Consider neurodiversity when building STEM pathways

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In March, SmartBrief on Education will highlight clips from its STEM Pathways Panel Series. To stay tuned for more events like this one, check out the SmartBrief Education Events page. 

An estimated 1 in 68 US children has an autism spectrum disorder, a group of neurodevelopment disorders that the National Institutes of Health and other authorities say is characterized by a broad range of symptoms, including differences in social communication and interaction.

Patrick Waters advocates for students of all developmental levels as a MakerEd teacher at the Monarch School in Texas, a school that specializes in educating students with neurological differences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgNjJmLTQOY

Through the classes he leads, Waters prepares students for 21st-century jobs. The modern workforce will need employers with technical alacrity and passion – traits that his students have in spades, he said at a SmartBrief STEM Pathways Panel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSJilXYQHRo

But students with neurological differences have their challenges, too. And it’s up to schools to develop students’ technical skills alongside teamwork, executive functioning, organization and social skills, he said. “We have to set up a system that directly teaches these soft skills, and we need to recognize a transition period…that will get [students] ready to enter the workforce at a full-time capacity.”

Employers and educators share this challenge of building an inclusive workforce, according to Waters.

“The workplace needs to get ready… and I’m excited about it, because I’ve got some really awesome kids, and they’re going to change the world,” he said.

Mina Dixon is an editorial assistant at SmartBrief, where she helps write and edit content across industries, including education.

SmartBrief Education’s Path to Workforce content series brings you original content and events on the topic. #Path2W is our vision of college and career readiness, encompassing K-12, adult learners, career changers, non-traditional students and those who forgo a traditional four-year college experience.

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