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Compassionate pedagogy for neurodiversity in higher education: A conceptual analysis

Hamilton, Lorna G. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0526-8252 and Petty, Stephanie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1453-3313 (2023) Compassionate pedagogy for neurodiversity in higher education: A conceptual analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 14.

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The neurodiversity paradigm challenges pathologising accounts of neurodevelopmental differences, including autism, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, developmental language disorder (DLD) and others. From a neurodiversity perspective, these differences in the way people perceive, learn about and interact with the world are conceptualised as naturally occurring cognitive variation, akin to biodiversity in the natural environment, which may bring unique strengths and challenges for individuals. An implication of this approach is that interventions designed to create contexts in which neurodivergent people can thrive are needed, in addition to those that seek to ameliorate individual-level difficulties.
In this conceptual review, we consider how higher education can offer a context in which cognitive diversity can be noticed, welcomed and accepted with warmth. In universities, neurodiversity is one dimension of difference within an increasingly diverse student population, which overlaps – but is not synonymous - with disability. We argue that improving experience and outcomes for neurodivergent students should be a priority for universities aiming to produce graduates equipped to tackle the complex problems of contemporary society. Drawing on the foundational principles of compassion-focused psychological therapies, we consider how compassion can be enacted within interpersonal interaction, curriculum design, and leadership culture in universities. We apply the insights of double empathy theory to the problem of overcoming barriers of difference in the classroom. Finally, we make recommendations for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and strengths-based pedagogical approaches, which create a fit-for-purpose educational environment for the widest possible range of learners. This realignment with the neurodiversity paradigm offers an antidote to bolt-on provisions for students who differ from the neuro-normative, and might enable neurodivergent thinkers to flourish within and beyond higher education.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1093290
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF636 Applied psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF712-724.85 Developmental psychology
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7369

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