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Call for neurodiversity education in Scottish schools

The Donaldson Trust is calling for neurodiversity friendly approaches to be developed in all Scottish schools to address a lack of awareness and support for hidden conditions that affect around 15% of the UK population.

This call is part of the national charity’s bid to increase the understanding of neurodiversity which covers a range of conditions, such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette’s Syndrome and autism, many of which, without the correct understanding and support, result in social anxiety. The Trust wants to encourage people across the UK to come together to support and improve the life experiences of neurodivergent individuals.

Today marks the first day of Neurodiversity Celebration Week (16-20 March), and to commemorate the occasion the Donaldson Trust has released its first educational training tool, a short nine-minute animation entitled Walk In My Shoes.

Created in partnership with Erin Davidson, a 17-year-old currently supported by the Trust’s #JunX10n transitional support service for children and young adults, the animation aims to increase understanding of neurodiversity and reflects Erin’s experiences at the age of 14.

The animation shares Erin’s story about living as an autistic young person and the huge impact this can have on every aspect of life, but in particular during the early years of schooling. The powerful film brings to life the often-unseen realities faced by many neurodiverse people across the UK. It calls for more understanding of neurodiversities and provides examples of how to support neurodiverse people from a young age.

Released at a time when 72% of parents involved in the Not included, not engaged, not involved survey said they felt school staff having a better understanding of how their child’s autism affects them, including their communication needs, would have made a difference to their child, tools like Walk In My Shoes are vitally important.

Commenting on the animation, Erin said:

“I wanted to create this short film to give people an insight into what a day at school can be like for an autistic young person. While many people may know the word ‘autism’ that doesn’t mean they understand it or the impact it can have on people of all ages.

“My wish is for this animation to be used widely as a learning and development aid for school staff, professionals and families. I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that school can be an incredibly difficult environment for people with neurodiversities and I hope this animation will help staff and pupils understand what someone can be experiencing at school and the impact of these experiences both at school and at home.

“While the film shows my story, it has been created in partnership with a number of other young people in #JunX10n who all have similar experiences. I wanted to reassure other people feeling the way I did that they’re not alone. It can be incredibly isolating at times and easy to feel like you don’t belong or ‘fit in’ but that says more about society than it does about us as individuals.”

A collaborative tool, the short animation utilises the skills and expertise of some of the young people currently supported by the #JunX10n transitional support service offered by the Donaldson Trust. From contributing to the beautiful illustrations through to the stop motion animations, set design and creation, and additions to the music, it showcases the realities faced by many young people across the country and the impact that early experiences can have on adult life.

Laura Watkins Chief Executive The Donaldson Trust

Laura Watkins, Chief Executive of the Donaldson Trust, said:

“Today is the first day of Neurodiversity Celebration Week and it seemed a fitting tribute to release our first educational tool, Walk in My Shoes. As Scotland’s national charity for neurodiversity, we aim to create similar tools for a range of neurodiversities, with our corporate and strategic partners.

“By developing this resource, we hope that education establishments will consider using the animation to show teachers and pupils from a young age what neurodiversity is and the impact a lack of understanding and support can have on individuals. If we look at the way society has changed its perceptions on mental health and the public discussions around this which are taking place across the country, we can see that a similar approach would benefit the awareness-raising of neurodiversity across educational establishments. While neurodiversities can be hidden conditions, that doesn’t mean they should remain hidden. We need to talk about them publicly and work together to support neurodivergent people and help improve their life experiences.

“I am incredibly proud of Erin and everyone involved in creating this animation in #JunX10n. It was initially for Erin to share her story, but I believe her courage will allow Erin and the Donaldson Trust to truly make an impact on changing the way neurodiversity is understood within educational establishments in the UK.”

Produced by Muckle Hen in partnership with the young people at #JunX10n, and jointly funded by the Donaldson Trust and the John and Lorna Wing Foundation, the full Walk In My Shoes animation can be viewed at www.donaldsons.org.uk/walk-in-my-shoes. The original narrative on which the animation was based was written by Erin Davidson with the interview conducted by Ruth Moyse from the University of Reading.

The Donaldson Trust is a registered charity which supports neurodiverse people of all ages through its three core services: the Learning Centre, a school for children aged 5 to 18 with complex additional support needs; #JunX10n, a transitional support service for children and young adults aged 14 – 25; and Connect, a service that works in partnership with individuals, organisations and businesses to increase the understanding of neurodiversity and improve the experiences of neurodivergent people.

For more information on the Donaldson Trust visit www.donaldsons.org.uk.