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All ION blogs are written by neurodiverse members, check out our blogs below!

  • 24 Feb 2022 10:25 AM | Charlotte Valeur (Administrator)


    From cradle to grave, neurodiverse individuals face widespread discrimination.  

    Every day the world over, neurodiverse people are told that the way they naturally interact with others is wrong, that they are somehow wrong. With 15% - 20% of the world’s population estimated to be neurodiverse, the fact that this sort of discrimination still exists, affecting such a large number of people, is very troubling. So they are put into misguided and cruel conversion therapies, denied lifesaving treatmentslocked up in health facilities around the country (sometimes indefinitely), face having their children being taken away by social services, are repeatedly failed by the education system and denied jobs because they are supposedly unemployable. 

    Is it any wonder neurodiverse groups are overrepresented in the criminal justice system? Those who are incarcerated are routinely mistreated.

    Instead of society asking, "how can we make neurodiverse people neurotypical," ION believes that the question needs to become, how can society become more accepting of who we already are.

     

    Health and social care 

    Neurodiverse groups are significantly more likely to experience health inequalities, including certain physical and mental health conditions, and are less likely and less able to access healthcare services. 

    The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated the health inequalities experienced by neurodiverse groups. There has been a higher rate of death from COVID-19 for neurodiverse people and at a younger age than the general population. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly for autistic young people, as the restrictions put in place changed their routines and changed or limited the care and support they received.

    Neurodiverse individuals disproportionately suffer from misguided behavioural (and punitive) interventions across the whole of health and social care. This is not only discriminatory, in far too many cases it is abject cruelty. 

    For example, there are more than 2,000 neurodiverse people, including those with learning disabilities or autism, classed as inpatients by the NHS, but many of whom are trapped in long-stay hospitals with no or little prospect of ever getting out again. According to the NHS in the UK, as of February 2021, well over half of the inpatients classified as autistic or possessing a learning disability have been legally locked up in hospital for more than one year, with 35% locked up for over five years and a shocking 17% locked up for ten years or more.

    This alone is unacceptable, but it gets worse: not all of these individuals require this level of intervention, but they are often (incorrectly) sectioned, unable to leave. One survivor of such a setting, an autistic woman called Alexis Quinn, went on to write her memoirs about being in such a situation in a British mental hospital. She voluntarily sought help for the sake of her mental health, having been diagnosed as autistic and finding it difficult to simultaneously cope with the birth of her child and the death of her brother whilst living abroad. At the hospital, she was sectioned, unable to leave, and routinely received treatment that did not reflect her needs because her autism was not understood and because the environment in which she found herself was inappropriate. Having escaped the mental institution, she fled the UK and within 6 weeks of building an environment she could thrive in, she had secured full-time work and her life. 

    The UK government currently website currently states that it plans, starting this year, in 2022, “to improve how people with a learning disability and autistic people are treated in law and reduce the reliance on specialist inpatient services for these groups. We want everyone to have the opportunity to live a full and rewarding life in their communities and an end to perpetuated detentions without appropriate therapeutic inputs.” 

     

    Research on neurodiverse groups

    Historically, majority research has not centred neurodiverse voices within the structure or development of studies. This needs to change.  

    As it was eloquently put by Anna Stenning & Hanna Bertilsdotter Rosqvist in their recent paper (2021): 

    “If we are able to acknowledge our own subjectivity – as the neurodivergent are so often required to do – we may begin the process of negotiating representation for many different neurotypes. We don’t yet know what epistemic or methodological rules will help us to get here. We commit to working across neurotypes, working with rather than ‘on’ other people. This means decolonializing neurodivergence research and the hierarchies between neurotypes. This working with is therefore not the same as researching on or for, but also not the same as the “with” in which the neurodivergent becomes a strawman in an otherwise neurotypical led and defined research (Woods et al. 2018) This means recognising and questioning colonializing pasts and practices within research and practice, formulating other perspectives on knowledge and knowledge production and challenging dominant perspectives on research ethics. There are many examples of this in our edited book and elsewhere. We hope that this will contribute to the broader project of centralizing marginality, marginalising the centre which has been the project of feminist and postcolonial research for the past decades and which is also central to disability studies.” 

