Neurodiversity: The beauty of a neurodivergent mind - Sophie Mei Lan

I may have just created something I am proud of but in the midst of this creation is a working environment of clutter.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 11:45 am
Greta Thunberg. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s a magical fragile swirl of creative chaos as I clunk out these words before I allow my assistive technology to make sense of my grammar and support me to create some linear order to my life and work, decluttering the many tabs open in my brain with a lot of tabs open on my glaring screen!

Being diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia whilst studying journalism at post-graduate level has actually enabled me to embrace my superpowers of having such a brain through developing positive coping strategies. These help to reduce the non-verbal noise around me, to harness my already complex mind. Whilst at times it can be frustrating, I harness the magic in it too, especially when I talk to others with such diverse minds.

“I am autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, and have ADHD," explains Sienna Castleton, who set up Neurodiversity Week to celebrate our 'superpowers' rather than commiserate our differences like much of society does.

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“When I was diagnosed with my various neurological differences it would have made a world of difference if I had been told that many of the most successful individuals who have shaped the world we live in are neurodivergent, such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, James Dyson and Greta Thunberg.

"Instead, my diagnosis had an air of tragedy, as if my potential was now somehow limited. Having people view you this way makes it difficult to feel good about yourself.”

It’s something that Sabrina Collins, founder of Leeds-based performing arts company Expressions, which celebrates such “unlocked young talent” is passionate about embracing.

Sabrina is dyslexic herself which she too did not discover until studying fashion design. “Creativity, fashion design and dance taps into my spirit and soul like nothing else," she said. But too often such voices are stifled from early on in life, so Sabrina has taken the initiative to host a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul Event this bank holiday Monday in Potternewton Park showcasing such creative talents.

A fellow friend of mine and creative practitioner, Jody Gabriel of Wakefield-based charity CoActive Arts, who work with adults with profound disabilities, agrees.

“Our members don’t have to unlearn so much when it comes to creating art.

“Neuro-typicals typically hold a lot of baggage about feeling they are not any good at art, the fear of being confronted with a blank piece of paper, fears about failure, and all of the shoulds. What should I be doing, what should it look like. This paralyses a lot of people. There is such joy of creating with people who pick up a brush and just make marks and become absorbed with what is happening on the paper.”

With such proactive support and inclusion of Neurodiversity, we can harness such neurodivergent individuals. I never would have dreamed of being a published author, journalist, and presenter, but ever since my diagnosis, discovering assistive technology and a specialist skills tutor from Barnsley CLB Dyslexia who assists me in organising my work and even decluttering my home office, allows me to articulate my superpowers in the most powerful way.

Interestingly over 50 per cent of NASA employees and 35 per cent of entrepreneurs are reported to be dyslexic.

“Some of the world's best scientists and computer programmers are autistic. Yet, many of our strengths and talents are under-utilized and wasted,” explains Siena. “It’s important to celebrate neurodiversity because recognizing strengths and talents helps to change the narrative and creates a positive perspective through which to view neurodiversity.”

In an excessive world where insecure people strive for perfection, there really is true power in accepting and embracing the present state of our minds.

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