Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. The Autistic Collaboration Trust in collaboration with S23M Healthcare Solutions is working with neurodivergent education professionals to facilitate sector wide education in the neurodiversity paradigm, the neurodiversity movement, and Autistic culture.
In Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia local members of the Autistic Collaboration Trust are assisting schools and universities with neurodiversity education resources. We invite your school or university to celebrate the diverse intelligences, abilities and employability of neurodivergent students and staff.
In the United States, 1 in 5 children has a learning difference. According to the UK Department of Education, 15% of students in the United Kingdom have a learning difference (a statistic that is likely to be overly conservative). Yet, most classroom teachers and school staff have no training on how to identify, understand and support students with learning and thinking differences. Instead of investing in providing early intervention and support services for students with special educational needs (SEN), years of severe funding cuts to education have decimated support services for neurodivergent students.
How do societal stigma and general misconceptions about neurological differences make it harder for students to get the support they need?
- 33% of classroom teachers and other educators believe learning and thinking challenges are sometimes an excuse for laziness.
- 43% of parents say they wouldn’t want others to know if their child has a neurological difference.
- 48% of parents believe incorrectly that kids grow out of learning differences.
- 76% of neurodivergent university students say they didn’t disclose their disability to their university.
The lack of teacher training and SEN support services, as well as the stigma and entrenched misconceptions about learning differences, have culminated in a perfect storm that has left neurodivergent students adrift.
It will not come as a surprise that most neurodivergent students and educators have negative school experiences.
In the classroom, learning differences are exposed for everyone to see and the greatest importance is given to the skills neurodivergent students struggle with the most or can’t do. This can be very discouraging and demoralizing. At school, we are often made to feel like failures. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Together, we can change the narrative. Instead of focusing only on the drawbacks of being neurodivergent, it’s time to also acknowledge and recognize the many strengths and talents that come from thinking and perceiving the world differently. By celebrating the strengths of neurodivergent teachers and students, we can begin the seismic shift of changing the way SEN students are perceived and treated, including how neurodivergent students and teachers feel about themselves.
To empower neurodivergent students and educators to achieve their potential, schools need to recognize and celebrate our many strengths and talents that may not be showcased in the traditional classroom environment, such as our creativity, ability to think outside-the-box, problem-solving skills, unique insights, and perspectives, as well as our perseverance and ability to collaborate in innovative ways.
We are the utopian dreamers.
The invisible pioneers.
The vulnerable change-makers.
The compassionate healers.
We are the creative pathfinders.
The quiet adventurers.
The accidental discoverers.
We are your partners, lovers, friends, carers, nurses, clinicians, teachers, parents, children, and colleagues. Yet, we live in a world that is not safe for us. Our ability to fulfil our potential is being threatened by the stigma associated with having been labelled with a “disorder” or a “special” educational need, and by the misconceptions many people still have about Autistic people and people with learning differences. In a hypernormative society that pathologises human diversity we are more vulnerable to being mistreated.
In a 2017 bullying report by Ditch the Label, 75% of Autistic students and 70% of students with learning differences reported being bullied at school.
Members of the neurodiversity movement adopt a position of diversity that encompasses a kaleidoscope of identities that intersects with the LGBTQIA+ kaleidoscope by recognising neurodivergent traits – including but not limited to ADHD, Autistic ways of being, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Synesthesia, Tourette’s Syndrome – as natural variations of cognition, motivations, and patterns of behaviour within the human species.
The objectives of the Autistic and neurodiversity civil rights movements overlap significantly with the interests of those who advocate for greater levels of cultural and psychological safety in the workplace and in society in general. In the workplace the topics of cultural and psychological safety are relevant to all industries and sectors.
Education on these topics is essential for addressing entrenched problems of lacking cultural and psychological safety in the workplace, and corresponding problems of lacking cultural and psychological safety in local communities.
Our comprehensive professional education courses are very different from education about neurodiversity in the language of the pathology paradigm – i.e. Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other pervasive developmental disorders, which mainly frames neurodivergent people in terms of deficits relative to the current neuronormative culture, perhaps with a few special splinter skills thrown in for Feel Good Effect.
Via our core team of neurodivergent educators and our extended global network we can delivery professional education in all time zones, and we have the capacity to support large numbers of learners in parallel.
From the frontlines of the neurodiversity movement in 2022
Intersectional Infinity Summit. Organised by The Neurodivergent Infinity Network Of Educators.
The Neurodivergent Infinity Network of Educators (NINE) is hosting the 2022 Intersectional Infinity Summit. We are thrilled to be hosting our first international event, and are honoured to be collaborating with a number of diverse international and local Autistic and otherwise Neurodivergent advocates, educators and all around excellent humans! Presenters, Panelists and Community Partners include: Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, Lyric Holmans, Aiden Lee, Ask Me, I’m An AAC User, Autistics Unmasked, Communication First, Autistic Collaboration Trust, Johnny Profane, Autistic Strategies Network, in addition to many other local and global Neurodivergent advocates and educators!
