A new community group has been established with the aim of positioning the seaside village of Sandymount as a national leader in becoming neurodiversity-friendly. Founded by a group of parents of autistic children and those with other neurodivergent profiles, Neurodiversity Sandymount has partnered with AslAm, the national autism charity, to help create an environment where ‘different brains and unique thinkers’ are welcomed.
“Neurodiversity” is a concept which encourages the world to view neurodevelopmental differences like autism, ADHD and intellectual disability as brain differences, rather than deficits that need to be ‘fixed’. Neurodivergent people experience and interact with the world in a different way. According to Neurodiversity Sandymount, embracing these different brains and their qualities and strengths can benefit the entire community.
“Sandymount is already a great example of inclusivity, with specialist autism classrooms in two local schools, Scoil Mhuire and Star of the Sea,” said Dairine Cullen, co-founder of Neurodiversity Sandymount, ahead of the launch of the new community group.
“Now we are asking the entire village to join us in making the small changes needed to ensure even more awareness and understanding for neurodiverse children and their families. The more support we get from people and businesses in the village, the bigger difference we can make to our children’s lives and to the entire Sandymount community.”
A number of high-profile local businesses have already pledged their support for the initiative including Tesco, the Sandymount Hotel, Mira Mira, Crudo and others.
“I commend the initiative of the Neurodiversity Sandymount team in helping to make Sandymount village a more welcoming place for all members of the community including those with neurodivergent profiles. It is a great model for other communities across the country and I really hope it is replicated in other towns and villages’.Anne Rabbite TD and Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Symbol that shows you are ‘A friend to everyone’
Launched to coincide with World Autism Month (April), Neurodiversity Sandymount is organising a series of events and initiatives to raise awareness and help people to understand the challenges and needs of neurodivergent people. The group has created a symbol representing the concept of being ‘A friend to everyone’ that can be displayed in local businesses and worn by neurodivergent children and their families to signal to others that extra compassion and understanding may be needed.
“Recognition of the Neurodiversity Sandymount symbol might mean an autistic person, or someone with ADHD or other disability will be allowed to skip the queue in a busy shop or environment that might be stressful for that person” says Dairine Cullen. “The symbol is also an opportunity for individuals and businesses in Sandymount to advocate for a more inclusive environment for neurodivergent people, for example supporting schools to create more specialist autism classrooms.”
The group is also working to make it easier for people and especially families to have positive and inclusive conversations about autism and neurodivergence. Neurodiversity Sandymount has created a story called ‘Let’s be a friend to everyone’ that can be read by parents and children together to promote greater understanding of how neurodivergent children can behave, react and interpret different situations.
Neurodiversity Sandymount has teamed up with Railway Union Sports Club to establish ‘Football for All’ in conjunction with the FAI and with PlayActDrama School to provide inclusive classes and will aim to provide sporting and cultural activities for neurodiverse children who presently have little or no access to social or community infrastructure.
At its launch event, Neurodiversity Sandymount will outline a range of grants and funding available for businesses who wish to support the neurodiverse community. The group is also offering specialist education and training to those businesses, schools and community groups wishing to achieve greater inclusivity. Details are available at www.neurodiversityireland.com
World Autism Awareness Day takes place on 2 April, as part of World Autism Month