    As one example demonstrating the point comes in the form of the recent controversy in 2021 surrounding Cambridge University's research. The furore was over the attempted gathering of genetic information from 10,000 autistic people as part of a wider study. 

    The long-term consequences of such research weren’t considered, including sensible questions over the possible future (mis)uses of the genetic information gathered and the role it could play in any future eugenics research. 

    ION aims to collaborate with the academic community to ensure that neurodiverse viewpoints are included when they are the subject of research in any study, as well as consult with educational institutions on the long and short impact of their research on the Neurodiverse community. 

     

    Education

    Albert Einstein once said, "everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." This could also describe the experience of neurodiverse children within the education system, which fails to promote actual learning for the neurodiverse due to both a shortage of funding and understanding around neurodiverse conditions. 

    For example, taught social frameworks fail to appreciate other types of social frameworks which can greatly benefit the neurodiverse, such as parallel play. Parallel play is a form of play in which children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another's behaviour. Children usually play alone during parallel play but are interested in what other children are doing. 

    ION will push for a more inclusive education system which incorporates methods which enable learning development for both neurodiverse and neuro typical children. Additionally, awareness to issues which neurodiverse children and adults face to create a wider understanding.

     

    Workplace

    It isn’t just the education system which needs an overhaul. The way in which workplaces are set up puts neurodiverse workers at a disadvantage.  

    Although awareness around neurodiversity is increasing amongst employers, research shows that the vast majority of companies are not keeping pace. For example, according to the UK National Autistic Society, an estimated less than 20% are in full-time paid employment in the UK, despite 77% saying they are willing and able to work. This is compared with 47% of disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people. Dyslexic people are up to five times more likely to be unemployed, and dyslexic thinkers make up to 40% of the unemployed population. With 10% to 16% of the population affected by dyslexia, even if we take the lowest figure, this equates to around 7.3 million people in the UK and globally this is 700 million people, according to the British Dyslexia Association. 

    Many neurodiverse individuals don’t make it through hiring rounds because they may struggle with social skills, have a nervous tic, or engage in behaviour which may come across as different. However, they may also be highly educated, hold multiple degrees, have above-average abilities when it comes to certain tasks, or certain disciplines, or have above average levels of concentration. They could also be the perfect fit for an organisation looking to solve complex issues, but these individuals are too often told they’re “not the right cultural fit,” due to being different.

    Many neurodiverse people in employment, are not in mainstream employment: over a third of entrepreneurs identify themselves as dyslexic, which shows that employers are failing to attract or retain a significant pool of ambitious and success-driven, neurodiverse talent, according to research.

    Even where neurodiverse individuals are in mainstream employment, many tend to keep their neurodiversity a secret, worried about discrimination from their employer, colleagues, or both. Feeling unsafe to disclose who you are, is a signal an institutionalized, systemic problem persists with the way neurodiversity is treated in the workplace and wider society.

    With up to 20% of the world’s population being neurodiverse, employers most likely already have neurodiverse employees or are very likely to in the future. Discrimination is not only social injustice but is commercially short-sighted: it limits the workforce to one type of world viewpoint whilst trying to meet the complex challenges of the new decade. However, it is encouraging to see the increasing awareness of the benefits of neurodiverse inclusion in the workforce, with Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, EY, BT, Google, SAP, BT, Ford, and GCHQ amongst large organisations with or developing neurodiversity at work initiatives. 

    These companies can expect to see direct benefits including different perspectives and modes of thought, hyper-focus, attention to detail, directness and honesty, creativity, innovation, and more. In fact, 78% of global HR and business leaders believe diversity and inclusion bring a competitive advantage, according to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey (2018). We see organisations reaping these benefits in practice already. In the UK,  GCHQ’s recent recruitment drive has called specifically for people who are dyslexic to apply, with the employer citing the different perspective which allows dyslexic people to think differently and spot patterns that others simply don’t.

