Send – Neurodiversity and Mental Health – long description
What does the term ‘neurodiversity’ mean?
The term ‘Neuro-diversity’ was created by a researcher called Judy Singer in 1998 and she described this as infinite and natural variability of the human brain. In simpler terms, this just explores how diverse we are from a neurological perspective and how this impacts the way we communicate and interact.
Who can be classed as neurodiverse?
Individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and tourette’s syndrome (to name a few) are identified as neuro-diverse as these diagnoses mean that their brain structure is wired differently compared to those with neuro-typical brains. However, it is important to note that different does not mean broken (Baumer, 2021).
Why is it important to know about ‘neurodiversity’?
Neurodivergent individuals interpret the world differently. This can result in social, communication, language and physical difficulties due to differences in processing information. According to the Department of Education (2020), 15.8% of all school pupils were identified as having a special educational need. 12.2% of pupils required SEN support and 3.7.% received an Education, health and care plan (EHCP).
What about the 8.5% who don’t have an EHCP? It is important to raise awareness into neurodiversity as it is our responsibility to provide the same access to education, the workforce, help and support to all individuals. As the systems of the world cater more towards neurotypical individuals, it is our duty to create changes within the environment to cater for the needs of neurodiverse individuals.
‘If a lettuce doesn’t grow, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look at the factors around the lettuce.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh
The social world can be scary and unpredictable for individuals who are neurodivergent. You can teach social skills and adapt how you interact, but you cannot change who you are! It is important to acknowledge the skills of all individuals and make adjustments to accommodate the needs of others.
What can you do to promote inclusivity in your classroom?
No two children are the same. Therefore, it is essential to understand each child’s individual needs. For example, autism has limiting generalisations, because of ignorance or the failure to recognise its existence. It is a neurological difference with a vast spectrum and a range of needs. Autism does not equal disability. Thus, it is important to challenge intolerance and ignorance. Through reframing your mindset of SEN and neurodiversity, when atypical behaviours are displayed, you will be able to acknowledge that all behaviour is communication. The child is not being a problem; the child is having a problem. Consider using different learning methods and modifying your teaching style to meet the needs of all children. Attending neuro specific training and involving parents may broaden your knowledge on how to do this effectively.
Things are looking up!
The increase in mental health awareness means that additional needs are being spotted earlier and the rate of diagnosis is improving. Environments are becoming more accessible through adaptation of delivery and resources. Education and training opportunities open the window to expand the view of neurodiversity and promote the development of empathy. Teaching children about emotional intelligence and resilience is key. When a child’s self-esteem is strong, they can work with their strengths and accept limitations without it damaging their self-worth. Always remember that biology is not destiny!