March 15, 2021

It's Neurodiversity Celebration Week!

What are you doing with your workplace, school, or family to celebrate the incredible variation in the way our brains work and the important contributions neurodivergent people make in all of our communities?

It's Neurodiversity Celebration Week!

Every year in March, the global community comes together to celebrate the incredible, natural variation in the way our brains work - our collective neurodiversity - and the contributions, ingenuity and resilience of neurodivergent people.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week was founded by Siena Castellon, an extraordinary neurodiversity advocate, Young Leader for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and published author who is autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic and has ADHD. Castellon launched the week in 2018 when she was only 16-years-old with the aim of changing the narrative about learning differences and neurodiversity in schools. Growing up, her differences were perceived as roadblocks to her achieving academic and professional goals, but Castellon knew from experience that with the right adjustments and accommodations, this simply was not the case. In the words of Castellon:

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a week in which we recognise and celebrate the talents, strengths and accomplishments of the neurodivergent community. It is a week in which neurodivergent children, who may be struggling or failing at school, are empowered by being reminded that they can still have rewarding and successful careers. It is also a week in which stereotypes and misconceptions about autism and learning differences are challenged and changed.’

The idea of neurodiversity was coined by the autistic advocate and sociologist Judy Singer (1) in 1999. Singer rejected the medicalization of autism and posited that autistic people’s brains function differently than other peoples. Since then, neuroscience has confirmed Singer’s perspective on neurodiversity: that there is natural variation in human brain structure, chemistry, and functioning, which means there is natural diversity in the way we think, draw connections, and experience the world. It also means we have different support needs and thrive best in different environments.

This is extremely relevant in schools. Most schools are designed with the needs and skills of neurotypical students - students with brains that work the same way as the majority of the population - in mind. This means that there is an enormous, invisible barrier to success and wellbeing in schools for neurodivergent students (students with ADHD, autism, Tourette’s Syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other conditions that impact the way we learn, draw connections, and experience the world).

Last year, more than 1000 schools, workplaces, and universities pledged to focus on neurodiversity through the celebration week - from education and awareness around what brain differences are, to learning about how everyone can support their neurodivergent peers in advocating for accommodations, to celebrating the talents and accomplishments of neurodivergent people, to acknowledging the importance of neurodiversity for our whole communities! This year, the number is set to be even bigger.

Are you ready to take part? Get in the conversation on social media or pledge to join the celebration right here. Through our partnership with Kahoot! we offer a set of learning games to support knowledge-building around neurodiversity and have just launched a brand new K!Quiz in honour of Neurodiversity Celebration Week - these are a great place to start engaging your community in neurodiversity learning. We have also created this free downloadable PDF teaching resource about executive functioning, which gives a primer on executive functioning in relation to neurodiversity, and helps to illustrate why typical school environments may need to be adjusted so all students get their best chance. Let us know how it goes on Instagram or Twitter! #NeurodiversityCelebrationWeek

1. For years, Judy Singer was not given the recognition or credit deserved for her enormous (and continuing!) contribution to the neurodiversity movement, including the coining of the term herself. There is an effort by GeniusWithin to provide her with monthly financial compensation to start rectifying this injustice. You can read more about it and contribute, if you can, here.

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