Autistic Communities in Public Libraries to educate the general English speaking adult public about the existence of the neurodiversity paradigm and autistic communities, and to create a display zone free of pathologizing language, within the space of public libraries. Launch location: Waiheke Library Auckland Aotearoa New Zealand.
We have chosen a small number of books written by Autistic authors who espouse the ideas of the neurodiversity paradigm. The project introduces the general public to Autistic ways of being, in non-pathologizing language from the Autistic perspective. We have created posters which can be downloaded below. Slides for the posters can also be downloaded and adapted for future use by whoever is interested. We are also collaborating with translators to translate the content into other languages so it can be reused abroad. We hope that this project will help educate the public and further advance Autistic collaboration.
Round-table ‘Replacing the DSM with the Neurodiversity Paradigm‘ at the Epistemic Access in Psychology at the APA’s Division 24 2022 Midwinter Gathering by the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.
In this roundtable we will explore the active disablement of neurodivergent people in developing their identities, ways of being, and cultural practices that deviate from what is considered “normal” according to the DSM. It is becoming increasingly common for mainstream social institutions to acknowledge neurodivergence—including ADHD and autism—as a set of identities comparable to traditional forms of diversity like race, gender, and sexual orientation. This is due in large part to the growing influence of the neurodiversity movement. Emerging across online forums at the turn of the 21st century, this social movement promotes a framework for rethinking many forms of neurological difference as non-pathological variations of human development, challenging deficit-based models of human experience that have been popular throughout the histories of psychology and psychiatry.
An international coalition of Autistic organisations presents ‘The Human Rights Case Against Harmful Behaviour Modification for Autistic People‘ at the Global Disability Summit.
Techniques such as Applied Behaviour Analysis or ABA are pseudoscientific practices of trying to change an individual’s behaviour to conform to the social expectations of a particular culture using psychological and physical interventions. Various jurisdictions around the world have passed laws against LGTBQIA+ conversion therapy. However, the same underlying techniques of coercion continue to be applied to young Autistic children and other vulnerable people. Now is the time for the governments all around the world to adopt adequate protocols to protect the human rights of Autistic people, and to act and ban ABA in all its forms. There are many groups, in many different jurisdictions, working in parallel towards this goal.
Open letter from Autistic organisations worldwide to the Lancet Commission on the future of care and clinical research in autism, to push back on the propagation of unethical pseudo-science and to curb the development of pseudo-treatments.
We find the proposal to adopt the term ‘profound autism’ highly problematic, as well as the overall emphasis on behavioural interventions, excluding more recent, promising approaches. We disagree with the recommendation to focus clinical research on randomised controlled trials for short-term interventions, including medication and behavioural trials. To improve autistic lives, we need concepts developed by autistic scholars applied to clinical research. We need research on causes of mortality, access to health care, and improving mental health support. We need research on screening and diagnosis for all countries, and the health consequences of system factors: discrimination, mistreatment, poverty and lack of access to appropriate services. We need closer involvement of autistic people to ensure that clinical trials are truly ethical, and to curb the development of pseudo-treatments.
In 2022 the Autistic Collaboration community is in the process of co-creating and operationalising peer support services for Autistic Trauma based on the lived experiences of Autistic people all over the world. We invite our Autistic peers (you) to contribute lived experience, as needed anonymously, so that we can co-create services around the diverse needs of Autistic communities.
The introduction of the concept of Neurodivergent and Autistic whānau. The Te Reo Māori word for Autistic ways of being is Takiwātanga, which means “in their own space and time”.
There is the saying that “It takes a village to raise a child.” The Autistic translation of this saying is “For an Autistic person it takes an extended Autistic family to feel loved and alive.” Many Autists are not born into healthy Autistic families and have to co-create their own Autistic families in their own space and time.
An updated Communal Definition of Autistic Ways of Being, to highlight Autistic ways of being as different ways of perceiving, feeling, thinking, caring, moving, interacting, relating, and communicating within the human species.
Pathologisation of Autistic ways of being is a social power game that removes agency from Autistic people. Our suicide and mental health statistics are the result of discrimination and not a “feature” of being Autistic.
The development of a comprehensive professional education offering on neurodiversity paradigm, the neurodiversity movement, and Autistic culture based on lived experience.
Education on these topics is essential for addressing entrenched problems of lacking cultural and psychological safety in the workplace, and corresponding problems of lacking cultural and psychological safety for students, their whānau / families, educators, and communities. All of our education courses are very different from education about neurodiversity in the language of the pathology paradigm – i.e. Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other pervasive developmental disorders, which mainly frames neurodivergent people in terms of deficits relative to the current neuronormative culture, perhaps with a few special splinter skills thrown in for Feel Good Effect.
