‘Take the pledge’

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My name is Siena Castellon. I am a sixteen year old nationally recognised autism and neurodiversity advocate. I am autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic and have ADHD. When I was thirteen, I created a website -www.qlmentoring.com – to support young people with learning differences and autistic young people. When searching for information about my conditions, I found that all the existing websites were focused on providing information and resources for parents. So I decided to create a website designed for young people like me. My multi-award winning website aims to empower neurodiverse youth by providing practical information and useful resources to help them to succeed in school.

As a student with several learning differences, I know that there is still a stigma associated with having special educational needs and that there are still many misconceptions about what it means to have a learning difference. I want to change this. I want to flip the narrative so that instead of perceiving learning differences as something negative, we focus on the many strengths and advantages that come from seeing and perceiving the world differently.

Many neurodiverse adults look back on their school experience in a negative light. Many spent much of their time at school feeling embarrassed and humiliated, because they could not read and spell as well as their classmates. By acknowledging and celebrating the strengths of neurodiverse students, we can not only begin to change the way students with special needs are perceived and treated at school, but also change the way neurodiverse students feel about themselves. My wish is that all students have happy, positive and fulfilling school experiences, especially students who are autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic and students with ADHD.

Sienna was shortlisted at the 2018 National Diversity Awards, and has recently won the BBC Teen Hero Radio Awards which was televised on BBC2.

Please help me to change the way neurodiverse students are perceived by pledging to support your neurodiverse students.

‘Take The Pledge’

According to the Department of Education, 15% of students in the United Kingdom have a learning difference. I am one of those students. I know what it feels like to have your classmates assume you are not smart, because you cannot spell and because you struggle to read. I know what it feels like to be frustrated, embarrassed and humiliated at school. Like me, many neurodiverse students have negative school experiences. At school, we are required to do things we find incredibly challenging and we are constantly reminded of what we can’t do. This can be very discouraging and demoralising.

It is time to change the way schools, teachers and other students perceive us.

Schools should stop focusing 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, 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. 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 pledging to take part in the first ever Neurodiversity Celebration Week. 

Source – www . neurodiversity – celebration – week . com

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