School can demoralise autistic students, help me celebrate our neurodivsersity!

School demoralise autistic students help celebrate neurodivsersity1

Tania's note: We recently featured a post from autistic teenager, Siena Castellon, about her fabulous anti-bullying work. Siena is now pulling in schools and organisations across the country to support her campaign for A Neurodiversity Celebration Week. She can definitely count on support from everyone at Special Needs Jungle - and she's back today to tell us all about her campaign.

Why I’m campaigning for a Neurodiversity Celebration Week, by Siena Castellon

I recently launched my Neurodiversity Celebration Week campaign, which is aimed at encouraging schools to recognise the strengths of their neurodiverse students. As a student who is dyslexic, dyspraxic, autistic and has ADHD, I know how frustrating, humiliating and demoralising school can be.

When we're at school, we are constantly being reminded of what we are bad at and what we struggle with.  This has a negative effect on our confidence and self-esteem. I want to change this. I want to flip the narrative so that schools begin to focus on the many strengths and advantages of their neurodiverse students.

There are still many misconceptions about what it means to be a student with special educational needs. Many other students assume that we are not smart. Students with special educational needs are also much more likely to be misunderstood and bullied. The 2017 Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey found that 70% of students with learning differences and 75% of autistic students reported being bullied.

Schools can play an important role in addressing the myths and misconceptions about autism and learning differences by presenting their neurodiverse students in a positive light and by highlighting the immense contributions the neurodiverse community have made to our society.

siena castellon
Siena Castellon

More schools signing up every week - will yours join us?

Although I just launched the campaign, I already have more than 21 schools signed up to participate in Neurodiversity Celebration Week. This amounts to over 19,000 students! The campaign has also been embraced internationally, including in the United States and Australia. Furthermore, I have had a phenomenal response from organisations and charities. The ADHD Foundation, Anna Kennedy Online charity, Ambitious About Autism, Autism Parenting Magazine, the British Dyslexia Association, Mencap Oxford, nasen, the National Diversity Awards, United Response, the PDA Society and UCL’s Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) are supporting my campaign as well as Special Needs Jungle.

Two of Siena’s posters
Two examples of Siena’s posters

How you can participate

There are many ways in which schools can participate in Neurodiversity Celebration Week. I have created positive neurodiversity posters for schools to use (examples above). In addition, schools could invite neurodiverse parents and neurodiverse speakers from their local community to talk about how their unique way of perceiving the world helped them to succeed. Schools could also hold an assembly focused on neurodiversity and recognise the talents of their neurodiverse students. They can empower their neurodiverse students by having them provide input as to how to celebrate Neurodiversity Celebration Week. 

No one tells us that 35% of entrepreneurs in the UK are dyslexic. No one tells us that a disproportionate number of scientists, computer programmers and mathematicians are autistic. No one tells us that some of the most famous actors and actresses and musicians have ADHD. It is time that students who think differently and perceive the world differently have their creativity, innovation, problem-solving skills, perseverance and resilience celebrated and acknowledged.

If you are a teacher, a neurodiverse young person, or a SEND parent, please ask your school to take part in Neurodiversity Celebration Week, which will be taking place from May 13 to May 17, 2019.

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Siena Castellon
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