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Project-Based Learning for Neurodiverse Students

Last year, students enrolled in Perkiomen School’s Learning Center embarked on an individual project to explore neurodiversity and relationships.

Students selected a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a widely used classification system for neurodiversity published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It provides common language and standard criteria for diagnosing neurodiversity, for example ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and others. The students were charged with analyzing how components of the diagnosis might impact personal and professional relationships.

“We explored relationships as part of our social-emotional learning unit in TLC,” says Director of Learning Mike Romasco. “The reasons for this were two-fold. The first reason is that many discussions around relationships and neurodiversity look at them from a deficit perspective. We wanted to shift the narrative and explore the positives of having a diagnosis from the DSM-5 in a professional or personal setting. The second reason is that the pandemic left gaps in social-emotional learning for our students during a developmental period where it is essential to learn social skills. By directly addressing and exploring how to build relationships, we are beginning to close that gap.”

Students then created a presentation of their analyses to present their findings on stage to their TLC class.  

“By utilizing the presentation format, the students can practice their presentation skills in front of a comfortable and familiar audience, reducing anxiety and increasing their opportunity to communicate their ideas effectively,” says Learning Specialist Michelle Squitieri.  “We traditionally use a project-based learning educational approach at the end of each term because students can learn by engaging in real-world, complex, relevant projects about neurodiversity. This teaching method allows students to learn and apply various skills and concepts metacognitively. Overall, project-based learning provides students a more engaging and meaningful learning experience and can help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.”  

 

Perkiomen School's Learning Center faculty

Perkiomen School's Learning Center faculty: Michael Romasco, Michelle Squitieri, and Sam Glavin '18

The team uses a project-based teaching method to allow students to apply skills and concepts metacognitively.

 

Project Based Learning is one of the key components of the dynamic approach the TLC curriculum at Perkiomen utilizes to build metacognitive skills for our neurodiverse students. TLC is committed to building strong students who know how to leverage their innate gifts in order to find academic and social success in school and beyond.

 

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Overall, project-based learning provides students a more engaging and meaningful learning experience and can help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.  -Michelle Squitieri, Learning Specialist