau who may have had negative learning experiences during their time at school

  • pay careful attention to students with siblings who have dyslexia

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