Neurodiversity: How Does BMS Progress Support Those With Additional Learning Needs?

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It’s estimated that over 15% of the UK population is neurodiverse – and that statistic is growing all the time. Recently, we held sessions with our coaches to ensure they can enable those with additional learning needs to achieve their best. Our Head of Quality and Curriculum & Designated Safeguarding Lead, Katie Rooney, explains what that entails.

Hold more contact sessions

Everyone is different. What works for one person, might not work for the next. Our coaches get to know the learner, and explore their preferred style. They usually hold more frequent sessions to make sure we’re meeting their needs. If a task is quite broad, they will break it down into three or four smaller tasks instead.

There may also be a need for closer contact if the learner falls behind in the programme, though this isn’t specific to those with additional learning requirements. It’s usually a case of work ethic, so we determine their own internal drivers and the reason for their lack of progress. From here, we inform their line manager, and create a development plan to get them back on track.

Sometimes, this can highlight additional factors that are causing them to stall their progress – maybe they’re struggling to understand a question? Or perhaps they’re better at verbal communication than written? A delay in progress can even trigger the realisation of other learning needs – for the coach and the learner.

Reassure the learner

Neurodiversity still carries a stigma. We endeavour to promote opportunities for learners to share it before they start the programme – whether that is through a 1-2-1 session or disclosing it on our apprenticeship portal. Occasionally, the learner may not want their employer to know this information, so we diligently protect the anonymity of their needs.

Once we’re aware of their requirements, we reassure the individual/s that we have strategies in place to modify the programme to suit them. This means they can still learn at the same rate as everyone else. There’s a lot of talk about equality, but people don’t start from the same place, so not everything is an equal opportunity. Instead, we talk about equity.

Identify those with additional learning needs

Whilst we don’t diagnose people, we can spot specific traits in someone who has additional learning needs. This may lead us to work with their employer, and arrange a full assessment for a formal diagnosis. We make a point not to talk about additional learning requirements negatively, instead communicating the strengths – for example, plenty of people with neurodiversity are also top salespeople.

Not offending the learner is key. Neurodiversity is a very sensitive subject that people might not respond to or want to celebrate. Some may feel inadequate. But for others, it’s eye opening, and allows them to understand why they think differently to colleagues or peers. This can be a real turning point for them both personally and professionally.

Modify delivery

Our team ensures all individuals have the same opportunity to learn and develop, whatever their needs. We know that 5,000-word essays or all-day group sessions don’t suit everyone, so we modify the programme where possible to fit each learner. We can also apply changes to the awarding body, who do the final assessment, to make sure a learner’s needs are considered. Perhaps in the case of a long written piece, they can perform the same assessment in a different format, like video.

Learning materials can also be altered, such as being made more visual. Others might benefit from receiving them before the workshops. We recently switched to online workbooks – this can be advantageous for many, but not everyone. Therefore, we post them out to those that require them.

We encourage learners to find what works for them through technology, too, like using the dictation tool in Microsoft Word. Plus, there’s a government initiative to support those with additional learning needs through specially designed technology.

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If you would like to find out more about how we support neurodiverse learners, or you’re curious about our programmes, contact our friendly team today.

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