Celebrating Neurodiversity & Empowering Neurodivergent People

It all starts with empathy. And perhaps curiosity and receptivity. Life is so much richer, its colours more vivid, its interactions more stirring when we allow individuals different to ourselves inform us.

Consider the bond between Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell, an American female who was blind and deaf and a Scottish male who is credited with inventing the telephone, respectively. Or Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), a writer and humourist from the Midwest and Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor over 20 years his junior. And of course Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, the former a black American boxer, the latter a German boxer favoured by the Nazis. All unalike, and yet they were open and compassionate and maintained lifelong friendships.

When we not only recognise, but accept and celebrate one anothers’ distinctive perceptions and talents, we are progressing. Human progress occurs in part according to our attitudes towards each other, and if we progress in science and technology and not our attitudes towards our fellow human beings, then we are faced with a conundrum: whatever we may discover or make through science and technology will not be to our benefit, but our detriment.

Siena Castellon is progress personified. She is making strides in science – she is currently an engineering student at Stanford University – and working tirelessly to change the narrative surrounding neurodivergent individuals. At only 16 years old, she founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week in order to change the way learning differences are perceived. As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, her experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity, and she wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on the talents and strengths of neurodivergent individuals – those who are autistic or dyslexic, have ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, hyperlexia, and Tourette’s Syndrome, among others.

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. Sienna is aiming to transform how neurodivergent individuals are seen and supported by providing schools, universities, and organisations with the opportunity to recognise the many advantages of being neurodivergent, while creating more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual.

WhatDo is proud to support Neurodiversity Celebration Week and are happy knowing that our priorities are in line with Siena’s: change the narrative and empower neurodivergent individuals to achieve their potential. And we are cognizant of not coming off as the experts and viewed as speaking over lived experience voices. We are against commodification and turning neurodiversity into a business without actually helping. We don’t just sell t-shirts and totes, we celebrate neurodiversity, aim to help those suffering from sensory sensitivities, and do everything in our power to advocate for inclusion – in school, in the workplace, in cultural institutions, in society.

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