It’s a really important week this week, Neurodiversity Celebration Week. Between the 21-27 March, Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about autism and learning disabilities.
The aim is to help the world to understand, value and celebrate the talents of neurodiverse minds.
Sienna Castellon, who founded the initiative in 2018 has stated:
“I wanted to change the way learning differences are perceived. As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, my experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity. I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”
The fantastic resources shared on the NCW website all enable schools and universities to:
- Increase acceptance and understanding
- Provide education
- Celebrate neurodiversity
Below we are featuring a few neurodivergent conditions, including associated common misconceptions and supportive strategies. For further information and guidance, there is a wealth of resources for school pupils and university level student support here.
ADHD is short for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is sometimes referred to as attention-deficit disorder (ADD). It’s a common disorder that is often diagnosed in childhood that can impact focus, emotional responses and impulse control.
Common Misconceptions: 1) People with ADHD are hyperactive. This isn’t always the case, people with the inattentive form of ADHD may seem ‘daydreamy’ or lost in thought.
2) Children outgrow ADHD. Lots of people with ADHD display symptoms throughout their adulthood.
Supportive Strategies: ADHD medication can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. In education, regular breaks to get up and move around and the offer of extra time on exams can help maintain the focus needed to complete tasks.
Autism is a disability that affects how people interact with their surroundings and communicate. People with autism may also have sensory processing disorder, where lights, sounds and smells can be overwhelming causing high levels of anxiety. Intense responses to overwhelming situations are referred to as ‘meltdowns’ and may involve shouting, crying or physical loss of control.
People on the autistic spectrum may need time to process information. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 100 children are autistic.
Common Misconceptions: 1) Young people that regular have meltdowns need more discipline. Actually, it is much more helpful to find out what is causing the reaction, rather than punishing them for becoming overwhelmed.
Supportive Strategies: Self-advocacy training can empower young people to be able to understand and explain what they need to succeed. In education, positive behaviour intervention plans can help.
Dyslexia is a condition that makes it more difficult for people to learn to read fluently. It’s an issue with understanding how the sounds within words are represented by letters. With the right support, key skills can improve. It’s a common issue and many successful people have it.
Common Misconceptions: 1) Dyslexic people are less intelligent. This isn’t true, they are just as intelligent as their peers they just need support when learning to read accurately.
Supportive Strategies: Assistive technology including text-to-speech apps and audiobooks can be highly effective. Using a multisensory approach when teaching literacy can help engage children.
Dyspraxia is a condition that affects physical coordination. It is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). The condition can make people appear disorganised or clumsy.
Supportive Strategies – Using memory strategies can support the retention of key information. Organisational tools such as alarms, checklists and diaries are supportive. Maintaining a set routine each week can reduce disruption.
Dyscalculia is a learning issue that makes number-based concepts more difficult to understand. Some argue that the condition is just as common as dyslexia. There is evidence that the condition is often found in people who also have ADHD or dyslexia.
Common Misconception – Dyscalculia means you’re bad at maths. This isn’t true, you can be very capable with the condition.
Supportive Strategies – Students should be provided with different strategies when working on maths problems to find a method that works for them.
Dysgraphia is also known as a ‘transcription disability’ which impairs handwriting and finger sequencing. It is often first noticeable in children where there is a difference in spoken understanding and written.
Supportive Strategies – Young people should be provided with clay to support fine motor control and hand muscles. Letter formation should be taught explicitly and line by line while children build confidence.
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological condition that results in involuntary motor or vocal tics. 1 in 100 people have the condition, however, symptoms are often so mild that they are unnoticeable.
Common motor tics include excessive eye blinking, imitating others, or physical behaviour. Vocal tics can include coughing, sniffing, throat clearing, shouting, whistling or repeating others’ words or phrases.
Common Misconceptions – Tourette Syndrome means you involuntarily swear loudly. Actually, only 10% of people with TS have ‘coprolalia’ (the swearing tic).
Supportive Strategies – Maintain clear and effective dialogue between schools and home. Avoid saying things like ‘don’t’ do that!’ as it could make the tics more pronounced. Pair students with understanding and supportive peers.
Thank you for reading our post on Neurodiversity Celebration Week. We hope you find the resources and information helpful.
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