Monthly Newsletter - January 2024

Monthly Newsletter,

Volume 3, Issue 5 - January 2024

In my work as a child psychologist and former school psychologist over the last 20 years, I’ve learned to become a flexible thinker. Because every student’s brain is different and relationships are dynamic, there really is no one way to engage all learners. Staying curious as an educator is especially necessary when teaching neurodivergent students. 

While we are all neurodiverse as a population, some of us are neurodivergent, which includes those who have been diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disability as well as students who are autistic or twice-exceptional (gifted plus a learning difference). We know from research on inclusion that all students benefit from being educated together when possible. However, you may not always feel equipped to teach such a neurodiverse group of learners. I know it can sometimes feel like you need a background in special education or child psychology to teach neurodivergent students, but I don’t believe you do. You just need a few more tips and strategies.

The first thing to understand about neurodivergent students is that their skills can develop asynchronously over time, which is often mismatched with curriculum that follows a linear path. It’s absolutely possible for a student to be a high reader and not be able to organize their belongings. Or, a student can be high-achieving in math and not be able to make inferences about a reading passage. These asynchronous skills can also trick us into thinking that students are less capable, or more capable in some instances, than they actually are. 

Not surprisingly, most neurodivergent students experience a higher level of anxiety compared to their neurotypical peers. While many of these children are biologically more sensitive, they can additionally feel stressed by the mismatch of their skills and the academic demands in front of them. Imagine being able to read above grade level but struggling with math and the curriculum only teaches “down the middle”? When a student is taught below their abilities they may feel bored, but when academics feel too difficult students can become emotionally overwhelmed. You may notice these students not reaching their potential or feeling defeated by their performance. What can you do?

Start by shifting your mindset from “this student is giving me a hard time” to “this student is having a hard time.”If you have asked a student multiple times to do something and they haven’t done it, they may not have the executive functioning skills to do it independently…yet. Showing them what you mean or breaking it down for them may work. We have to get curious about what skills are lagging and how we can tweak the task to increase student motivation and engagement.

We know from neuroscience that our brains cannot access executive functioning skills when we are anxious. This is why we forget to do things when we are overwhelmed. If a student is stressed, it’s very likely that no effective learning will take place until they feel safe, connected, and engaged again. The next time you are met with an overwhelmed student, try a few of these strategies and see if you can reduce their anxiety so they can show you what they know!

  1. Make it visual. If you find yourself thinking, “This kid is smart; they should be able to do this!” then you might have an executive functioning weakness on your hands. Our intelligence actually has little to do with our attention span. Visuals never get tired of repeating themselves so make a list for a student and direct them there the next time they ask, “What am I supposed to be doing?” 

  2. Reduce demands. It’s more rewarding for a student to feel successful with one task than to struggle to complete five tasks. The next time you find yourself baffled by a student’s difficulty to complete a task, think about why it’s hard for them, simplify the steps to get it done, then reduce support as they become more independent.

  3. Incorporate interests. Our engagement increases when we are interested in what we’re doing. Traditional approaches ask students to work first then play, but many neurodivergent students need to incorporate play, or their interests, to increase their motivation and engagement to a task. Give it a try!

I can’t wait to share more ideas with you on February 9th at the Neurodiversity Conference at Hill Learning Center in Durham. Until then…

Let’s stay connected,
Dr. Emily W. King

Upcoming Events

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events. For more information, simply click on each of the images below. For a full list of PD offerings, click here, as we continually update our website with event information.

Become Your School's NCAIS Liason:
We Need Your Help!

  • To learn more about the responsibilities of and opportunities for School Liaisons, CLICK HERE. If interested, please speak with the Leadership Team at your school.
  • For Heads/Administrators: Please complete THIS FORM to indicate who will serve as your School Liaison.

Items of Note

Panaptic to Offer Free Substance Abuse Prevention Webinar on January 9th
Let's ring in the New Year in community and partnership as we work to bring innovative, engaging substance use prevention methods to students and schools.

Join us for this conversation on 1/9/24! Our participants will: 

  • Learn about the latest data on how cannabis use is impacting adolescent health and well-being
  • Uncover actionable ideas for implementing effective school and community-based substance prevention initiatives
  • Gain insight on the lasting benefits the IMPACT Prevention Program has had in schools nationwide

Sign up HERE. Those who register will also have the opportunity to schedule a complimentary 30-minute substance use prevention consultation with Richard or Sarah, Panaptic's founders.

Charlotte Hornets Teacher Appreciation Outing
The second Charlotte Hornets Teacher Appreciation Outing of the year will take place on January 26th! Discounted seats are available via the flyer or this link:

They are offering teachers and their families the opportunity for two fan experiences.

  • The first will take place pregame to watch the players warm up a few rows from the court, regardless where you purchased seats for that night! Everyone will be able to participate in this no matter how late you purchase tickets.
  • The second will be for the first 250 teachers and their families to test their skill and take a free throw ON THE COURT after the game! Details for both experiences will be provided week of the game! 

Applications are being accepted for the summer NIEHS STaRS Experience

Middle and high school science teachers and community college instructors are encouraged to apply for the 2024 NIEHS Science, Teachers, and Research Summer (STaRS) Experience. STaRS 2024 is a two-week professional development program, designed and conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The goals of the program are:

  • To enhance participants’ understanding of basic research in the environmental and biomedical sciences and its applications in biotechnology; and
  • To enable participants to transfer knowledge received from this program into classroom applications and to better support their students, including those from underserved populations.
The program will be held at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park from Monday, July 8, to Friday, July 19 (excluding Saturday and Sunday), from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. STaRS participants receive a $2,000 stipend to offset costs associated with lodging, meals, transportation and time spent during the program. To learn more and apply, click here or on the logo to the left.

Sponsor Spotlight

Many thanks to our Gold Sponsors, Dewar and Dominion Payroll, for their support of NCAIS.

A. W. G. Dewar provides schools and families with a proven means of protecting tuition against losses caused by student withdrawals and dismissals.  The Tuition Refund Plan has given schools vital protection of budgeted tuition income while offering parents security of their tuition investment.

As the originators of the Tuition Refund Plan, Dewar’s primary goal is to serve schools and parents with the most comprehensive coverage and exceptional customer service.  Please contact us today to learn how the Tuition Refund Plan can provide the next step towards a stable financial future. 


Dominion Payroll was started 20+ years ago with the vision of providing an alternative to the competition by putting the customers’ needs first. Today we are the nation’s most innovative, customer-focused, workforce management firm located right here in Charlotte, NC. Our single sign-on platform integrates Applicant Tracking, Employee Onboarding & Offboarding, Time & Attendance, HRIS, Payroll, Benefits Administration, and more into a proven and scalable solution for your business.

With Dominion Payroll you gain the power of a robust platform backed by industry leading customer care with a no-voicemail policy, freeing you to focus on your core business. We have clients in all industries but have had great success working in the education arena. Dominion understands the unique needs of K-12 private schools, Charter schools, and colleges and provides them with a customized solution to streamline their entire payroll and human capital management process.