How can we best serve neurodivergent students, their families and schools?

p81 kids on pebblessmallWhat would it be like if every primary school had a Neurodivergent School Coach (NSC), who championed appropriate teaching and learning for neurodivergent students?

With the current growth of learning differences/difficulties, the existing solution of assessment and teaching neurodivergent students as if they are neurotypical is unsustainable.  This proposal is to teach students new skills, that match their learning preferences thus reducing the cost of SEN assessment and long-term support.

Why: Teachers are experts in teaching, Neurodivergent School Coaches are experts in how neurodivergent children learn and how they can best access lessons. Our understanding of neurodiversity is gathering pace and it is impossible for teachers to keep up, whilst dealing with the pressures of a school day. This is particularly true for primary schools, where missing appropriate techniques at a young age has a lifelong effect on every individual. This role would be in addition to the Senco role, that is largely focused on implementing government processes, procedures and dealing with a mountain of reactive tasks.

How: We are envisioning that each school would have the benefits of a part-time NSC who is a coach with expertise in how these students learn. Their role will be to teach children, parents and teachers the same skills for continuity in and out of school. They will run specific projects in the school to address the highest need, for example:

  • Identify and explore students’ strengths and enable staff to teach to these strengths
  • Ensure that even very young children are taught skills to improve concentration and left/right brain coordination (including good breathing, sleeping and grounding) and maximise their use of visual learning whilst releasing anxiety and stress to minimise the propensity of learning differences creating mental health problems.
  • Co-ordinate a mental imagery week in school, where we help students incorporate mental imagery in all their work and check their abilities to visualise words.
  • Teach to their strengths using mental imagery for literacy, numeracy and so much more.
  • Assist teachers and parents to  take a curious view of behavioural challenges
  • Learn from students and develop child-centred support for children in their reality, through the “right” questions.
  • Teach brain-based skills to students to, for example, reduce anxiety, increase confidence and develop a growth mindset.
  • Call out students getting things right. “A student who is appreciated will always do more than expected”.

Who: The NSC will have a real thirst for continually learning and implementing new skills, that fit every child, with an open mind, remembering that every child may think and learn differently.  As school budgets are currently stretched past breaking-point, we are looking for creative ways to fund this role, that in the long term will save so much money, anxiety, poor behaviour etc.


Making neurodiversity teaching and learning a priority will achieve the following:

  • Students understanding how they best think and learn and the factors that affect them
  • Students understanding how they can reduce their own anxiety
  • Reduced SEN costs
  • Better educated children
  • >95% reading and maths success in SATs by the completion of year 6
  • Minimum levels of anxiety by the completion of year 6
  • A legacy in school for future years, that is self-generating amongst students.

For a preview of this very different approach, take a look at this video about teaching literacy to dyslexic students.

We are looking for positive feedback to this proposal and mechanisms for moving it forward in 2020.

Olive Hickmott is an author, trainer and coach with a worldwide network of professionals with their own skills in addition to those gained through her Empowering Learning programmes.  Recently she sent out 100 free copies of her recent book “The Elephants in the Classroom” to primary schools throughout the country, funded by a birthday fundraiser.  You can still contribute at by clicking the link on the left-hand side of the page, as we move into fundraising for the NSCs.

You are encouraged to mail Olive at with your contributions to this project.

#neurodivergent #behaviour #anxiety #empoweruinglearning #neurotypical #schoolcoach #SEN


About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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