Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education, Mainstream Education, Recently, The Bridge

Neurodiversity and change: How schools can support students

  • The Bridge Assisted Learning School
  • Category Advice Column, Assisted Learning, Education, Mainstream Education, Recently, The Bridge

Neurodivergent young people often face a range of challenges related to variances in sensory processing. Some students may be hypersensitive, meaning that they take in far more stimuli than other students. For example, they may perceive noises or lights to be excessively bright. Behaviour related to sensory avoidance may arise from this. 

Some students, however, may be hyposensitive, meaning that they are much less sensitive to sensations and require more sensory stimulus to identify the sensation and/or feel comfortable. An example of this would be that they detest quiet areas and would much rather listen to music in order to focus. Behaviour that is sensory seeking may arise from this. 

Events that could be stressful, like change, tend to reinforce these responses.

That is why, at school, students’ sensory demands must be considered, and suitable help must be given. Particularly in the case of events that could be stressful, like change, which tend to exacerbate these sensations. It is therefore helpful to create sensory-friendly areas where students may go to self-regulate when they feel overwhelmed.

It is important to recognise the value of the psychological safety that students feel in an assisted learning environment, especially once they have established a routine and can predict their immediate future. For this reason, caregivers must consider how changes may affect children who are neurodivergent. 


Students who regularly follow their daily routines may feel more secure and in control of their lives. A practical aid for students is to provide a clear visual depiction of their daily routines and the anticipated changes, for example, to use a notice board for scheduling and timetables.

Time and timing are very important. Notifying students well in advance of any impending changes is crucial. Students need this time to prepare psychologically for the change. One should provide visual indicators, social stories, or verbal reminders to convey changes well in advance to accommodate different students. 

The type and frequency of reminders required to enable a seamless transition through the change will depend on the student’s developmental stage and or preferences. Students can learn about changes more effectively by seeing visual representations of what to expect.


Providing students with clear and concise explanations of the reasons for the anticipated change will enhance their understanding of the change, and therefore lower possible resistance to change. Since all students are different, it is important to remember to communicate in a manner that accommodates their individual needs. While certain students may require short, frequent reminders, others may prefer longer verbal explanations, with the opportunity to ask questions to seek clarification.


Students are often voiceless in decisions that directly impact them. Whenever possible, students should be given options to mitigate their sense of helplessness. This may be as easy as having to select between two nearly identical options. Nonetheless, it helps support the development and preservation of a sense of autonomy and self-worth. 

Effective communication is essential to change management, just like it is to any other process. Teachers, parents, and children can identify specific worries and anxieties connected to the change by having open conversations. Thus, it makes sense to set up a system that allows pupils to communicate their emotions, whether orally, visually, or through other channels.

It’s critical to keep in mind that every neurodiverse learner is unique and that change management processes should be customised to meet their specific requirements. Comprehensive support requires regular communication between parents, caregivers, and specialists involved in the child’s care.

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