    One of the greatest barriers to fairer treatment in the workplace for neurodiverse groups is that neurodiversity isn’t yet included in many companies’ diversity and inclusion strategies, with the majority addressing other forms of diversity such as gender or ethnicity. A CIPD poll found that 72% of HR professionals in the UK stated neurodiversity wasn’t considered a part of their organization’s people management practices (GMB Union, 2018). LinkedIn’s Workforce Diversity Report (2018) revealed a similar trend, with less than a third of companies considering any disability in their diversity and inclusion programs.

    The neurodiverse community is talented, ambitious and an underutilized resource within our workforce. A change is drastically needed within our industries and  society. This includes the justice system.  

     

    Prison system

    Research conducted to date on neurodiverse individuals in the various prison systems around the world have three main findings. First, neurodiverse groups are over-represented in the prison system, compared to the general prison population. Second, they often have “hidden differences” when compared to their neurotypical counterparts and therefore experience a lack of appropriate response towards them by prison staff. Finally, the lived experience is particularly difficult for the neurodiverse when compared to the general prison population.

    One research team (Young, S. et al, 2018), found 32% of the prison population in their study were neurodiverse, with ADHD (25%) representing the highest form of neurodiversity. In fact, it is thought that ADHD is particularly common amongst prison populations, with one Swedish research team finding prevalence rates as high as 40% in their study.

    Those with neurodiversity, but perhaps particularly ADHD, have a bad time in a prison environment, as the difficult difficulties around remaining focused and attentive during, for example, probation interviewing/work can prove problematic and, for those undiagnosed, may result in incorrect interpretations in terms of engagement and attitude, making them more vulnerable within the system (Usher et al., 2013). For example, functional impairments can impact the individual’s ability to follow the basic rules of the court and probation (Colwell et al., 2012).

    These findings suggest that there is a greater need for actors within the criminal justice system such as the police, prison staff, and probation officers, to be more empirically aware of neurodiverse groups’ differences, and be able to respond in a manner that is guided by evidence and best practice.

    To this end ION is organising an event which you can sign up to here Neurodiversity and the legal system  


    Conclusions

    Challenging the status quo in each of these areas will be hard work and may not be achieved in one lifetime. ION is bringing together a community of people who will to fight for their right to prosperity and equal treatment in the years to come.

    We have a strong sense of urgency for change and believe that many people's voices together create a powerful coalition to make change happen faster.

    Our vision is to be present in 100 countries with 1 million members globally who stand together to effect positive change for the neurodiverse community.

    We believe that bringing us all together is one of ION’s greatest strengths, and will be key in the fight against the institutional discrimination neurodiverse groups face throughout their lives.


  • 2 Feb 2022 1:08 PM | Charlotte Valeur (Administrator)

    The neurologically different represent a new addition to the familiar political categories of class/gender/race and will augment the insights of the social model of disability. 

    (Judy Singer, 1999)



    Preamble

    It is recognised that humans have an inalienable right to equality and dignity within the world and that this is the foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world (Universal Declaration on Human Rights).

    This can only be achieved by celebrating each other’s differences, supporting each other when vulnerable and facilitating each other’s strengths.

    The rigid lens of disability has long resulted in the disempowerment of individuals who have much to offer the world and/or created a label or stigma that has impeded some from reaching their full potential.

    Neurodiversity, as a paradigm shift, allows for a more nuanced and strength based approach to develop whereby a person’s difference can be supported and nurtured, thus facilitating a more inclusive society that respects difference.

    The drafters of this International Declaration of Neurodiversity alongside the Institute Of Neurodiversity ION, offer these common standards of achievement for all peoples across all nations across all disciplines. 


    Article 1 Neurodiversity Literacy

    Neurodiversity Literacy is key to raising awareness amongst all strands of society – individual, education, health, industry, state institutions. Increased literacy minimises impediments to persons reaching their full potential and facilitates the dismantlement of institutionalised barriers to full citizenship. 

    Article 2 Recognition

    Recognising and supporting difference in a non-stigmatising manner is key to ensuring that accidental discrimination does not occur. Neurodivergence is often hidden and not recognisable and therefore can result in accidental discrimination. Facilitating recognition through awareness can reduce accidental discrimination and facilitate a more inclusive society.

