By Sylvain Fezay
Schools across Galway are raising awareness in a bid to fight prejudices against students with learning differences.
The campaign is part of the international Neurodiversity Celebration Week which promotes a better learning environment for students with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism.
In Galway, two institutions from the Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) network are involved in it and have arranged a full week of online events.
The participants can engage in different activities: to learn more information about neurodiversity, Autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia. To conclude the week, a Kahoot session (a game-based learning platform) have been organised.
Aisling Colreavy, the coordinator with Galway Autism Partnership (GAP) an organisation that supports families and individuals affected by Autism, said why it is important not to limit the celebration to one day or one week.
“Autism Acceptance Day is on the second day of April, but we celebrate the whole month of April as autism acceptance month because we think it’s so great.
“And the reason we do it is to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of autism and neurodiversity. So obviously this year would be very different from all of the kind of celebrations the activities will actually be online rather than in person. But we have a few things planned,” she said.
Ms Colreavy also wants to feature the GAP campaign “You also know what I’d like you to understand about me”.
“We ask autistic people to share what they would like and not autistic people to understand about them. And we hope that it will make the community more accepting of autism,” she said.
Ms Colreavy points out how these kind of events are crucial to create links.
“We will also be doing online activities like clubs, a camp for kids. We’re going to be doing a Lego camp. We’re going to be doing a camp for teenagers. That’s all about exploring autism,” she said.
Siena Castellon, creator of the Neurodiversity Celebration Week and United Nation Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals explained in details why it is important to celebrate neurodiversity.
“You hear a lot of these negative ideas about how people with ADHD can’t be successful, can’t work in the real world. The neurodiversity celebration week highlights all these incredibly successful people who are part of the neurodiversity. And when students can see that, they start thinking of neurodiversity in a positive way,” she said.
For Ms Castellon, the week was a success: “I have over 850,000 students taking part from more than 1,800 schools. I have businesses taking part as well, and I’m really glad that it’s grown to this, it is really amazing,” she said.
Ms Castellon hopes that in the future the event will be more developed.
“I don’t want it to just be like we have this one week and we celebrate neurodiversity and the rest of the year we focus on all the stereotypes and stigmas and misconceptions,” she said.
Ms Castellon would like neurodiversity celebration not to be only a temporary event, but to be integrated into the daily life of students.
“I would want to know neurodiversity celebration and the ideas behind that to apply to the whole year,” she said.