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The torch that lights the stars

September 18, 20233 min read

How meeting the founder of Neurodiversity Celebration Week sparked an ambition to increase awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace

Back in 2019 at an autism awareness event in a church hall in Weston-Super-Mare I met Siena Castellon [Link: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/siena-castellon], then a 17 year old A level student who founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week when she was just 16.

Siena is neurodivergent herself, she is autistic, ADHD, dyslexic and dyspraxia. Sienna was frustrated with the way neurodivergent  students were treated at school and so she created a week of celebration to begin to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about neurodiversity.

Siena went on within the next couple of years to became a UN Young Leader for sustainable development goals and published her first book “The Spectrum Girls Survival Guide: How to grow up awesome and autistic”.  But I will always remember introducing her onto the stage to talk about her experiences at school and the awe that resonated from the audience as she spoke.

In just a few years Neurodiversity Celebration Week has grown into an incredible event championing neurodivergence in both education and work. Siena is now studying full time at Stanford university in the USA and others have taken on the challenge of busting myths and stereotypes.

Championing Change

One of the drivers for setting up Inclusive Change was meeting Siena and seeing what she could achieve at such a young age. I figured that there was a need for greater awareness of neurodiversity at work so we could make change happen for the next generation of workers - and that means everyone.

Neurodiversity isn’t just about a group of people with protected characteristics like autism or ADHD. Neurodiversity is about us all. At the core of the neurodiversity movement is the principle that we are all unique and neurodiversity represents the natural diversity of human brains and is a subset of biodiversity which we can agree is so important for the survival of our planet. Some of us are neurodivergent, which means that our brains process information in a different way to what might be considered typical.

Neurodivergent is an umbrella term that includes a range of differences such as autism, adhd, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette's, OCD. Sometimes these are considered hidden disabilities.

Since meeting Siena I have gone on to develop Inclusive Change [link: https://inclusivechange.co.uk ] into a purpose driven organisation that provides training and consultancy for organisations.

A chance meeting with an inspirational young person sparked a whole business in South Glos that is creating incredible impact, sharing hope, inspiring change and making a difference working with other organisations in the South West.

This is how change happens, its not overnight, it takes time but most of all it takes action.

What could you do?

So, I would love you to consider how you could become a part of it for next year. We might not all become UN Ambassadors or publish a book in the next year like Siena but we can make a difference in our organisations and communities.

Maybe you could commit to running a training event in your organisation and bringing in an autistic speaker or looking at your recruitment processes to see how you could increase accessibility for candidates who are neurodivergent. There are lots of small actions we can take that will make a difference and you can do them at any time of the year.

You can find out more about championing neurodiversity at work with a free starter course from Inclusive Change Academy:

How to Champion Neurodiversity in the workplace. [Link: https://academy.inclusivechange.co.uk/how-to-champion-nd-in-the-workplace or download a Free eBook on how to make your services neurodiversity friendly [https://academy.inclusivechange.co.uk/inclusionmattersebook]

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Lucy Smith

Lucy Smith

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