Embracing Neurodiversity By Accommodating The 12 Ways of Processing

By :- Dr. Erica Warren
September 11, 2023

In my two decades of working as a researcher, educational therapist, and content creator, I’ve realized that teaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. The human brain is a marvel, each with its unique way of understanding the world. This realization led me to develop an adaptable approach to teaching, building strategies and supports that cater to 12 distinct ways learners process information.

What is Neurodiversity?

The term neurodiversity encapsulates the idea that there’s no single correct way of thinking, learning, or behaving. This perspective, highlighted by a Harvard Health Publishing blog, resonates deeply with me. Born in the 1990s, the neurodiversity movement seeks to appreciate and accommodate all kinds of learners. It celebrates the advantages of neurological differences, rather than labeling them as disabilities or disorders.

Consider dyslexics, for example. Eide and Brock Fernette’s book, the “Dyslexic Advantage“, sheds light on the unique strengths of a dyslexic brain, suggesting that such individuals bring a unique perspective that can address complex problems.

I often reflect on my interaction with students with ADHD. I refer to them as ‘chiefs’. Why? Because their ability to pay intense attention to multiple stimuli at once, perceived by some as a deficit, might be deemed a vital strength in other contexts. Imagine a setting where noticing subtle environmental changes could mean the difference between life and death, like spotting distant bisons or impending storms. My ADHD students would excel in these scenarios, becoming leaders or ‘chiefs’ in their communities.

Accommodating Neurodiversity: In the Classroom and Beyond

Through my exploration into cognitive styles, multisensory learning, and more, I’ve identified 12 unique ways people process information. Being aware of these enables educators to be truly inclusive and provide a diverse learning environment.

Key considerations for these ways of processing include:

  • Recognizing the individuality in learning processes.
  • Encouraging students to be self-advocates.
  • Acknowledging that every way of processing is valid.
  • Being adaptable in teaching methods for inclusivity.

The 12 Ways of Processing

Throughout my research and experiences in the field of educational therapy, I’ve come to appreciate the rich tapestry of how individuals absorb, process, and retain information. To offer a clearer understanding, I’ve delineated 12 distinct ways of learning. 

  • Visual Processing – This type of learning is heavily reliant on imagery and visualization. Visual learners often prefer to use pictures, charts, maps, and diagrams to understand concepts. 
  • Auditory Learning – Here, the emphasis is on listening. Auditory learners excel when they can hear information, whether it’s through lectures, discussions, or audio recordings. 
  • Tactile Processing – This pertains to the sense of touch. Tactile learners benefit from hands-on activities, where they can feel and manipulate objects. 
  • Kinesthetic Processing – This mode of learning emphasizes movement. Kinesthetic learners understand and retain information best when they are in motion or using their bodies. 
  • Sequential Processing – Learners who prefer this method focus on order and step-by-step sequences. They excel when information is presented in a logical and linear progression. 
  • Simultaneous Processing – This focuses on interconnections. These learners are adept at seeing the bigger picture and understanding how different pieces of information relate to one another. 
  • Reflective Logical Processing – Centered on internal contemplation and reasoning, these learners thrive when they have the opportunity to think deeply about a topic. 
  • Verbal Processing – This type of learning is about articulating thoughts and information. Verbal learners often benefit from group discussions, debates, and opportunities to explain or teach concepts to others.
  • Interactive Processing – Learners in this category thrive on engagement with others. They prefer group activities, collaborative projects, and interactive workshops. They learn best when they can bounce ideas off peers and work in teams.
  • Indirect Experience Processing – This is about learning from vicarious experiences. These learners grasp concepts by hearing or reading about others’ experiences, watching documentaries, or engaging in simulations.
  • Direct Experience Processing – Contrary to the indirect approach, these learners prefer firsthand experiences. Field trips, labs, and any form of experiential learning resonate deeply with them.
  • Rhythmic/Melodic Processing – This way of learning is anchored in music and rhythm. These learners might create songs or jingles to remember information, or they might find that listening to certain types of music aids in their study process.

How Can You Determine a Student’s Preferred Processing Style?

To gauge a student’s preferred style, both qualitative discussions and an assessment  like the Student Processing Inventory (SPI) can be employed. The SPI is a transformative assessment tool designed to revolutionize education by promoting inclusivity. Tailored to support educators, parents, professionals, and students, the SPI provides a suite of four pivotal tools:

  • Online Assessments that pinpoint an individual’s optimal information processing methods.
  • Tailored Reports offering in-depth explanations, actionable advice, and valuable resources.
  • User Dashboards for comprehensive group analysis and deeper insights.
  • Training Resources offering informative videos, downloadable content, and enlightening podcasts.

Rooted in evidence-based practices and proven methodologies, the SPI empowers educators in crafting learning spaces that truly accommodate and champion every student. By joining the SPI community, you’ll be part of an educational revolution that harnesses the full potential of every learner.

Accommodating All Types of Learners

As educators, it’s not just about accommodating the 12 ways of processing but also about finding diverse and adaptable methods that can cater to a variety of learners. For instance, incorporating multi-processing activities like skits or hands-on projects can engage a broad spectrum of students.

Especially for young learners, exposing them to various processing styles is crucial. It helps them find their niche while ensuring a well-rounded learning experience. But beyond methods and strategies, it’s essential to bring joy into the process. This can be achieved by:

  • Collaboratively designing lessons with students.
  • Incorporating trending and engaging materials.
  • Gamifying lessons.
  • Being creative in naming lessons to make them more enticing.
  • Always remaining positive and open.

In essence, teaching is an art as much as it is a science. By embracing neurodiversity and recognizing the unique strengths each student brings to the table, we can create an inclusive, enriching, and joyful learning environment.You can find Dr. Warren’s other products and resources at Good Sensory Learning and Learning Specialist Courses.