What Does It Mean To Be Neuro-diverse?
There are of course medical labels to identify these differences and they are usually termed as disorders, conditions, deficiencies, impairments, syndromes, deficits, handicaps and disabilities and we repeat these medical labels when trying to explain our differences and how they impact us to others but that doesn't always get us the desired results.
So What If I'm Neuro-diverse? What Does It Matter?
So Who Are The NeuroTypical Majority?
Problem is many non-autistic people cannot be described as Neuro-Typical either. For example, people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, AD(H)D, Tourette's Syndrome, Epilepsy, Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, OCD and any or all other neurological differences like those listed above cannot be considered as being Neuro-Typical. So once you start to include these neurological differences the balance changes and the side of neurodiversity grows larger still.
Catering For The Neuro-Typical Majority
In fact it sometimes feels as though it is almost acceptable for these institutions to fail us because after all, we are 'special', 'disabled', hard to get consecutive results out of. All these organisations are driven by, or targeted to obtaining good results or profits. We aren't straightforward to cater for, we don't provide nice, neat, averages across the board, so some schools and employers fear how our difficulties will reflect in their league tables, reputation and/or profits. The result is that members of these institutions or organisations don't want to work with us and are concerned about the potential adaptations they would have to make to accommodate our needs.
It seems as though successive Governments across the world have used a 'pigeon holing' system for 'brain types' and those of us with severe neuro-diverse differences are diagnosed, medically labelled then educationally sectioned off into 'Special Education Needs' (SEN).
It seems that the compulsory education system these Governments preside over were not created to manage the learning of children with our differences. It seems to me at least, as though the compulsory schooling system was built to allow everyone 'equal' access to education but it was not built to allow 'fair' access. Equal access is saying everyone has to be treated the same and the same results are expected from everyone. Fair access is allowing children to access learning in a way that is meaningful for them, and their progress be allowed in any areas of interest that improves knowledge and/or the ability to live independently.
Our education system looks to have been based on a macro view of society as a whole and designed to work for the Neuro-Typical majority who showed they could learn in the old traditional school settings. The curriculum designed to provide everyone with the same basic level of education which should enable them to enjoy further studies or employment. You can't blame the logic, as in theory it should have lead to the vast majority of children achieving their potential.
... But In Order To Achieve Success For The Majority We Have To Be Reasonable.
Schools Have To Cater For The Neuro-Typical
But what if you keep adding to the list? What if there are no Neuro-Typical people out there. What if no one is just average or typical across the board?
What if all 7 + billion of the world's population all perceive, interpret and interact with the world around us slightly differently to each other? What if we are all different? What if there are no neuro-Typical children reaching their potential either? Then would we re-think the system?
The simple truth is though, if you have just one of the differences mentioned above you might well have had difficulty learning in a traditional school settings and you may well have struggled in the employment market to get, and keep a job which was suitably challenging and rewarding for you, and that didn't present you with too many barriers to success.
When you are severely neurodiverse you soon realise that none of the systems were created to benefit people like you.
My question, and the subject of this blog is...
Who Were Schools Created For?
I just think that Human brains are not like computers, we don't come with pre-set specifications, for how our brains function. Our brains are the most complex of all our internal organs and many scientists are still trying to analyse their internal workings, but it is still the least understood of our organs. With the billions of neural pathways in our brains I actually find it inconceivable to think that any two people could be wired the same way.
Unique Doesn't Do Typical!
Each of us has slightly differently coloured skin, hair, eyes, shaped faces, shape of body, height and weight.
If we needed even more proof that no two individuals are constructed the same way we need look no further than fingerprints and dental records. Even a retina scan can confirm someone's uniqueness!
We are all unique and yes, I can hear you all crying out 'what about identical twins', they do look the same. Well yes they do, they share each other's DNA but did you know that even identical twins DO NOT share each other's fingerprints!
Each fingerprint is unique, like a snowflake, no two are the same, no matter how many people we populate the world with we are all going to be unique and very different to those around us.
So why is it that there isn't the same acceptance over 'brain diversity' as there is over fingerprints? Children are not told they cannot succeed just because of their fingerprints, yet we are constantly reminded that if we cannot achieve minimum standards, especially in English and Maths, then we will struggle to find employment or continue with meaningful education. It is almost as though we are being told from a young age that if we cannot keep up with minimum academic standards we will not amount to anything, yet some of us cannot keep up with minimum standards because of our delays or difficulties brought on by our neurodiverse differences. We are failed by a system that prioritises 'fixing' our weaknesses rather than working to our strengths.
Maybe I Am Uneducated Because I Am Thick. Right?
This is a very sad, and telling fact about the kind of society we live in. The neuro-diverse seem to make up a huge slice of the 'collateral damage' produced by our current schooling system.
We do not fit the one size fits all model, we are undesirable to many schools, our abilities and strengths often get neglected as the system tries identify and target our deficits with interventions in an attempt to get us to achieve minimum standards. Unfortunately, the current system no more helps the super talented than it does those who appear delayed or unwilling to adapt to what is expected of them.
The reason for this is that how well we do academically at school does not necessarily correlate with our potential to succeed in adulthood!
We, the neuro-diverse population, which is an estimated 4% to 20% of the worlds population are being told we are different. We are told we are failing at school but the truth is that the school system is failing us!
It's Time To Tell The Truth!
Our Senses Play Their Part Too
These differences coupled with our individually created diverse neural wiring could be the real reason why some of us become excellent in certain fields like music whilst others struggle to differentiate individual sounds, pitches and rhythm.
How Should We Learn?
We should be allowed to learn by being encouraged and guided in investigating our interests and passions, not be deprived of challenging and fun mental stimulus just because we are slow to learn to read, don't seem focused on the class or are too tired or hungry to take it all in.
Schooling should be about ensuring that we are all exposed to as many topics and interests as possible so that we can all find subjects that inspire us to learn. Consecutive Governments tinker with the system but they all seem intent on grading schools on their ability to ensure that all, or at least the majority, of the children achieve minimum standards in their prioritised areas. This is a system that no more recognises genius - than accepts its fault in failing the vast neuro-diverse population.
We Won't All Be Like Einstein, Edison or Branson
What if the reason the school system fails so many neuro-diverse children, (including many gifted children with huge potential), what if we are failing because as a diverse human species we are meant to be different? What if we are not destined to be mediocre minimum standard drones?
But What If We WEre Destined For More?
It's time to end the pretence. What if...
There Is No Neuro-Typical Brain
Can you imagine an education system where all children were allowed to take as long as they needed to learn each topic and were allowed to spend an equal amount of time being exposed to lots of new subjects to help them identify their natural aptitudes, until they developed a passion for one or more specialities. Would our potential inventors, innovators, physicists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, artists and other high net worth individuals start to emerge?
Inspiring and stimulating the individual on a personal level would help build their self esteem and unleash their potential. That could have a huge positive impact on our society on a macro level too, more innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs, what country wouldn't want that?
* We are all capable of some forms of neuro-diverse thinking but some are only mildly affected whereas others are severely affected and need continued support to discover and reach their full potential. Different needs does not mean we need sympathy, it means we need adaptations to account for our differences if we are to have a 'fair' chance of achieving our potential.
* We all learn in different ways, we are all wired differently but we are forced into an outdated 'typical' schooling model that currently fails a great many children who are too diverse to learn in this way. Therefore it is this outdated vision of what schooling the masses should achieve that should be blamed for failing it's children, not use.
and start the search for excellence.
The neuro-diverse brain is the greatest untapped resource on Earth
Turn on the light to unleash the potential!