March 16 - 20, 2020
According to the Department of Education, 15% of students in the United Kingdom have a learning difference. I am one of these students. Many students with special educational needs (SEN) have negative school experiences. I know what it feels like to be frustrated, embarrassed and humiliated at school. I also know what it feels like to have your classmates assume you are not smart. At school, we are constantly reminded of what we can’t do. This can be very discouraging and demoralising.
Many neurodivergent adults look back on their school experience in a negative light. Many of these adults spent much of their time at school feeling bad about themselves. They were often made to feel like failures. No one should ever be made to feel this way. By acknowledging and celebrating the strengths of SEN students, we can not only begin to change the way students with special needs are perceived and treated at school, but we can also change the way neurodivergent students feel about themselves. My hope is that all students have happy, positive and fulfilling school experiences.
In order to help us to flourish, I believe schools should stop focusing only on what we cannot do and should begin to acknowledge and celebrate the many positive aspects of being neurodiverse. It is important for schools to recognise our many strengths: our creativity, innovation, ability to think outside-the-box, problem-solving skills, unique insights and perspectives, as well as our perseverance and resilience.
We are the dreamers. The pioneers. The change-makers. The future business leaders. We are the trailblazers. The adventurers. The discoverers. We are the Einsteins and Bransons of tomorrow.
Yet, our ability to fulfil our potential is being threatened by the stigma associated with having a special educational need and the misconceptions many people still have about people with learning differences. We are also more vulnerable to being mistreated. In a 2017 bullying report by Ditch the Label, 75% of autistic students and 70% of students with learning differences reported being bullied at school.
It is time to create a more positive perception about what it means to be neurodiverse and to change the educational landscape so that SEN students have positive school experiences. In order to change entrenched perceptions of autism and learning differences and in order to reduce the stigma, myths and misconceptions associated with having these conditions, we need your help. Please support your students with learning differences by registering to take part in Neurodiversity Celebration Week this March 16 - 20, 2020.