Category Archives: Diversity & Inclusion

What Businesses Can Learn from Schools to Support Neuro-divergence/ Disability

Children with neuro-divergence are often well accommodated at school.  With the appropriate adaptations to the learning environment, students are able to thrive working within the confines of a neuro-typical world.

Unfortunately, many of these successful individuals go into the corporate world unsupported and struggle to succeed.  This could be due to not asking for help out of fear of discrimination or due to a lack of awareness of reasonable accommodations in the workplace.  Whatever the reason, this gap in support robs the corporate world from the benefits of having a successful neuro-divergent individual on their team.

The disconnect of support is often due to a lack of information.  What does the neuro-divergent brain need?  What is practical and reasonable within the workplace?  How does the organisation create an environment where needs can be addressed?

Blending what we already know works in schools with the evolved needs and strengths of a neuro-divergent adult will benefit both parties. As an example, let’s look at ADHD.  3-5% of people in the UK have been diagnosed with ADHD.  Simple support returns incredible results for employees and employers. Here are some top tips to get things started.

Talk Less, Engage More

The obvious area that needs to be supported around ADHD is to do with attention.  It is a misconception that this means a lack of attention.  The truth is that there is an overabundance of attention.  Teachers have mastered the art of giving key information and limiting the exposition.  The reason is that when the ADHD brain receives information, it immediately starts making connections in ways the neuro-typical brain does not.  Managers and colleagues who give the highlights, then check for understanding will benefit from natural ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinking that happens when the brain is given space to thrive.

Assistive Technology Saves Projects’ Lives

In school, children with neuro-divergence are taught to rely on assistive technology to communicate information in a neuro-typical way.  It only makes sense to bring this into the professional world.  Spell check, voice to text, organisational software and more are tools specifically designed with the neuro-divergent brain in mind.  Many neuro-typical people have benefitted from them as well.  Becoming aware of and providing the most effective, research-based assistive technology will assist the brain that appears chaotic, to organise time and information to drive project success and keep to tight deadlines.

Notes Are Not Just for Music

One of the most common accommodations in schools for older students involves note taking.  Teachers provide copies of PowerPoints and notes before the class starts for review.  Some students have note taking buddies in class who provide a copy of well-structured notes.  Some classes are recorded for review later.  These interventions are simple, easy and effective.  They can also be easily translated into the work setting.  Small details are no longer missed.  More of the brain is engaged.  Time and money are saved whilst a team member feels supported and valued.

This Space Creates Success

In school, students do not bat an eye lid when they see their fellow students’ needs met in unique ways.  School is a space where everyone is given the chance to succeed.  Surely, the professional space should be as well.  Organisations who do not hide from supporting the needs of their team members create a culture that is inclusive, accepting and even champions those who are diverse.  When everyone feels supported, retention is high and employee engagement soars.

Educating Matters believe that education does not end at school.  It is a lifelong process for individuals and organisations that, when properly supported, is the key to innovation, better mental health and success.  Blending the knowledge and experience between the worlds of education and professionalism is the way forward, for the success of businesses and the individuals who make them prosper.

We have a wealth of resources and can tailor make sessions to:

  • Support the needs of neuro-divergent employees
  • Increase understanding for colleagues who are neuro-typical
  • Support parents of neuro-divergent children.

Here are a few sample webinar outlines:

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Why Diversity & Inclusion Matters More Than Ever

It’s Inclusion week 2020.  It is a time for organisations to renew their commitment toward the principles of creating a world of opportunity and success for all.  

We all know that this has been a year of challenge and reinvention in the workplace.  The way our world has been able to adapt and accommodate in a crisis has been inspiring.  We have found ways to make the workplace accessible, we have found assistive technology to boost productivity.  We have made sure that everyone gets what they need in order to be successful.  Without realizing it, we have developed a new muscle for inclusion.

