It’s Neurodiversity Celebration week this week (21-27th March), and we are thrilled to be joining in with those celebrations. We know that neurodiverse staff, volunteers and artists have so much to offer us at Grimm. We also recognise that a number of the children and young people who visit Grimm are neurodiverse, and we want them to feel safe, included and welcomed into our magical world.
We asked our volunteers and artists if they would like to say a few words, and we’d love to share those with you.
‘Joy is a good student but is easily distracted and distracts others’. ‘Joy is a good student but talks too much’. ‘Joy is a good student but..but..BUT!’
Every school report would be littered with these kinds of phrases. I have a vivid memory of being in year 3 and my class teacher would constantly call me a ‘chatterbox’ in a manner that felt negative and made me feel increasingly uncomfortable. I had so many words and thoughts in my head that would travel at a speed that I couldn’t contain and would spill out of me. One day, hearing that phrase ‘chatterbox’ sent me into a flurry of tears.
When I was very little my behaviour was a problem. And throughout my school life although I was clever and did well in school, I still felt like a problem. The rigid structure of school and the amount of extra-curricular activities I partook in to keep up my relentless energy to be doing everything frequently sent me into burnout. My attendance suffered but I couldn’t break the ‘do everything’ to ‘burnout’ cycle. This continued the whole way through my twenties. Continuously juggling three million balls, constantly striving, constantly working then leading to debilitating burn out which would leave me slurring my words, moving with intense muscular fatigue and sleeping for days on end.
In 2020 when attempting to complete a PGCE and struggling with the structure of juggling my intense workload and completing assignments, I started piecing the puzzle together. I might have ADHD. I was invited to an initial assessment through the university I was studying with then going onto to receive a psychiatric assessment which confirmed: I had combined ADHD.
At first, I was angry. Furious. I wish I had known when I was younger. Imagine how much burn out I could have avoided if I’d know. Imagine how much easier everything would have been if I could understand my brain and better know how I learn and engage. Imagine how much illness I would have avoided if I had known. That anger slowly turned to acceptance and understanding.
I can understand my brain better now. I can forgive myself when I lose items and forget things. I can structure my day according to the way I work and interact with the world. I can be more patient with myself. I can properly structure in rest on a daily basis to ensure I don’t burn out. I could celebrate the unique and brilliant way I think and interact with the world.
For me now, having ADHD is a superpower. Being neurodivergent is a gift. And not only do I celebrate the way I am but I can continue to celebrate, empower and support children who are also neurodivergent. Structuring my own workshop delivery, acting teaching and facilitation to support the neurodivergent community. Working with Grimm and Co. has been an excellent opportunity to not only implement this through my facilitation but also be part of an organisation that celebrates the individuality of young people and that every young person has the ability to be creative and celebrated for that in their own unique way.
This Neurodiversity Celebration week, I want to remind every young person and adult that is neurodivergent that you should be celebrated. You have a superpower. You are a gift. Your neurodivergence is a gift. So if no-one has told you today, I celebrate you because you are an incredible individual whose uniqueness should be celebrated!
All the best, Joy (they/them)
I am extremely sociable, and I’m really interested in people. What I struggle with is reading people’s emotions, so I can’t always tell if you’re bored with me talking, or if you need me to move on, if you need to shut up. I can read a room, but I can’t read a person, if that makes sense? Also the other thing from the other side is people interpreting what they think you’re doing, so sometimes you go quiet or you can be talking at them and they can think ohmygod this person’s bonkers, this person’s not making eye contact with me, so at the end of the day when I get home I’m exhausted, and can’t make eye contact with my partner because I’ve done it all day.
Sometimes I find that retelling my stories is the best way to get them across. As I have dyslexia and neurodiversity as well, in transferring things from my brain to my hand, a lot of interesting stuff is missed. Some people are really good at scribing and some neurodiverse people find it better to write than to talk, so that’s a big consideration.
Also, I always tell my young people that if I go on too much, or if I say something that they don’t understand, as an adult to young person, they have a right to go “stop now, you’re going over the top now, can we pause”, so it’s okay for them to check in. That has to be with permission given from both, and that’s from a working relationship, and about having respect for each other.
“In one of the sessions, one of the teachers came up to me and asked me about my artwork and stuff, and she was talking about one of the students who is autistic and I said “oh, I’m autistic too”. We got into talking and she was telling me about how he struggles with certain things and I was able to tell her my own experience and say yeah I struggled a lot, but now I’m able to live independently, and so that was really nice to be able to share that.”