Celebrate difference: Neurodiversity and Mental Health Awareness Weeks
19th May 2020 by Raphaele von Koettlitz
This week there is much cause for celebration… Neurodiversity Celebration Week and Mental Health Awareness Week have landed!
It’s a positive time to reflect on the rich diversity that surrounds us, thinking about how we can celebrate these differences and make sure everyone feels a sense of belonging.
At D&A, 85% of our team self identify as disabled and/or neurodivergent. We are a disabled-led social enterprise and all the stronger, brighter and more authentic for it. So, we asked our team,
“What does neurodiversity mean to you?”
Here are some of their answers…
Helen Ball, an Assistive Technology Trainer and Specialist Study Skills Tutor at D&A explains what neurodiversity means to her,
“For me being neurodiverse feels like starting at the opposite end of the rainbow 🌈 to everyone else! I can see concepts as pictures and like the fact that my ideas get refracted in different ways.”
She continued, “Sometimes these ideas come springing out but I can’t capture them quick enough to explain them to others, especially when they are coming from the other end of the spectrum. However, I often feel frustrated with being Neurodiverse too, as 75% of the world seems to be coming from the other end of the rainbow. At work and our cultures, we are all set up in particular ways which are rigid. We are told that you have to start at the beginning of the rainbow only. Trying to navigate worlds that have been designed like this can be a challenge when you’re coming from the other way.
It would be great to see this rigidness rejigged and the rainbow set in “jelly” rather than “stone”. This way it won’t matter which end of the rainbow we come from as, hopefully, there will be more acceptance. Rainbows can be adapted to suit us all. We are all on this rainbow, let’s make time to appreciate our diversities. I certainly would like some more acceptance in this world.”
Image description: Handpainted rainbow
Next up, Linda Malone, a D&A Specialist Mentor shared her insights,
“To me, neurodiversity means that every person is unique and has a different way of relating to the world, to learning, and to language.
“Every person is of equal value and can contribute to society; we can always learn from other people even if our minds work slightly differently.”
She went on to say, “It is important that we can be open to other people and how they communicate and find out how they tick before labelling or judging them. Hopefully, we can find ways of adapting our own style of communication and resources so they can be who they are and can be valued and empowered.”
For our Specialist Mentor, Judith Waddington,
“Neurodiversity is accepting that there is no right or wrong in the way we think. Different does not mean defective, different means that each of us can offer value to the world…”
“…Some people are artistic, some technically minded, some lateral thinkers. What we excel in should be nurtured, respected and celebrated but prejudice and judgement can sometimes impede the recognition and growth of talent. Some barriers in education play a large part in highlighting a person’s weakness and not a person’s strength. Each of us has the right to learn in such a way that we can maximise our potential in whatever area that may be.”
Matt Wise, an Assistive Technology Trainer at D&A believes that,
“Neurodiversity is about all humans, who, with or without a diagnosis, labels and ailments are naturally different to one another in many and often subtle ways. Where each of us sits within this affects how we are in the world and is as such, totally unique, like a fingerprint.”
Image description: Fingerprint heart
For Atif Choudhury, D&A’s CEO,
“Neurodiversity is a balance of interactions; culturally relative and time-framed individualised thought systems equipped with the aptitude and longing to overcome trauma and rejection and become assets to a multitude of social settings. Its first potential is that of a healing movement, much like bio-diversity it’s dependent on agile change and strained whenever made static or feared.
It’s also an opportunity, a calling that belongs to all of us as its beneficiaries. In its richness, we are all neurodiverse we’re just not all marginalised by it. For this reason, justice and fairness dictate that we respond, to re-strike and insist on a balance, one that ensures all voices are welcomed.. to not do so is evolutionary denial”
What does neurodiversity mean to you?
We’ve heard from some of our D&A team members about what neurodiversity means to them. We hope you found it positive and interesting to read the diverse definitions we have of neurodiversity! We hope you will carry with you a celebratory spirit when you reflect on your own neurodiversity, and take a moment to recognise and cherish the unique strengths and skills you have, as well as those of the people around you.
We’d love to hear what neurodiversity means to you, so, if you feel like sharing, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find out more about Neurodiversity Celebration Week here.