The Vision: A 6-STEP APPROACH TO POSITIVE CHANGE
The difficulties, barriers and discrimination that commonly affect people with SEN can give rise to many negative feelings and limiting beliefs. Children, parents and teachers may experience feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, helplessness, anxiety, failure, and so on, and these may endure long after a person has left formal education. But rather than characterise these as natural or inevitable aspects of living with SEN, there are things we can do to improve the lived experience of learning for everyone. We can learn from each other and support each other.
Neurodiversity confers no special “super powers”. Though this “hero” concept may seem positive at first, in practice it remains divisive – no better than the term “disability”, which separates those who have “ability” from those who don’t. “I’m better than you!” is not an inclusive message, wherever it comes from. And this claim is especially unlikely to resonate with a learner who is struggling with their SEN.
There is plenty of room in society for all of us, whatever our abilities or “powers”. Everybody is different and we can accept each other as complex individuals. Our identities don’t need to be reduced to our abilities or challenges in certain areas.
Sometimes it is hard for people to communicate effectively with each other. We can all learn to communicate better with others, and this will improve all our lives.
But changing our mindset is not enough. We have to change the systemic tendencies to overlook and underserve individual needs. We have to equip teachers and parents adequately to identify where certain learners may need more support (as well as any strengths they have which can support their peers) and to address these needs practically.
We can prepare all members of society in real, practical ways to communicate, contribute and support each other better by distributing responsibility for inclusion more broadly, instead of assigning responsibility to a few specialists. This approach can materially improve individual and collective wellbeing, reduce social exclusion and bullying, and improve individuals’ self-worth and self-efficacy, not to mention redirect billions in funding to other areas.