As we get used to “the new normal”, it is important that we use these lessons we have learned before they get filed away with old exam papers and math formulas.  Like any muscle, the more we work it, the stronger it will be.  Below are my top three ways we can build momentum 

People Adapt at Different Speeds, But They Adapt

When online meeting platforms became the new office space, there were some learning curves.  Some curves were steeper than others.  Whilst digital natives were able to click and go, others (many of whom were in leadership positions) needed extra time, extra support and a lot of patience to become fluent.  Did these extra needs mean that suddenly they were no longer valuable in their organisation?  Of course not.  When they were given the space and support they needed, they thrived.  Also, many were able to show hidden talents that were beyond the remit of their job.  Tech department members also became teachers.  Many people became quasi-therapists when helping colleagues cope with overwhelm and frustration.  Newly discovered skills were an incredible asset to organisations everywhere.  This is inclusion in its purest form.  Individuals are valued for who they are and supported with what they need.  

Everyone Has a World Away from Work…Some Look Very Similar

Dogs barking, toddlers needing cuddles, partners in bathrobes and more wallpaper than you ever knew existed…this is the new meeting aesthetic.  Workers have had a new level of work life balance.  They have had to literally merge the spaces, priorities and responsibilities of both worlds.  Employee networks have provided a space for togetherness and support in wonderful ways.  Parent and Carer Networks have offered everyone from Jr members of staff to Line Managers a place to come together to learn how to educate their children whilst working.  BAME networks have offered support in coping with the feelings that come with tragedies and politics of the now that are a manifestation of the undercurrent of racism that has been a very real part of many people’s lives. Inclusion networks are not a box ticking exercise.  They are a living space that grows and adapts to the needs of its members.  Having them ready and available means that when a crisis hits, the unique needs and perspectives of its population are assessed and addressed quickly and effectively.  Thank you, Diversity and Inclusion Departments!

Opportunities for Learning and Support are Needed and Valued

When everything changed so quickly, two departments took the lead to make sure the transition could be as smooth as possible.  The first was the IT department.  The second, was Diversity and Inclusion.  Parents and Carers, older employees, Neuro-diverse individuals, people with disabilities and those from diverse communities who needed help and support leaned heavily on the infrastructure that was already there for some and quickly and effectively formed in others.   As Diversity and Inclusion professionals, we at Educating Matters have been honoured to be providing webinars, videos, coaching, clinics and resources to help meet the needs of many organisations for almost 20 years.  In the past 6 months, we have had so many requests for new and innovative topics including: Allyship, Working Parents and Coronavirus, Mental Health in Lockdown and many more.  Inclusion professionals were able to source the support needed by accessing their networks and utilising their skills.  

More than ever, it has become apparent that the future is uncertain.  The geo-political climate and even the general health of the world has proven that we are fragile in ways that even a year ago we never imagined.  More than ever, we must value those individuals who are able to recognise the support that is needed for tomorrow’s workplace and those who rely on it for livelihood.  Diversity and Inclusion departments have proven, once again, that they are not only valuable but vital to enable organisations to move through the next decade.

Teach Children to be an Ally

Thank you Gwen Jones, our talented member of the ‘Educating Matters’ team for her passionate article on a vital topic.

Gwen delivers a host of popular talks on tolerance such as Raising Children in a Multicultural World, Unconscious Gender Bias, SEN and LGBTQ+

As an American expat living in the UK, I am looking at my country right now and feeling a myriad of emotions.  I am angry that a man’s life was taken so callously. I feel fear for my family and friends living in the larger cities in the USA.  I feel frustrated with those privileged people that are blindsided by the response from people who are fed up with trying to protest peacefully only to be ignored.  I feel sympathy for a younger generation of adults who believe you have to break the system in order to fix it.  I feel a visceral  disappointment and betrayal by the lack of good leadership from the White House.  Most importantly, I feel a responsibility to educate my children.

As a cis-gendered white woman, I acknowledge my privilege.  I know the power of my tears.  When I am emotive, it is respected, endearing and often a tool to get what I want or get my point across.  I have the privilege to emote.  Growing up in Mississippi as the daughter of a civil right’s activist gave me the most unique perspective.  I saw how much harder it was for my black friends to get credit, how much harder they had to work to be seen as competitive.  My father was always sure we were aware of our privilege so that we could use it to do our best to balance the scales rather than stack them against others.  I have the privilege of being raised by educated and socially aware parents.  From an early age, I knew that my privilege allowed me to have a voice to speak up against injustice.  I understood diversity was something to be acknowledged and celebrated.  I learned that it was a responsibility, it was a value to be an ally to ally.

