Blog: Effectively Accommodate Neurodivergent Corporate Learners
Individuals learn through individual processes. When implementing scaled learning and training programs, considerations must be taken for differing absorption methods. Implementation is crucial for neurodivergent individuals.
Neurodivergent is a term traditionally used to describe individuals with dyslexia, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum. It has recently been appropriated to describe individuals with brain processes differing from those with neurotypical or “normal” brain function. Yet, taking the above definitions into account, it is essential to clarify that neurodivergence is not a deficit, merely a difference from the norm. As instructors, the recognition of wide-ranging learning differences is beneficial to learners of all makes and models.
Learning by the Numbers
As brain science advances, the number of people defined as neurodiverse increases. In fact, some studies identify nearly 30 percent of the population as neurodiverse. Since these individuals bring unique perspectives and traits – such as problem-solving, creativity, attention to detail, etc.- trainers can build curriculums around these strengths.
A Look at eLearning
Since I discovered a need for a more accommodating method of instruction, I have been on a knowledge journey. Through my research, I have found new ways to boost engagement with neurodivergent learners.
- Provide pictorial guidance in assessing the importance of topics.
- Develop a color palette free from bright, contrasting colors.
- Reduce animations or flickering interactions.
- Include closed captioning on all eLearning or provide a downloadable script.
- Use voiceover narration. Voiceovers are particularly beneficial to those with dyslexia.
- Minimize background noise that does not add to the learning environment. For example, don’t have background music or distracting background noise along with narration.
- Match the speaker’s tone to the content tone.
- Chunk content into easily digested pieces to minimize cognitive overload.
- Set clear expectations (learning objectives) to reduce potential anxiety.
Considerations for Trainers
Accommodations in instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (VILT) are based on actual interactions during sessions. Items like setting, motion, and interactions can affect people and their learning ability. Some more defined examples include:
- Neurodivergent individuals tend to have a broader sensory band that is fine-tuned to detect issues that load human senses negatively, such as harsh lighting, unpleasant smells, disturbing noises, or crowding of personal space. Set up the environment to minimize these distractions.
- Tight schedules can be stressful to many neurodivergent individuals as they may need breaks to handle sensory overload or difficulty focusing for extended periods.
- Adequate breaks are vital. Schedule frequent breaks during your training sessions so individuals can get up, walk around, take part in an on-the-spot exercise, and relax their focus.
- Offer a pre-recorded training option so individuals can pause and return after a break.
- Avoid physical contact without specific consent. A pat on the back or tap on the shoulder can create an intense reaction for those individuals with hypersensitivity to touch.
- Allow learners the freedom to move around during the course so long as it doesn’t distract other learners.
- Do not force learners to introduce themselves, as this can cause undue stress for those with anxiety or social-emotional neurodiversity.
- Be comfortable with silence after you ask a question.
- Provide time to think about how the individual wants to answer.
- Consider small group interactions.
- Allow individuals to participate anonymously.
Work Environment Solutions
During uninterrupted work time, neurodivergent individuals can struggle to focus on singular tasks. Their attention can often be drawn to many projects at one timeI have found a couple of tactics that can provide extra breathing room where needed.
- Extra Time
- Extra time can be a valuable productivity booster for neurodivergent individuals. It allows them to regain focus and deal with overstimulation.
- Reduce Uncertainty
- Concise written instructions are a commonly requested accommodation by neurodivergent individuals. These instructions can be done through checklists of daily/weekly goals, written examples of how to act in different scenarios, and written expectations.
As an instructor, I need to be aware of new and effective ways of training all types of learners. Understanding and addressing neurodivergence is essential in figuring out how to keep all employees adequately trained and educated.