    Article 3 Supporting Difference 

    Access to societal structures and full citizenship can be obstructed due to such structures having traditionally been designed with neuro-traditionals/typicals in mind. Support to access and navigation of societal structures should be provided in a manner that supports full citizenship and active engagement and inclusion in society. 

    Article 4 Neurodivergent Persons Participation in Policy Development

    Stakeholder inclusion in policy development and implementation is central to inclusiveness, empowerment and operational success. The current absence of neurodivergent in the development of such policies requires attention if an inclusive and progressive, stakeholder-informed, policy agenda is to emerge.  

    Article 5 Resource Allocation 

    Not every person with neurodivergent traits require extra supports and services but those who do often experience access barriers. Economic resources can be key to accessing services and indeed societal participation, and those who do not have access to resources face additional barriers, discrimination and exclusion. Targeted increased awareness and access to supports and services for those who require them, is a priority. This should include equal access to all medical services, support and treatments.

    Authors: 

    Dr Etain Quigley, Department of Law, Maynooth University, Ireland.

    Dr Blánaid Gavin, School of Medicine, University College Dublin, Ireland.

    Tiffany Payton Jameson, Managing Partner, Grit & Flow, United States

    Dr Timothy Frawley, UCD Health Science Centre, University College Dublin, Ireland.

    Charlotte Valeur, Chair, Institute Of Neurodiversity ION, Switzerland

    Andrew Eddy, Managing Director Untapped, Australia

  • 14 Jan 2022 3:20 PM | Morwenna Stewart (Administrator)

    When we are neurodivergent (ND), it's easy to burn out. I know, because that was me just before Christmas 2021.

    We ND people want to do everything and fix everything, but it's simply not realistic. And when we get burned out, it can be hard to recover.

    But there are things we can do to avoid burnout, or to recover faster.

    Top tips

    1.    Know yourself

    • General strengths: We often know our weaknesses, but how well do we know our strengths? The Via Character Strengths questionnaire ranks your top strengths (from a core list of 24). Your strengths are often the characteristics that matter most to you.
      You can use your strengths to help you to be at your best. For example, you might find joy when exercising your ‘love of learning’ strength, by learning something new daily. Or you might use your compassion strength by extending compassion to yourself.
    • ND strengths: For more ND-specific strengths, the Genius Within profiler tool is great. Exploring it with someone else can help to build confidence and self-esteem.
    2.   Follow the experts
    • Many brilliant ND advocates have written, vlogged or done podcasts on burnout. Your favourite search engine will bring a plethora of resources. If you’re too tired to read, there are good podcasts too. These can also be useful to share with friends, family, employers.
    3.  Try small habits
    • We ND folk can be ‘bingers’  - we hyperfocus on our passions and forget to do other stuff. It’s usually best to work WITH our nature, not against it. However, it can help to build good habits into our structure. For example, the Pomodoro technique (through apps) can remind us to take breaks. Taking breaks to do something that you like can be helpful – so it’s a treat, not a punishment.
    4.     Build a super-supportive network
    • Get a good network around you – one that understands neurodiversity and burnout – and lean on them. Whether it’s friends, family, support groups, employee resource groups, the Samaritans phone line, or social media forums. Some of us depend on our pets for emotional support – they listen and don’t give daft advice!
    5.    Trust yourself and ignore unhelpful advice
    • If anyone suggests something unhelpful then ignore it. Well-meaning people often suggest what works for them. But we ND people rarely work in the way that NT people do. Things that seem unusual or counterintuitive to others might be the best approach for us.

    6.     Get professional help

    • We partner with great professionals who just get neurodiversity. Our ever-growing classified directory lists organisations that we trust. Whether it’s therapy, coaching or any other support, there’s something for everyone.

    Let us know - in the public forums or on social media - what works for you.

    Morwenna Stewart
    Lead ION UK
    www.ioneurodiversity.org

    Morwenna Stewart

  • 8 Dec 2021 7:23 PM | Charlotte Valeur (Administrator)

    Call for Editors for the launch journal, Neurodiversity

    SAGE and the Institute of Neurodiversity are excited to announce the launch of a new journal, Neurodiversity, due for publication in 2023. We are seeking Editors to lead this launch with a starting date of spring, 2023.



