• Shelley

Alter the environment and celebrate the strengths…

This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week - a time to celebrate the strengths and advantages that ND brings rather than focusing on the difficulties that ND differences can incur for individuals and their families.

ND strengths are allowed to shine when the environment enables this.

Julia Harris of Complex Strengths and the Neurodiverse Universe includes in her wonderfully enlightening course a description of a young person who is active, adventurous and daring - she has two pictures of this same young person side by side.

The first is of him out in the wild standing on a mountaintop surveying and planning the next step of an adventurous endeavour - he is certainly the person you would be looking to for leadership in that environment.

The second picture is of him sitting in a traditional classroom, struggling to be enthusiastic about an outdated curriculum, being rebuked for moving around in order to contain his energy and having the adventure and courage sucked out of him by a system set up to create individuals who must conform and be controlled.

This young person’s brain is no different in those circumstances, but the circumstances of the first picture require and allow his natural strengths to be valued while those in the second picture don’t only devalue those traits, but shame that young person into believing that they are wrong and undesirable.

I fully appreciate that wonderful educators do all they can to minimise these messages to ND children but working within a system that has this message at its core, they cannot eradicate it completely.

We should celebrate neurodivergence by creating a society where there is no such thing as neurotypical and neurodivergent. Instead, one with individuals with strengths that are valued and encouraged and struggles that are virtually unseen or at least minimised, because others in the environment have those exact strengths and so difficulties are always supported by others as part of everyday life.

Is this idealistic thinking? As a ND individual myself and as the parent of a ND young person, I certainly don’t believe it is. Environments and societal structures have been changed throughout history, why shouldn’t this change be a reality in our lifetime?

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