Neurodiversity Celebration Week

This week’s photos are from New York. I was amazed at the view down the absurdly long streets. They seemed infinite.

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week

This week, 15-21st March, is Neurodiversity Celebration Week. Created by the amazing young female writer Siena Castellon in 2019. Siena is autistic, dyspraxic and dyslexic. She also has ADHD. Her book, the wonderfully titled, The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic is an Amazon #1 best seller.

I learned it was Neurodiversity Celebration Week late on Sunday, 14th March. Too late for me to plan anything. I’ve set a reminder for next year though. Assuming I’m still streaming on I will integrate it into my week. I will be doing a charity stream for Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April. Thought you should be aware I’ll be raising awareness on awareness day. Not sure what I’ll be a wearing though. Anyway…

I love Siena’s reasoning behind this movement.

I launched Neurodiversity Celebration Week to encourage schools and colleges to change the way they perceive their autistic students and students with learning differences. I believe it is important to flip the narrative so that neurodivergent students are empowered to perceive themselves more positively. I also believe that it is important to change negative misconceptions and stereotypes about individuals who think differently and perceive the world differently.

100% that. Imagine being at school and feeling empowered for being different rather than afraid.

When I was in 6th form I wrote poetry and the kids who read it said it was dark and depressing. It was almost like I was trying to process my emotional state because I felt isolated for being different. At the time I had no idea what I was going through. I felt alone, angry at times and empty. It would take another 12 years to figure out that my emptiness wasn’t sadness but actually chronic depression. It would take a further 10 years to diagnose that I was autistic. 22 years to figure out what I was dealing with during my teenage years. Imagine being a teenager and having someone help you through that because they recognise the signs?

I don’t regret my path. Where I am now is a good place. Of course my depression will tell me I do regret things and “What if… something else?” Get fudged depression. You are not me.

Poetry eh? It wasn’t great. I enjoy writing. I always have. I was told I was good at it but I never did anything with that. I just wanted to play on my computer. I understood that world and enjoyed exploring it. So guess what I wrote about when I did poetry? Computers. Seriously. There’s a wonderful poem where I try and rhyme “System 7”. For those of you new to computers System 7 is the Macintosh operating system in the mid-90s.

Today we use macOS Big Sur which is the 11th major version of Mac OS, technically speaking. Before simply being called macOS we used Mac OSX pronounced Mac OS 10. Before that it was System n (where n is a version number). You can see the journey in the Mac operating system from its early days to the computer I am using to write this newsletter. Just like the Mac you can see my journey in these poems.

I wrote poetry about the internet and technology. I wrote about the way it enables connection without judgement or fear. The poems are a discussion of my connection with technology because technology enabled me whereas society disabled me. You can see it in the poems. I’m discussing feeling isolated in meat space but connected online. I had trouble fitting in and I was angry.

Unfortunately the education system failed me. They knew something was different about me but different in a “You suck. Do better.” way. I was taken aside by teachers and told to improve my handwriting. My parents were able to get me a very very basic laptop (essentially a plain text editor box) which I used in class to the annoyance of everyone in the room. Imagine one single mechanical keyboard in a classroom. Technology enabled me.

The education system failed to notice that I was autistic or dyspraxic or that I have ADHD (still running tests on that). My parents had me privately tested and the diagnosis was dyslexia but oddly I was told dyspraxia. That diagnosis meant I could have extra reading time in exams and the use of a computer in my own private space. For years I’ve felt like I didn’t succeed as well as my peers but can you imagine how bad I would have done without those things?

This is why Neurodiversity Celebration Week is important. The education system needs to support not correct neurodiverse individuals. The workplace does too. I lost an interview because I while I was technically the best candidate I didn’t “fit”. Bad eye contact and posture. Ugh. Not cool. I could have done the job! Attitudes need to change to embrace people like me.

A few years ago I was commissioned to take some portraits at a school and it was a delight to see they had a neurodiversity celebration wall. Things are changing. We need to keep celebrating difference.


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