We live in a remarkably exciting time, when leading scientific research has verified the existence of
Neuroplasticity, identified as a natural potential for our neurological or mental lives to change over time, and lifelong. This is a breakthrough because until recently it was believed that our neurology – our brains – were ‘hard-wired’ by the time we were young adults, and any potential for ‘brain change’ after that time was very limited. Thanks to researchers like Dr. Michael Merzenich we now know our brains are, in fact, ‘soft-wired’ and we can intentionally nurture significant change, lifelong!
Along with this news, there is increasing recognition for the concept of Neurodiversity, or variety in the ways in which our brains and neurology are different. This is leading to wider acceptance that even people with recognized and diagnosed conditions such as autism and learning ‘disabilities’ (sic) have enormous learning potential that can be leveraged by considering them differently than than those considered as ‘neurotypical’.
When you observe a learner, do you see ‘ability’ or ‘disability’?
Another implication arising from embracing neurodiversity is increased validation for perceived learning and character strengths, as opposed to deficits. This confers many new opportunities for strength-based learning for Special Needs learners of all stripes, as more educators and therapists catch the flavour and seek greater balance with a kind of defiicit-oriented training that has dominated Special Needs therapy for years.
Special Needs learners, young and older, will be the primary beneficiaries of this conjoinment but they won’t be the only ones. Families, human resources departments, and societies worldwide stand to benefit from this new reality.
If it is true that our learning potential is much more available to us than previously thought, it strikes me as the highest priority to recognize and bring to higher consciousness the strengths and challenges of our individual lives, and the lives of learners whom educators may be supporting. Embracing these elements with higher awareness, including awareness of our potential for change, will enable people to live richer, healthier lives.