    Neurodiversity will be an open access, peer-reviewed journal, focusing on the socio-cultural, philosophical, medical, psychological, ethical, legal, educational, employment, information technology and policy dimensions of neurodiversity in contemporary society and into the future. 

    The journal will publish original research, innovative theory articles, debates, meta-analyses, editorials, Test of Time papers and commentaries. It will encompass a practitioner focus highlighting innovative practice developments in clinical, educational and work settings. The aim of the journal will be to bring together the currently siloed work of scholars in neurodiversity and as such will publish interdisciplinary work from medicine, social sciences, humanities, law and the arts. 

    Diversity is central to the journal’s ethos and this will be an integral part of the editorial board structure, together with the variety of disciplines, theoretical models, social constructs and research methodologies published. The journal endorses mixed method approaches.

    Neurodiversity is interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on evaluative research in many areas, including:

    • Neurodiversity and ethics
    • Concepts of Neurodiversity
    • Criticism of current Neurodiversity constructs
    • Identity Politics
    • Intersectionality
    • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    • Cultural representations of Neurodiversity
    • Employment
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Neurodiversity and the arts
    • The lived experience of Neurodiversity
    • Neurodiversity and the family
    • Mental Health and Neurodiversity
    • Neurodiversity and therapeutic supports
    • Education
    • Neuroscience 
    • Assistive Technology
    • Neurodiversity and the Criminal Justice System

    Neurodiversity will be published in association with the Institute of Neurodiversity


    We especially encourage applications from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups in the field of neurodiversity research, such as autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic or Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Condition (ADHC) scholars, applicants based in the Global South, applicants who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and other People of Colour. An editorial remuneration is offered.

    The Editors will lead the strategic development of the journal in collaboration with the SAGE Publishing team and the Institute of Neurodiversity.  

    General responsibilities of the Editors include:

    Overseeing the peer review of scholarly submissions via the ScholarOne manuscript submission system – including: 

    • Assessing papers at submission for quality, use of language, and scope, and desk rejecting where appropriate
    • Assigning papers to the Action Editors
    • Inviting reviewers from their networks, where appropriate, or further afield 
    • Making final decisions on all submitted manuscripts 
    • Overseeing or guest editing special issues with invited Guest Editors
    • Working to enhance the journal’s visibility and reputation
    • Actively recruiting authors to contribute to the journal
    • Overseeing the framing of journal editorial policy
    • Overseeing the appointment of other editorial team members, including ensuring members reflect the diversity of the field and key viewpoints within the community
    • Attending virtual Editorial Board Meetings – usually once a year and providing a brief update on progress/activity where necessary
    • Representing the Journal and promoting it when possible, with the support of SAGE

    SAGE invites expressions of interest by 28 January, 2022.  

    To apply, please send a brief CV and cover email Outline any experience that you have which supports your application. 

    All enquiries and expressions of interest should be directed via email to:

    Kerry Barner
    Publisher
    Kerry.Barner@sagepub.co.uk

    [Kerry dot Barner at SAGE pub dot co dot UK]

  • 13 Oct 2021 9:43 PM | Charlotte Valeur (Administrator)

    Morwenna Stewart

    An Executive Coach specializing in neurodiversity.
    Morwenna is passionate about enabling all ND people to reach their potential.

    Steering Group

    Author: Morwenna Stewart

    Post date: 15 October 2021


    Morwenna - How are you?

    I'm great, thanks, and so excited about the work we’re doing at ION.

    What brought you to the world of neurodiversity?

    I have a son who’s autistic and awesome. When he was a toddler, I did tons of research and realised I’m autistic too. I was diagnosed in my late thirties, which was one of the best things that happened to me. It changed my life for the better.

    Work wise, I’d been working in marketing, communications, writing and editing – mostly for health and NHS – and I managed teams and projects. I then trained to become an executive coach.

    I now coach diverse groups of people – from those who struggle to get work, through to directors and CEOs. I specialise in neurodiversity (and disability and diversity, generally) as that’s where my passions lie.

