How can adjusting the volume of information to process or produce help your neurodivergent learner?
This may be one of the most controversial tips because, when I say ‘adjust the volume of information’, may will believe that I saying that either, our neurodivergent learners should work to a lower standard or that they are allowed to ‘ get away with’ producing less work.
Neither of these are the case. Remember learning can be about breath or depth of knowledge. Plus your neurodivergent learners ability to focus in on key detail, or give that broad, helicopter overview, may be a real asset to whole class activities and could be really helpful to your neurotypical learners.
Why do neurodivergent learners benefit when we adjust the volume of information?
One of the 4 key markers of neurodivergence is processing difference. Variations in the structure, range and connectivity in the brain cause these differences. Neurological wiring, sensory processing, focus and attention can all be affected. This does not mean that neurodivergent brains are better or worse than neurotypical brains. They are simply different neurotypes.
If you haven’t already read Differentiation for your Neurodivergent Learner Tip 1 take a look at the reasons why and how neurodivergent learners process information differently.
How can we adjust the volume of information to process or produce?
Reducing the volume of information is a helpful strategy to support neurodivergent pupils in processing information more effectively. Here are some approaches to achieve this:
1. Prioritise Essential Information:
– Identify the core concepts, key points, and essential information for each lesson or task.
– Focus on conveying the most critical information while minimizing non-essential details.
Or ask a child who has a special interest in the topic to focus in on detail whilst others look
at the bigger picture ( see worked example)
2. Clear and Concise Communication:
This comes back to having good routines and predictibility
– Use clear and simple language when providing instructions, explanations, or assignments.
– Avoid excessive jargon or complex sentence structures.
3. Visual Aids and Summaries:
– Provide visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and infographics to condense information
and make it easier to understand.
– Offer concise summaries or bullet points highlighting the main takeaways.
4. Chunking and Segmentation:
– Break down information into smaller, manageable chunks.
– Present information in sequential steps, allowing students to process one piece at a time.
5. Use of Visual Timetables:
This is best practice for any classroom. (More details about why this is important can be see
on my YouTube video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR4Yo93rRN4)
– Create visual timetables that outline the day’s schedule, helping students anticipate
transitions and activities.
6. Scaffolded Learning:
– Scaffold complex tasks by gradually introducing information in stages.
– Build upon prior knowledge and skills, starting with what the children already know to
facilitate understanding of new concepts.
7. Provide Choices:
– Offer students options for assignments or projects, allowing them to choose topics that
align with their interests and strengths. This can be particularly appealing for autistic
learners or anyone who has a special interest.
– Choice can increase motivation and engagement.
8. Limit Distractions:
– Minimize visual and auditory distractions in the learning environment.
– Provide sensory-friendly spaces for students who are sensitive to sensory input.
9. Highlight Key Information:
– Use bold text, different colours, or underlining to highlight important information in
written materials. Or encourage pupils to do this when making their own notes.
– This makes it easier for students to quickly identify essential points.
10. Use of Technology:
– Utilize educational apps, digital resources, and multimedia to present information in
interactive and engaging formats.
– Adaptive technology can personalise the learning experience based on each student’s
11. Provide Predictable Structures:
– Establish consistent routines and structures for lessons, which can help students
anticipate what to expect and reduce anxiety. ( refer to Differentiation tip 1 for more
12. Regular Check-Ins and Feedback:
– Frequent check-ins can ensure that students are understanding the material and provide
opportunities for clarification. This can be done by providing regular class plenary or recap
activities, as well as supporting individual needs.
– Offer constructive feedback that focuses on key improvements rather than overwhelming details.
Now let’s looked at a worked example of how this may fit to a typical class
In this example Andrew and Mohamed are neurotypical learners whereas Sophia and James are neurodivergent. They are in the first year of high school and are studying the Norman conquest of England in history. The work set for both pairs are on a similar topic, but the amount of information given, how it is given and the breadth or depth of information they
are expected to produce is different.
Example of a question, given orally to neurotypical children:
“Andrew and Mohamed, I want you to list all the different ways William the Conquer went about subduing the Northern Lords. Discuss them and write a list of them, then say which you think was most effective and why.
Example of a question given orally and in writing for neurodivergent pupils;
“1. Sophia and James look up the word ‘harrying’ in the glossary of the textbook.
2. Discuss this and write what it means in your own words. Then answer the question
3 “ Do you think this was an effective way to control the northern lords?”
In this case Andrew and Mohamed provide the breadth whist Sophie and James look at more specific aspects of the conquering. Both pairs will benefit from the other’s input during class feedback.
Remember that when adjusting the volume of information to produce or process, the goal is not to oversimplify or water down content. Rather to present it in a way that maximises comprehension and minimises cognitive load. By implementing these strategies, you can create a supportive learning environment where neurodivergent pupils can thrive and make meaningful progress.