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Empowerment Charity’s PANDA project celebrates neurodiversity this week with poems and art work. PANDA advocates for those in the Blackpool community who have a neurodivergent disability and Ethan Walker, PANDA project officer, talks about his art work and experiences in this blog.

Neurodiversity celebration week is an annual week to celebrate all neurodiverse individuals, this year it falls on March 21st until March 27th 2022.

Neurodivergent means someone who’s brain functions differently than the general population (Neurotypical), being neurodivergent can refer to people who are Autistic, ADHD’ers, Dyspraxic, Dyscalculic, Bipolar and OCD for example (not an exhaustive list). The neurodiversity movement is all about changing the way we view neurodiverse conditions. Rather than viewing them as ‘disorders’ and/or ‘deficits’, it is about viewing them as part of someone’s identity and that having a disability doesn’t make a person ‘less than’.

The movement follows what’s known as the social model of disability, in short this means that disabled people can achieve anything they want to do in life with the proper support that is adherent to their needs rather than having to face inaccessibility to support. The opposite of the social model is the ‘medical model’ of disability, this model views disabled people as disordered and having something wrong with us and that we need to change and fit into society.

Neurodiversity Celebration week is what it says in the title, all about celebrating neurodiversity! It’s a time to highlight the benefits of being neurodiverse and people’s lived experiences. It’s a time to perhaps learn about a part of yourself you didn’t know before. It’s also a time to address what changes need to be made in society to enable neurodiverse people to be empowered enough to live as their unique and wonderful selves.

People who attend the PANDA Projects weekly support group were asked if they would like to present their lived experience for neurodiversity celebration week, over the next week empowerment will be displaying these on our social media pages.

I chose to present mine in a ‘collage’ style image, these can be seen below.

There’s something so empowering about ‘using’ your own lived experience for good, in order to bring about positive change. Learning to be less hard on myself and recognising and respecting my needs has and still can be difficult. Understanding that disabled isn’t a bad word. Even though there has been a great deal of change in terms of support for neurodiverse people, society as a whole still has a long way to go. There is still such a stereotyped view of what ADHD ‘looks’ like or what Dyslexia ‘looks’ like (such as people thinking ADHDers always can’t sit still, that girls who are autistic are ‘just shy’, that dyslexia only affects reading and writing or that neurodiverse people are ‘stupid’ and ‘lazy’), stereotypes spread an inaccurate view of what people do and don’t struggle with which impacts their needs being met.

Celebrate your neurodiverse friends, family members and workmates. Embrace their differences, embrace your differences!

As Neurodivergent people are not less than

Not stupid

Not lazy

Not disordered

We are human beings just like everyone else, so celebrate our differences with us, to bring about a more positive future for Neurodivergent people in Blackpool.

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