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Celebrating neurodiversity and the unique ways we each think

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 3,978

Scope community team

edited March 19 in Guest blogs

This guest blog was kindly contributed by Kathy Sharpe, mum to a 10 year old son with additional needs, in recognition of Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2021.

This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week (15-21 March 2021), an awareness campaign that recognises the strengths and talents of those with learning differences.

According to a Government report last January, there are now 1.3m pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in England (up from 14.9% in 2019 to 15.5% in 2020). To put it more tangibly, your average class of 30 children may have at least four or five children with a learning need or disability. That’s a surprising ratio, and one that must put enormous strain on the education and health care system.

Neurodiversity is a topic that’s quite personal to me, as I’m the mum of a child with additional needs. People we know don’t necessarily realise it, but our 10-year-old son has a number of hidden disabilities and special educational needs. He was diagnosed with, amongst other things, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), a neurological disability affecting around 5-7% of kids.* It impacts how the brain processes sound which can make understanding speech (especially in noisy environments) very difficult, in spite of having perfect hearing.

Young boy listening to headphones

Increasing awareness

Neurological diagnoses can come with an array of challenges: behaviour that can, to the outside world, appear naïve, age inappropriate, or inexplicable; massive restrictions in where and what you can do as a family; judgement from well-meaning bystanders. It’s all understandable as it’s hard to comprehend what you can’t see.

Today, awareness around hidden neurological disorders is increasing. Some are genetic, some due to physical trauma or illnesses, and some are still a bit of a mystery. AutismADHDTourette’s, and Dyslexia are probably the most well-known in children (but still enormously misunderstood) diagnoses, but there’s a stack of others. 

DyspraxiaDysgraphiaDyscalculiaPathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)Meares-Irlen Syndrome (or Visual Stress), ProsopagnosiaSynesthesia, and Sensory Processing Difficulties are just some of the conditions that go unheard-of by much of the population. 

The Venn diagram of neurological disorders is extensive, with many overlapping conditions and symptoms, making a diagnosis by a professional both essential and complex. Often, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and other mental health issues run in parallel, a by-product of exhausting struggles with seemingly simple tasks. Why is writing so hard for me? Why can’t I ride a bike? Why can’t I understand what people mean? 

Celebrating difference

A few years ago, I read an article about TV vocal coaches Carrie and David Grant who have four children, all with additional needs including Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Dyspraxia, and Dyscalculia. “What are the odds of that?!” I thought. Turns out it’s pretty high if there’s a genetic or hereditary factor.

The debate will rage on as to why there has been an increase in diagnosis – societal reasons, environmental factors, or just improved identification and public education. What’s clear is that the long-term impact of going unsupported and misunderstood can be devastating.

With the right help, these children can flourish. Neurodiverse kids can often be extremely creative, artistic, passionate, sensitive and empathetic. There are stacks of examples of successful famous figures with neurological conditions, from Bill Gates to Albert Einstein. The crucial point is that not everyone learns in the same way.

As with a physical impairment, neurological difference should not be a barrier to achievement. Every child should be given the chance to reach their own personal potential by receiving the support and accommodations they need. So, this week, let’s celebrate all minds and the wonderful diversity they bring.

Recent international research has indicated that APD is thought to be present in 5% to 7% of children (some sources say up to 10% or 1 in 10) and in over 20% of adults. The amount increases steeply in children who have learning difficulties, with up to 40% of those children also having Auditory Processing deficits. By comparison, according to the WHO in 2019, Autism/ASD is thought to affect only 1 in 160 children worldwide (with an estimated 1.1% in the UK). For more details visit the APD SupportUK website: https://apdsupportuk.yolasite.com/

Over to you:

Many thanks to Kathy from all here at Scope for her insightful and thought provoking guest blog. I hadn't personally realised the number of diagnoses that fall under the bracket of 'neurological difference' before and do agree that we should celebrate, not be fearful of, what makes us different.  

But what did you think? Did any of Kathy's words resonate with you? Do you have experience of living with neurological difference? 

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below :)

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Replies

  • KathySharpeKathySharpe Member Posts: 2 Listener
    Thanks for sharing, Cher!   :)
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Testing team Posts: 7,997

    Scope community team

    edited March 19
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us @KathySharpe
    My two daughters (11 and 13) are both currently going through the long wait for an ADOS assessment but have been identified by their schools as having SEN.

    Cher_Scope said:
    Often, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and other mental health issues run in parallel, a by-product of exhausting struggles with seemingly simple tasks. Why is writing so hard for me? Why can’t I ride a bike? Why can’t I understand what people mean? 
    Through my own experience with neurodiversity I can definitely see the link between poor mental health / self-esteem and neurodiversity and I'm grateful to you for highlighting this.
    The crucial point is that not everyone learns in the same way.
    This is so very true and hopefully as more recognition is given to neurodiversity and people continue to raise awareness, more understanding will be given and practice will improve. 

    Thanks so much for sharing your family's story with us. :)
    Senior Community Partner
    Scope
  • KathySharpeKathySharpe Member Posts: 2 Listener
    Thanks for your kind words, Andrew!
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