What can we do to support ND children in diagnosis, education and finding their niche in life?
In the neurodiversity movement, a very pressing issue is the level of exclusion experienced in childhood and education. Our education system is predicated on four skills: literacy, numeracy, sitting still to think and concentration in loud, overwhelming environments. Let’s call these the Basic Four.
The conditions that we refer to as ‘neurodifferent’ or ‘neurodiverse’ are defined by finding at least one element of the above difficult. ND pupils find it harder to demonstrate what they CAN do unless through these mediums. In modern education, if you are an artist, a dancer, an athlete, a verbal storyteller, a builder or crafter, a listener, or healer you need to prove your skills by writing in exams and lessons/lectures. There are very few alternative options.
Why are these the basic skills? They don’t relate to human evolution, or the way our species is designed to live, in small tribes with a blend of specialist and generalist thinkers. Our ND specialists are chastised for what they can’t do, not celebrated for what they can do. This leads to a vicious cycle, where their confidence and self-esteem dives, and we become even more limited. In employment we need people with a wider range of skills than the Basic Four, and we don’t get ND applicants because they’ve spent their childhoods thinking they had nothing to offer. For those with complex, overlapping needs who deserve a chance to thrive, our education is based on the statistical norm.
For some ND people, their specialism might be around their emotions, or the power of stillness and calm that they bring through their need for nurture. Must they be ostracised because they don’t have an economic contribution to make? Humanity is at its best when we embrace all diversity and show our spirit of community. Education is also, too frequently, overlooking this aspect.
In the middle of the paradigm shift, where the world is starting to wake up to the power of neurodiversity, our esteemed colleagues and participants at our recent Celebrating Neurodiversity conference collated their thoughts, on ‘what works’ in breaking cycles of negativity and enforced norms. These thoughts represent essential elements of good practice, things we all take for granted as the way to do things, but do not see embedded in daily practice yet.
We hope these thoughts are helpful, we know the difference they make to lifelong outcomes and meaningful communication with ND individuals.
@julesdaulby says “The way we treat the one, is ultimately what the other 29 in the class will learn”