Katrina Kear-Wood, who is neurodivergent with ADHD, will be sharing a series of articles with the Worcester News promoting inclusion and celebrating neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week runs has been a way of recognising that everyone has a unique way of thinking and seeing the world. It aims to bring about worldwide neurodiversity acceptance, equality and inclusion. It runs until today (Friday, March 17).

It is a worldwide event which helps to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.

Neurodiversity week was founded in 2018 and the tag line is ' Celebrating Different Minds', by taking a closer look at how neurodivergent people are perceived and supported and building an understanding of the challenges and many advantages of being neurodivergent.

There are many famous neurodivergent people, many innovations came about because of associated strengths.

Simone Biles (gymnast), Will.i.am ( singer songwriter), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (classical musician), Charles Darwin ( naturalist, geologist and biologist), Andy Warhol ( artist), Bobby Fischer (chess grandmaster), Henry Ford ( industrialist ), Bill Gates (co-founder Microsoft), Richard Branson (entrepreneur), Steve Jobs (co-founder Apple), Emma Watson (actress), Stephen Wilshire ( artist), Muhammad Ali (boxer), Billie Eilish (singer-songwriter), Will Smith (actor), Greta Thunberg (activist) to name a few.

Pete Hines OBE head teacher of Perryfields Primary PRU, Worcester, himself dyslexic said his associated strengths include being able to hold a lot of information in his head, which has been likened to an Excel Spreadsheet, negating the need to write lots of things down. As a leader Pete says delegating is key and evens things out.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week celebrates the power of thinking differently. Every person has their own individual profile, a unique pattern of strengths. Neurodiversity is associated with different ways of processing information and communicating and linked to how brains are wired.

With these differences comes immense strengths, but also challenges. Many of these challenges are associated with the environment, designed by neurotypical brains. Inclusion enables these differences to be acknowledged and accepted.

Recognising neurodiversity and allowing strengths to be utilised can have huge benefits to everyone.

Frequently neurodivergent people feel they are encouraged, bullied even to 'push past' their 'disability' that is their differences to fit in, become neurotypical because their way of processing information and seeing the world is not acceptable by the majority.

Alexander Den Heijer captured inclusion and provided a visual tool to enable a shift of perspective, when he said: "When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower."

An estimated 15-20 per cent of the population have a neurological difference, an inheritable difference in brain function and structure and nervous system function and structure.

For many neurodiverse children school can be a place of immense stress. Delays in recognising neurodiversity such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Development Coordination Disorder/ Dyspraxia and Autism can lead to poor self-esteem and reduced well-being. Children and their parents can feel unwanted and isolated.

Many of the diagnostic assessments focus on a deficit model, insinuating that the neurodivergent person is broken in some way.

The advice for neurodiverse people to build resilience in an able-ist environment can create irreversible harm. Behaviour modifications to fit encourages masking - the artificial performance of social behaviours, to gain social acceptance, resulting in increased anxiety, even suicide.

Neurodiverse individuals so often feel embarrassed, a need to hide their true self, for fear of judgement and worse torment and bullying.

A debate surrounds 'labelling' children. Without diagnosis incorrect and misinformed labels such as lazy, dumb and naughty can be attributed. Focusing on strengths as well as challenges allows individuals to feel worthy, self-esteem increases, and their true potential can be seen.

The British Dyslexia Association Awareness Week in October 2022 focused on breaking through barriers, to allow everyone to become acknowledged, accepted and empowered.

In 2022 Dyslexia Thinking entered the dictionary and added to LinkedIn as a valuable skill. Dyslexic thinking is defined as an approach to problem solving, assessing information, and learning, often used by people with dyslexia, that involves pattern recognition, lateral thinking, and interpersonal communication.

During Neurodiverse Celebration Week people around the country are sharing their knowledge through educating, celebrating role models, webinars and discussion.

Neurodiversity celebration week is an opportunity to educate, to share understanding and reflect on how everyone can be more inclusive.

Katrina has a background in psychology, education and SEND. She is a trustee and vice president of the Hereford and Worcester Dyslexia Association, a member of the parent carer stakeholder group and inclusion workstreams with Worcestershire Children's First. Katrina is passionate about promoting inclusion.