Moving Towards Neurodiversity Inclusion

It's Neurodiversity Celebration Week!

When I launched Neurodiversity Celebration Week over three years ago, I never imagined that my campaign would be so widely embraced and well received.

As a 16-year old neurodivergent student who felt the education system was stacked against me, my initial aim was to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about neurological differences and to educate classroom teachers on how to identify and support their neurodivergent students.

NCW has gone global

Neurodiversity Celebration Week has spread far and wide. It has now expanded to also include businesses, government agencies. and charities. I believe it has been so widely embraced because organisations are starting to recognise there are many benefits and advantages gained from having a diverse workforce. They’re tapping into neurodivergent talent and unique skill sets that have historically been overlooked and under-utilised.

However, our education sector is still lagging behind. I still struggle to accept that although 20% of all students are neurodivergent, classroom teachers do not get any neurodiversity training. This means that most teachers lack the knowledge and skillsets needed to support their neurodivergent students to reach their potential.

Rewarding originality

Just as frustrating, our current education system isn’t designed to foster and reward creativity and innovative thinking - skills that neurodivergent students have in abundance and which will be the key to solving some of the global challenges we face.

Our education system still focuses on rote learning and memorisation. Rather than embracing technology and making exams more accessible to all students, our education system is still trapped in the past. As a consequence, GCSEs and A-levels continue to disadvantage neurodivergent students. For example, all students should be allowed to type their exams and be given access to spellcheck. With the exception of school, these are mainstay tools that are ingrained in every other aspect of our lives. Instead, neurodivergent students are set up to underperform, or worse yet, to fail. For example, since 20% of the English GCSE grade is spelling, punctuation and grammar, dyslexic students are penalised for their disability. Although some dyslexic students may qualify for exam time on exams, this reasonable adjustment does not address the disadvantage caused by being unable to spell.

Hope in the air

But there are glimmers of hope. Matt Hancock MP recently introduced a bill to require universal dyslexia screening for primary school children. Speaking to the House of Commons, Matt Hancock said:

“I believe that everyone has a contribution to make & it is the role of government to help people make the very best of their lives. Let’s make the UK a global leader in raising the standards of how we identify, teach and assess children who think differently.”

Matt Hancock

Although I would like the screening to cover more neurological differences than just dyslexia, it is a step in the right direction. In the near future, I would like our education system to change so that neurodivergent students aren’t disadvantaged and less valued. Instead of only focusing on our deficits and challenges, schools need to adopt a more balanced approach that also recognises we have many talents and strengths.

Recognise unique talents

As Neurodiversity Celebration Week continues to flourish and grow, I hope it plays a meaningful role in helping to ensure that neurodivergent students have equal access to education and that their unique abilities are recognised and nurtured.

There are currently over 2,400 schools and 1.4 million students taking part in Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2022. As it continues to evolve, my greatest wish is that Neurodiversity Celebration Week will help to bring about acceptance, tolerance and understanding of different minds.

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Siena Castellon
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