Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Celebrating a different way of thinking

Neurodiversity Celebration Week 21 – 28 March is a worldwide initiative that empowers every individual by challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. The annual awareness campaign was founded in 2018 by Siena Castellon when she was 18, to help change the way learning differences are perceived:

“As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, my experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity. I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”

Inspired by Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we’re flying the flag by answering some of the common questions around neurodivergence and celebrating the advantages of thinking differently.

What exactly is neurodiversity?

Did you know that at least 15% of the population is neurodiverse, yet fewer than 50% may know it? And many people still don’t know what neurodiversity is at all!

The term neurodiversity was coined in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer and refers to the variation in how we process information, think, act, move and sense the world we live in.

These variations in learning, attention, literacy, mood, numeracy, and social skills have been broken down into sub-classifications, this includes Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Autism, and Tourette’s.

It’s important to remember that these conditions are not injuries or diseases. They are a result of a number of factors including genes that are part of natural variation.

How do neurodiverse brains work?

Neurodivergent is the term used for when someone’s brain processes, learns and behaves differently from what is considered by society as neurotypical.

Neurodivergence can manifest in many different ways and range from very mild ways that most people would never notice, to more obvious ways that lead to a person behaving differently than we are used to seeing in our society.

Some of the biggest geniuses in history are suspected to be neurodiverse.  Albert Einstein has been considered to have ADHD and dyslexia, with excellent creativity and intelligence.

“Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.”
Albert Einstein.

What are the strengths associated with neurodiversity?

Neurodiverse abilities vary from person to person, but some examples of strengths include:

  • Strong long-term memory: being able to recall information easily is an excellent life skill
  • Observant
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Stellar imagination which leads to creativity and innovation
  • Natural skills in math, art and music
  • High levels of attention to detail

The importance of neurodiverse environments

2+2 equals 4, but so does 3+1. There is no single “right” way of thinking, learning or behaving. Diversity of all kinds contributes to creativity, innovation, and intelligence. The greater diversity within the world, the more unique ideas and perspectives.

There are, however, some considerations that can be made to enable neurodivergent individuals to reach their full potential, within the workplace, homes, and online. Ask yourself how you can be more considerate of neurodiverse needs:

Being mindful of noise levels in public spaces: Research shows that those with ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc are more susceptible to a sensory overload, therefore, quiet spaces are an area to be able to remove all distractions. If you’re an employer and/or manage a team, is there a way you can adapt the workplace so there are quiet environments? If you own a shop or public space, are you able to control the background noise i.e. music at a comfortable level.

Ask questions: Ask your neurodiverse friends, colleagues, customers how they can be better supported? Finding out from those directly affected will help you to meet their needs.

Don’t forget about online spaces: If you’re operating in the digital world, are you using assistive technology online? By providing accessibility tools, website users can customise their digital experience in a way that best suits their needs. Those with dyslexia may like to change the font or colour of the text to make it easier to read. Those with autism or ADHD may like to use a screen mask or ruler to allow them to focus and stop being distracted by other content on the page.

The world has a lot to benefit from the neurodiverse community. For full inclusivity to be achieved, the digital world must be accessible. By providing assistant on and offline, we create a world around us that is more accessible and inclusive to allow everyone to thrive.

About Recite Me

The Recite Me assistive technology on the Get Living website provides a variety of tools that enable those who are neurodiverse to read and understand the information in a way that best suits their individual needs.  Features that can help neurodiverse people include:

  • A screen mask to help with focus and concentration
  • Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages to negate reading difficulties
  • Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud to allow for varying auditory preferences
  • Customisation options for text font, colour, sizing, and spacing, so that the look of the webpage can be tailor-made into the perfect format for every individual
  • A spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus to help with comprehension.

To use the Recite Me toolbar and language features on the Get Living website, press the digital accessibility icon on both mobile and desktop. Learn more about the Recite Me tool functions and how it’s improving Get Living’s digital accessibility.

Image credit: ‘Diagram showing neurominorities that make up neurodiversity,’ Marcus Young for OpenLearn.