• Rachel Grant Waters

Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Siena Castellon launched Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2018. Since it’s launch it has become a global movement, with 1000’s of schools and 657,000 students across the globe taking part.

But Neurodiversity Celebration Week isn’t just for children and young people. It has become increasingly important for adults in their workplace, myself included.

Over the last year, after learning I have ADHD, I've sought out groups and organisations to get to know more people in the same boat as me. Since being in contact with other adults, especially women with ADHD, I’ve seen a question repeatedly pop up on the message boards and forums - “do I tell my boss?” I found this heartbreaking because I was never afraid to tell Ms Moran, or any of my colleagues at AHSC, that I’m neurodiverse. Still, I don’t think I’d genuinely appreciated how privileged I am to feel that way when other neurodiverse people are worried about the potential repercussions of disclosing it. It reminded me of conversations I had with colleagues in the jobs I had before joining AHSC 4 years ago. Often there were questions like “is dyslexia a real thing?”, eye-rolling and sighs if I asked for help or commented things like “but you're so smart! How can you have dyslexia?” or “I don’t believe in dyslexia, you just have to try harder”. It's reassuring to see that there have been positive changes because, at last check, over 100 business have signed the pledge to celebrate neurodiversity this year. There have been campaigns from organisations like GCHQ actively promoting how much they value their neurodiverse employees.

After I got my diagnosis, I distinctly remember saying to Ms Moran that I didn’t want it to be a secret. That I didn’t feel that I had anything to be ashamed of and that if I wasn’t safe to be open about my neurodiversity at Abingdon, were could I be? It goes without saying; Ms Moran has been nothing but supportive as she actively promotes inclusivity and diversity throughout AHSC. As such, none of my colleagues has batted an eyelid about it. The students have been their usual awesome and supportive selves too! It’s one thing that has always made AHSC a safe space for me, the ownership the students feel about their neurodiversity and the support and inclusivity they demonstrate when they talk about it with each other. The sense of community they experience is invaluable. For me, connecting with like-minded people has created exciting opportunities like working with Iridescent Minds to develop the world’s first dedicated Online Support Hub for people affected by gender bias in diagnosing ADHD. I'm looking forward to speaking at the inaugural virtual summit for this in April. I'll also be speaking with Dr Abigail Russell about the Toolkit she is developing to equip teachers with strategies to better support children with ADHD in school. The funding for this was awarded to her by the National Institute for Health Research.

Although we haven’t been able to celebrate Neurodiversity Celebration Week at school this month the way want to, due to getting settled back after such a long time away, we will be celebrating properly when we return after easter. Keep an eye out for more details in next weeks newsletter!

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