Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Jennifer Kindred Mitchell (George Washington), Teaching to Neurodiverse Law Students, 29 Persps. ___ (2021):
As the legal academy continues to explore ways to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our schools and curriculum, this article seeks to expand our understanding of DEI to include neurodiversity. Legal writing is a challenging subject to teach and for neurodiverse students can be especially daunting to grasp. This Article is meant to increase awareness of the neurodiversity movement and suggest ways to assist neurodiverse law students develop their legal writing and research skills.
Neurodiverse students bring new perspectives to education and law school. Raising neurodiversity awareness and focusing on students’ strengths are excellent starting points to better attract and integrate neurodiverse people into the legal profession. The neurodiversity concept has certainly turned my view of learning disabilities on its head. Steve Silberman, in his book NeuroTribes, states, “We have to learn to think more intelligently about people who think differently.” Understanding neurodiversity requires thinking about the brain as an adept and adaptive organism that maximizes success from limitations, in other words it makes lemonade from lemons, and not all aspects of an atypical brain are limited.
Silberman summarizes neurodiversity well and challenges us to think from the perspective of neurodiverse people:
By autistic standards, the normal brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus, people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.
As legal educators it is our responsibility to champion awareness for neurodiversity and to identify ways to help neurodiverse students succeed in our classes and law school. Above all, we want neurodiverse law students to succeed in meaningful, self-fulfilling legal careers.