    I want to make the world better for ND people and support them to be at their best. The world needs ND skills!

    How does being ND yourself help you to coach others?

    I feel on a similar wavelength to other neurodivergent people. We just seem to get each other. Knowing that I’m ND seems to help people to feel comfortable and trust me to talk about their hopes, dreams, vulnerabilities and so on.

    Caching isn’t counselling and I refer people to specialist mental health support if they need it. However ... ND people have often experienced rejection and trauma, which can affect their self-esteem and achievement. Coaching can uncover that and help them to use strengths, move beyond any self-limiting beliefs, and achieve great things.

    What brought you to ION?

    I read an article with Charlotte Valeur (our Founder and CEO) and got in touch. I’m not shy about putting myself forward, so I said she needed my skills!

    I joined the steering group and then the board of trustees / directors.

    What’s exciting to you about ION?

    Everything!

    ION will bring a strong single voice to support ND businesses and individuals. It will give us the collective strength to change the world for ND people.

    On a personal level, I LOVE working with colleagues at ION and doing the podcasts and blogs. It’s a pure pleasure.

    Here’s to great things from ION!

    Morwenna

    ION Stories
    www.morwennastewart.com

  • 13 Oct 2021 9:35 PM | Charlotte Valeur (Administrator)

    Creating a world

    where neurodivergent people thrive


    Author: Morwenna Stewart

    Post date: October 5th 2021

    Our aim

    “To create an equal, inclusive world that understands, represents, and values neurodiverse people equally.”

    The Institute of Neurodiversity aims to unlock the potential $10tn annual GDP of neurodiverse / divergent minds.* To do this, we're creating a single global charity and membership organisation.

    Why now?

    Neurodivergent people are original thinkers with sought-after skills. But many are misunderstood, excluded, unemployed or underemployed.

    Many outstanding advocates and organisations are working hard to reverse these trends. Together, we can achieve more.

    About ION

    The Institute of Neurodiversity (ION) will showcase and promote neurodivergent strengths and capabilities. With franchises on every continent and a million members by 2025, we will be the authoritative place for neurodivergent voices.

    With our partners, we will change the course of neurodivergent lives and enable the world to benefit from untapped talent.

    Our aims and objectives align to the UN’s sustainable development goals - covering health, inequality, justice, education, work, economic growth, and strategic partnerships.

    About you – our members

    To achieve our ambitious aims, we are working with you – like-minded partners, individuals and organisations – in every sector and continent:

    • small, medium, and large organisations
    • neurodiverse / divergent-led businesses, charities, non-profits
    • individual advocates and groups
    • organisations’ staff equality networks
    • allies, families, friends, and supporters
    • and more...

    For members

    As a member, you have exclusive access to events, tools and products:

    • ION Chats: with volunteers about your ND experience
    • ION Voice: surveys, blogs, articles
    • ION Stories: blogs, podcasts, video interviews
    • ION Neurodiversity Network: support for ND staff networks and industries
    • ION Directory: directory of approved trainers, advocates and coaches
    • ION / RTN Mental Health: support from neurodivergent-informed practitioners
    • ION Annual Awards: celebrating global innovation in neurodiversity

    We will soon include original research; lobbying materials; certified training; and much more.

    To join this exciting venture, through individual or corporate membership, click here.

    Join us!

    Thank you!

    Steering group

    Trustees and directors

    Charlotte Valeur, Chair

    Charlotte Valeur, Chair and Founder

    Maciej Cielecki

    Tony Fish

    Jeremy Davey

    Marlene Gyldmark

    Miranda Morgan

    Andre Skepple

    Jude Morrow

    Lindsey Stewart

    Morwenna Stewart

    Morwenna Stewart

    Natalie Sykes

    Andre Voinescu


    Business case for neurodiversity:

    Neurodiversity Is a Competitive Advantage (hbr.org)

    *People use the terms neurodiverse, neurodivergent or neurominority, for people with different brains. Neurodiversity includes autistic, ADHD, dyslexic, dyspraxia, dyscalculic, dysgraphic, and Tourette syndrome.


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