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Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. It aims to transform how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported by providing schools, universities, and organisations with the opportunity to recognise the many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent, while creating more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual.
The founder, Siena Castellon states:
“I founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2018 because I wanted to change the way learning differences are perceived. As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, my experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity. I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”
Neurodiversity is a term that has been around for a while and is used to refer to differences in the way an individuals brain works without attaching negativity or positivity to it, simply identifying that there is a difference. When people use the term neurodiversity or neurodivergent it could be in reference to a wide range of discrete (and often overlapping) differences with labels such as Dyslexia, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Condition to name just a few.
Neurodiversity, as a concept, presumes that such conditions are not “abnormal” but just different. This viewpoint takes into account the many benefits to individuals and society of brains which work differently and produce original thoughts. So having a brain that works differently is not necessarily good, it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just different and sometimes being different is good. for example, Leonardo da Vinci was different, as was Mohamad Ali and Richard Branson has done things differently and it’s worked out fairly well for him; the list of noteworthy proven or supposed neurodiverse individuals is very long indeed.
Neurodiversity is not just a politically correct term or “rebranding”. It has a basis in science where numerous brain imaging studies have shown that the brains of those who have a learning difference actually work in different ways. So all of us are unique individuals and our brains are all unique, some are just a bit more different than others. So let’s celebrate our differences and all the advantages they bring!
So how can you get involved? Four key steps have been outlined to get you started with supporting Neurodiversity Cleberation Week 2023, and celebrating different minds:
1. Sign-up & pledge your support
2. Register for their 24 free events
3. Access their social media pack
4. Download their resources
The Neurodiversity Celebration Week website – collections of posters, videos, fact sheets on a wide range of neurodiversity. From the “Schools” tab in the navigation you will see a drop-down list of Powerpoints/Activities/Posters/Videos and Resources.
IncludED In Your Classroom – posters and web pages with practical tips about how to make your classroom as inclusive as possible including for dyslexic learners and learners who are autistic.
ADHD Foundation – lots of fact sheets, posters and other resources for schools and parents.
National Autistic Society – free resources including videos, downloads and animations for Early Years, primary schools and secondary schools.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a great event to support for two main reasons:
Down syndrome (or Trisomy 21) is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition, being universally present across racial, gender or socioeconomic lines in approximately 1 in 800 live births, although there is considerable variation worldwide. Down syndrome usually causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues. (Source – Down Syndrome International)
“Chromosomes R Us” is a short film by actors with Down syndrome explaining how Trisomy 21 occurs. Made by Shabang Inclusive Learning in collaboration with Mediapreview, Huddersfield, UK, this film was made possible by generous funding by BBC Children in Need.
Below is "We are..." also found on Down's Syndrome Association website.
World Down Syndrome Day is part of the United Nations calendar of events. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.
The United Nations are calling for “full and effective participation and inclusion in society” and are striving to celebrate the lives of people with Down Syndrome, raise awareness of Down Syndrome and promote inclusion so that people with Down Syndrome have the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.
They draw attention to:
They have a set of resources which will help you to advocate for inclusion – whether its at school, your work place, in media or in public life. Download their easy read theme guide; useful for anyone who wants to join their #InclusionMeans campaign (n.b This was the campaign in 2022).
Having fun and raising money are important aspects of the day but raising awareness and improving inclusion for learners with Down Syndrome are of course at the heart of it all. In 2021, Down Syndrome International published the International Guidelines for the Education of Learners with Down Syndrome which provides a huge amount of information about how education institutions can meet the needs of learners with Down Syndrome. If you have any learners with Down Syndrome in your setting and want more information it’s certainly a great place to start!
The 26th of March each year is Purple Day, a time to to get people talking about epilepsy, raise awareness of the condition and raise vital funds. Purple day has been running since 2008 and was created to bring people together to start conversations about epilepsy and raise awareness of the condition.
Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different ‘epilepsies’ with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. Epilepsy is a condition which is often greatly misunderstood but which affects over half a million (around 1 in every 100) people in the UK. The Epilepsy Society has a great page of information about facts and myths related to epilepsy.
Young Epilepsy are another major epilepsy charity in the UK who focus their work on supporting children and young people with epilepsy. They have a great page of ideas and resources to mark Purple Day and get your school raising money to help maintain vital research into epilepsy and to support children with epilepsy and their families.
Young Epilepsy have also produced a number of resources specifically to help schools raise awareness and educate their school community about epilepsy including:
So, whether you plan to ‘Party in Purple’ or have a ‘Wear Purple to School’ day, hold an assembly or run a fundraiser, make the most of Purple Day 2023. Let’s get talking about epilepsy so your whole school community can learn more about this common condition and show support for our friends and colleagues.
Over the years a lot of good work has been done to raise awareness of autism. Many people are now aware of autism but there is still so much to do to help people really understand the condition and how it impacts people’s lives in so many different ways. World Autism Acceptance Week is our golden opportunity each year to help educate ourselves and our communities about autism and celebrate the achievements of those within the autistic community.
Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “We would like to congratulate our Ambassador, Chris Packham, on his brilliant and deeply moving BBC documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds, which shares the stories of four autistic people, Flo, Murray, Anton, Ethan and their families ... Better public understanding of autism across society could transform hundreds of thousands of autistic people's lives.”
As always, the National Autistic Society (NAS) is playing a leading role in Autism Acceptance Week in the UK. They have put together a range of activities and resources including videos aimed at primary and secondary schools, as well as plans and slides for assemblies.
Look, Think, Do is a photo-based resource for pupils with social and communication needs. This visual resource is divided into four key sections: Learning to Play; Learning to Say; Learning to Change; Learning to Help Myself. Editable storyboards bring difficult situations to life in a non-threatening manner and enable pupils to discuss solutions and strategies, and alternative and ideal endings.
Ambitious about Autism has a great page about understanding autism which covers topics such as “what causes autism”, “how to talk about autism” and “autism and associated conditions”.
Whatever you do to "March Forward for SEND" please don’t forget to share what you get up to with us via Twitter and Facebook #NeurodiversityCelebrationWeek #WorldDownSyndromeDay #InclusionMeans #PurpleDay #AutismAwarenessWeek