7 Classroom Management Strategies for Teachers of Neurodiverse Students


When you’re a teacher, it’s important to make sure that your classroom is managed in a way that works for your students. They each have their own needs and abilities that affect their learning. 

Every classroom has neurodiverse students, as neurodiversity refers to having different neurocognitive abilities — essentially, one student’s brain works differently than another’s. However, neurodiversity usually includes people who have a neurodivergent condition. These are developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia or ADHD. Approximately 17% of children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 have a developmental disability.

Many teachers have classes with students who have neurodivergent conditions. So it’s important to think about classroom management strategies that will encourage effective learning for students with any type of needs. 

We’ll discuss a few classroom management strategies for teachers of neurodiverse students. Then we’ll discuss how Beyond BookSmart can help through our BrainTracks division.

7 strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms for neurodiverse students

A classroom should make every student feel safe and supported, whether they have a neurodivergent condition or not. They should feel encouraged and empowered to be the best students they can be, regardless of what challenges they face. Effective classroom management for neurodiverse students should benefit every student in some way. It shouldn't focus just on those who have a developmental disorder. 

These strategies can help any student who struggles with Executive Function skills, such as time management and organization, even if they don’t have a disorder. Incorporating these strategies into your classroom can help encourage an inclusive learning environment for your students. The effectiveness of these strategies will often vary. They should be adapted for the grade level that you teach, such as elementary, or middle or high school.

Here are seven classroom management strategies for teachers of neurodiverse students:

  • Challenge their study habits — Although there are plenty of study techniques, from the Pomodoro technique to retrieval practice, students often stick to one strategy for the majority of their educational career, even if they don’t prove successful. Recommend that your students switch up their study strategy before each test. Ask them to try a different technique than they’re used to, even for just one study session. Provide them with examples to follow. This will not only help improve their study habits, but it also will help them find the technique(s) that work for their time management and organization style, which may be impacted by a disorder.
  • Schedule relaxation time — School is one of the biggest stressors for most students. The more stressed they are, the more their work is impacted. Stress relief techniques can help students improve their emotional regulation. They can also refocus their minds on their assignments, which can be a challenge for students with developmental disorders. Allot time at the beginning of class for your students to relax before diving into their work. You can even try guiding them through breathing exercises.
  • Adjust your language — The power of language should never be underestimated. When you’re teaching a classroom of neurodiverse students, it’s important to be mindful of how you word certain things. You want to make sure that you’re not making assumptions about their abilities. Statements like, “This shouldn’t take long” or “This should be easy if you paid attention” can put pressure on students with disabilities that impact their time management and working memory. By adjusting your language, you’re reducing the risk of making the student feel incapable due to their cognitive challenges.
  • Collaborate with students — Your students should play an active role in their success. That's why collaboration is essential. It’s important not to single out students or have preferential treatment. However, you can sit down one-on-one with a student who has a developmental disorder, as well as their parents, to figure out different courses of action that can work specifically for that student. This could mean things like testing separately from the other students to increase focus. You may also discuss adjusting due dates when necessary.
  • Break up big tasks — Students with or without neurodivergent conditions can struggle to complete their work because they underestimate the time commitment. Or they could find it difficult to even get started if they’re intimidated by the difficulty of an assignment. Try making tasks less overwhelming by breaking them up into smaller pieces. Have them mark off every step of progress they make for a project or large assignment, such as using a tracker. It helps with organization and time assessment. It also holds them accountable for their progress.
  • Make a calendar — Calendars are one of the most effective tools for students of any age. It helps with prioritization, memory and time management. Write dates out on the whiteboard or provide a printout of due dates for important assignments every month. Make calendars a pillar of your classroom. They can be helpful for students who struggle to remember what assignments are due and when. Calendars can also be beneficial for students who are distracted by other assignments that they find easier, which can interfere with prioritization.
  • Create designated sensory areas — Everyone can feel overwhelmed by the noises of a loud classroom. Sometimes, the bright fluorescent lights can be too much. Students with developmental disabilities can be sensitive to sensory stimuli. Too much stimuli can interfere with their focus and emotional regulation. If you teach elementary or middle school students, set up an area in your classroom where they can go when they feel overstimulated and need space. It can also provide sensory input. It can include things like sensory bins, which can be filled with things like pom-poms or dyed rice. Sensory areas can reduce anxiety and improve their engagement.


It’s important to remember that educators can’t diagnose a student with any medical condition. You can’t assume that a child has a condition that’s interfering with their behavior, attitude, and academic success. 

These classroom management strategies will likely come into play if you’re made aware of a student’s condition or disorder by their parents with an accompanying doctor’s note. 


Free resource: Executive Function toolkit

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BrainTracks, a division of Beyond BookSmart, can help teachers learn how to educate neurodiverse students

Every teacher would like to cater to every student’s needs individually. However, students with neurodivergent conditions are likely in the same classes as those without one. It’s important to find classroom management strategies that work for the majority of students, and those with a developmental disability should still get the support and tools that they need. It can feel like a difficult balance. Leading your classroom with empathy and compassion for your students’ challenges can make them feel understood and boost their confidence.

No matter what you teach, your students should walk out of your classroom learning more than just the history of the U.S. or how to identify a verb. Your classroom strategies should help your students develop the Executive Function skills that they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom. This is especially true for students with disorders that make developing Executive Function skills a challenge.

Executive Function skills are life management skills. We all need them to be effective in planning, initiating and achieving goals at home, in school and in the workplace.

Executive Function skills are trainable and coachable with time and the right tools. At Beyond BookSmart, we have a division called BrainTracks. It helps teachers bring Executive Function skills into the classroom. The program involves a series of professional development workshops. The goal of these workshops is to show educators the role that Executive Function skills play in a productive classroom.

To learn more about classroom solutions, please visit the BrainTracks website or schedule a call with their team here.

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