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Ryan Hairsine, SEND Coordinator at Ignite Training, marks Neurodiversity Celebration Week by discussing the power of tailored education
It’s estimated that in the UK 15% of people are neurodivergent – meaning their brain functions, learns and processes information differently to other people.
Neurodivergence encompasses a range of conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Tourettes, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Traditionally, neurodivergence has acted as a barrier to those living with a condition regarding their employment, education and social opportunities.
The National Autistic Society reported only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment, compared to the current national employment rate of 75.6%. This is despite over three-quarters (77%) of unemployed autistic people stating they want to work.
In a constantly evolving society which strives for inclusivity, why is this the case?
Neurodiversity Celebration Week is an opportunity to shine a light on the achievements and aspirations of neurodivergent individuals while challenging the stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences.
Personally, working with neurodivergent individuals has been a significant part of my life since leaving school. I volunteered at a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) school in Milton Keynes as a teenager and immediately realised teaching was what I wanted to do professionally.
Those initial experiences acted as a real eye-opener and today our work at Ignite Training and Ignite Sport is helping to teach our neurodivergent students key life skills while setting personal goals.
All our students have a tremendous passion for sport. Their knowledge and understanding of what engages them most outside of their learning environment is quite extraordinary.
We work with students who can name Champions League scores from seasons of yesteryear in an instant, others can advise what drink best compliments certain foods – knowledge you would not expect Joe Public to hold.
Our ultimate goal is to relate the studies of our alternative provision students to what their passion is in life. That could be fitness, it might be broadcasting or even boxing, a space we are looking to develop in partnership with the newly opened Frank Bruno Foundation Centre at Oxford Stadium.
We tailor education and development to the individual, so they have every opportunity to become the best version of themselves both during their time at the Ignite Group and later in life.
This practice is applied to functional skills work in the classroom, sessions in a practical environment where students can develop their teamwork, coordination and problem-solving skills and enrichment activities which we deliver monthly.
Although our tailored programmes are built around sport and using participation as a lever to develop personal, social and practical skills, we explore a wide range of career pathways suitable for anyone living with neurodivergence.
Our graduates have gone on to fulfil successful careers as groundsmen, some have joined the army while others are thriving in education, warehouse and shop-based roles.
Regardless if a person has a neurodivergent condition, it is important to understand as human beings we are all different. Some of us are outgoing and like to be at the heart of what’s happening while others might be more reserved and less inclined to be involved.
Identifying a person’s passion and translating that into their learning is truly the best way for them to engage and develop personally. Understandably, this is not within the resource of classrooms which host 20+ children and is why the alternative provision programmes we deliver at Ignite are vitally important.
Campaigns like Neurodiversity Celebration Week will only positively contribute towards people understanding, valuing and celebrating the talents of our neurodiverse learners.
Ryan Hairsine, SEND Coordinator.