“You have a right to take up your own space in this world, and to put into it both your difficulties and your talents”

The title of this blog is a quote from Dr Sylvia Moody and we were sad to learn of her passing this week.

2017 has also taken from the world Jenny Silk, teacher, coach and inspirational woman, whose life’s work embodied Sylvia’s quote.

Though they did not meet, these two women were matched in values, and spoke of the same ideals.  They were fundamental to the development of Genius Within, from a very early stage, they helped nurture a young company, supported our founders and contributed their wisdom to our values and mission.

Jenny Silk was a lifelong learner.  Jenny bounced into the orbits of Nancy Doyle and Caitlin Walker, two of the original three founders of Genius Within, in the early 2000’s.  Having retired from teaching, Jenny now turned her talents to coaching, and we attended courses together, honing our crafts within the Clean Language pedagogy of ‘less is more’ and facilitate, don’t rescue or instruct, in order to build empowerment.  Many workshops were delivered at Jenny’s North London apartment and indeed she was party to the discussions that gave birth to the Genius Within idea, of providing a neurodiverse focus for our coaching work.  Jenny, and her husband Martin, were exemplary hosts, they gave freely of their time, their space and their nurturing; they were wonderful mentors to us as individuals as well as to our ideas.

Jenny became one of the first Genius Within coaches.  Jenny provided support to over 20 Genius Within clients, and again gave her wholehearted intellect and spirit to facilitation of their development.  She achieved great results, with her clients retaining their employment, improving their workplace performance and getting great feedback from their line managers.  As a Genius Within team member, Jenny was a great listener and committed to giving feedback to our founders about how we were developing our company.  Supportive, kind and insightful, her contributions were valued and her presence was an honour.

Sylvia Moody was already known to two of the founders of Genius Within, Nancy Doyle and Cheryl Isaacs, as she was a prolific author on the subject of dyslexia in adults.  Writing essential practitioner manuals, providing advice and guidance in a field where almost all work is devoted to childhood and education, she was a pioneer of standards for adult services. As such, we considered her a peer and her interest in our company was indeed flattering.  Sylvia and Nancy spent a day together each year, at Sylvia’s East Sussex retreat, reflecting on common practice in assessment and diagnostics, discuss the ethics and how to improve services for adults with neurodiversity.  Sylvia gave freely of this mentoring and asked for nothing other than the chance to share her wisdom.

During a lunch, Sylvia introduced Nancy to Dr David Grant, her conspirator in raising standards for assessment services and also a respected peer to Nancy who had been a participant on Dr Grant’s workshops early in her career.  The two mentors advised Nancy on how to approach the ethical dilemmas in the field, and “handed her the flag” of continuing this mission. It is an honour Nancy has never forgotten and works hard to uphold.  Sylvia was quick to provide critical feedback where she felt it necessary and as such, encouraged Nancy to raise her own standards and consider multiple perspectives on policies and ideas she developed with the British Psychological Society and indeed within Genius Within.  Sylvia’s commitment to standards and her clients was inspiring, and she has inspired a whole company to deliver those ideas.

At the heart of both the women’s missions was the message that neurodiversity is not limited to ‘divergence from a norm’, or deficits, but a broad spectrum of ability, difficulty and variety, one that is common to all humans, a rich tapestry and wholeness.  A holistic, respectful approach to the whole person, in assessments and coaching; these are the lessons these women taught us to embody.

They were truly valued, they will be truly missed.  Thank you ladies.