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Different models of disability and the concept of neurodiversity


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There are different ways to conceptualise neurodevelopmental conditions. According to the medical model of disability, dyslexia is seen as a disability. That is, there is a perceived ‘normal’ way of being and people with dyslexia must be helped or ‘fixed’ so that they can fit in with society. In contrast to this, the social model of disability sees diversity as natural; according to this model, people are disabled by the attitudes of society and not by their differences (Oliver, 1996).

Many people argue that neurodevelopmental conditions are not disabilities at all and describe them as normal differences in the way some people think, learn and socialise. This is often referred to as neurodiversity (Singer, 2017).

This course adopts a social model of disability where neurodevelopmental conditions such as dyslexia are viewed as differences. However, the reality is that people with dyslexia and other neurodevelopmental conditions continue to face barriers in society including in schools. It is necessary to describe the difficulties experienced by people with dyslexia in order to help reduce those barriers. While we will discuss challenges, we acknowledge that people with dyslexia and other neurodevelopmental conditions also have a lot of strengths.

Below is a brief introduction to the concept of neurodiversity from the British Dyslexia Association. (Closed captions available.)

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

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Supporting Adult and Adolescent Students with Dyslexia

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