International alignment and coordination of national initiatives towards comprehensive bans of all forms of “conversion therapies”, including “therapies” that target Autistic children such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) or Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).
“Conversion therapies” are pseudoscientific practices of trying to change an individual’s behaviour to conform to the social expectations of a particular culture using psychological and physical interventions. Any legislation which is so selective as to ban only “conversion therapies” that target a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is in itself discriminatory. If a government moves to ban the mistreatment of one minority in a particular manner but neglects similar mistreatment of other minorities it is more than negligent, it is actively legitimising prejudice.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week
21 – 27 March 2022
It is time to create a more inclusive educational landscape. But in order to bring about this change, we need your help. Please support the neurodiversity paradigm and the neurodiversity movement by registering to take part in Neurodiversity Celebration Week.
Join the other 1,600 schools and over 1 million students from around the world that are taking part in ensuring that the strengths and talents of neurodivergent people are seen and celebrated.
Diversity is inclusion. Neurodiversity Celebration Week is not only about neurodivergent students, it is also about the many neurodivergent teachers, parents, artists, and professionals and entrepreneurs in all sectors of our economy – who are unable to act as role models for neurodivergent students when having to remain undercover, to avoid bullying, ruthless exploitation, and systematic discrimination in their workplaces.
Your school can sign up here to participate.
In the light of legitimate concerns about slowing the spread of COVID-19 you may want to consider engaging students in collaborative online research and learning activities related to neurodiversity. In this context you can draw on the learning resources we have curated for educators.
- Neurodiversity Celebration Week – The advantages of perceiving the world differently
- Autistic Communities in Public Libraries – Educating the public about the existence of the neurodiversity paradigm and autistic communities, and creating a display zone free of pathologizing language, suitable for replication within schools and universities
- Education in the neurodiversity paradigm, the neurodiversity movement, and Autistic culture based on lived experience
- The articles listed on the right hand side of this website
- Knowledge Repository – Understanding Autistic strengths and challenges, Autistic forms of collaboration; and tips for living in a culture that disadvantages neurodivergent people
- Deep Innovation – Understanding the unique role of neurodivergent people in society
- Community Initiatives – From Autistic people for Autistic people, to make the world a safer place for everyone
- Neuroclastic – Information about Autistic ways of being from Autistic people
Participating organisations in previous years
Schools and universities in Australia:
- Alexandria Park Community School
- Alkimos Primary, North Coast
- Auburn Primary School, Victoria
- Avila College, Victoria
- Blackwater North State School. Blackwater, Central Queensland
- Borinya Wangaratta Community Partnership, Victoria
- Bullarto Primary School, Victoria
- Easter Ranges School, Victoria
- Emmaus College, Melbourne
- Emmanuel College Warrnambool, Victoria
- Genazzano FCJ College, Kew
- Gladstone High School, South Australia
- Lumineer Academy, Melbourne
- Marrickville Public School, New South Wales
- Mount Marrow State School, Queensland
- Northmead Public School, New South Wales
- Our Lady of Sion College, Melbourne
- Peaceful Rooms Montessori Centre, Western Australia
- Randwick Public School, New Soth Wales
- Respectful Schools Support Team, Tasmania
- Rosamond School, Victoria
- Sacred Heart College, Perth, Western Australia
- Scarborough Public School, Scarborough, New South Wales
- Springbrook State School, Gold Coast
- St Leonard’s College, Melbourne
- St Martin de Porres School, South Australia
- St Michael’s Grammar School, Victoria
- St Peter’s Catholic College, Tuggerah NSW
- Worongary State School, Queensland
- The University of New South Wales
- Australian College of Applied Psychology
Schools and universities in Aotearoa:
- Columba College Dunedin
- Macleans College, Auckland
- Owairoa Primary School, Auckland
- Palmerston North Girls’ High, Palmerston North
- Wakatipu High School, Queenstown
- Wellington East Girl’s College, Wellington
- Wellington High School
Neurodiversity celebration week was launched in May 2019 by Siena Castellon, a sixteen year old neurodiversity advocate from the UK who is autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic and has ADHD.
When I was thirteen, I created a website – www.qlmentoring.com – to support young people with learning differences and autistic young people. When searching for information about my conditions, I found that all the existing websites were focused on providing information and resources for parents. So I decided to create a website designed for young people like me. My website aims to empower neurodiverse youth by providing practical information and useful resources to help them to succeed in school.
As a student with several learning differences, I know that there is still a stigma associated with having special educational needs and that there are still many misconceptions about what it means to have a learning difference. I want to change this.
I want to flip the narrative so that instead of perceiving learning differences as something negative, we focus on the many strengths and advantages that come from seeing and perceiving the world differently.
– Siena Castellon
More information on how to get involved with this global initiative is available on the Neurodiversity Celebration Week website.