As I sit with my children watching the news and answering questions, I realise that passing this value on to the next generation cannot be passive.  It is mindful and active.  It involves checking their own privilege so that they can try to  understand what it is to walk around in someone else’s skin, even though they will never truly be able to understand.  It involves teaching them that their story line is valuable, but it is also unique to them and their experience.  I realise that there are rules to living a life as an ally with integrity, do what you know is right regardless of popular opinion or social pressure.    So, here is the beginning of a list that has permission to grow and develop.

An Ally Is Consistent

Keyboard warriors are great for soundbites.  You choose your words carefully so that you can put your best face forward.  For me, writing is the face I wear with my hair done and my make-up on.  The face that really matters is what happens when I close the laptop.  What happens when I am in a room and someone makes an ignorant comment?  What jokes am I willing to laugh at despite being made to feel uncomfortable?  What does my face look like when the makeup comes off and my words and choices flow freely without a filter? 

Children need to learn to be firm in their convictions, even in the face of poor leadership.  If an adult, older child or influential group member is doing or saying something that feels discriminatory, a child needs to know that they do not have to cosign this.  Parents must teach children to respectfully, appropriately and confidently challenge people in charge who are either blindly or blatantly using discriminatory words and practices. 

An Ally Acknowledges Their Privilege

I have never been followed at a grocery store.  I have never been afraid of a police officer.  I am able and willing to ask for help from strangers.  If I see a lost child, I am comfortable walking up to him to help him find his mother.  I feel safe and comfortable when I need to challenge authority.  I have a long history that I am able to trace within my ancestry, none of which involves being a slave.  I can hold my partner’s hand in public without fear of attack.  I can stand as an ally to those oppressed without having experienced that same oppression.  All of this is a manifestation of my privilege.

Many people of privilege are challenged when their privilege is pointed out.  They feel that they are being asked to feel guilty or that the work that they put in is somehow invalidated.  “I work hard for what I have!” is a common response.  Noone is challenging the work ethic of privileged people.  However, privileged people need to ask themselves why they were able to be in a position to work that hard.  People have been passed over for jobs because they “just weren’t the right fit”.  Was this code for the unconscious bias of not being white enough or male enough or wealthy enough?  This is not true of every time.  It may be true at any time.

Privilege can be used or abused.  My privilege as a heterosexual woman has allowed me the opportunity to stand up for LGBTQA+ rights in a way that does not threaten my employment, my place in my family or my physical safety.  I can use my privilege as someone who is not dismissed or hated to stand up for those that are.  I can also abuse my privilege by stepping on other people to find my way up.  I can dismiss another’s experience because it makes me feel bad.  I can expect the rules to not apply to me in the same way.  Children need to be taught that their privilege exists.  They also need to be taught that with that privilege comes the responsibility of checking it and correcting the harm it may have directly or indirectly caused others.

An Ally Learns to Be Comfortable in Discomfort

As a white woman, I have, to no one’s surprise, often found myself in a room without any racial diversity.  It is in this space, amongst friends, family and colleagues, this is the space where an ally is challenged.  Are you willing to tell your aunt or mother in law that she is being offensive?  Are you willing to tell your friends that you don’t want to hear those jokes or those descriptive slang terms?  When people get called out, there is a feeling of discomfort that is palpable.  As an ally, a child needs to learn to sit in this discomfort and stand their ground.  They need to learn that the discomfort comes from the process of having unconscious bias challenged and not from standing up for what is right. 

I’ll never forget the first time I was able to bear witness to my child challenging authority.  He was doing home education in a live streamed setting and the PSHE subject was Autism.  He is an Autistic person and has learned to advocate for his place as a neuro-divergent individual.  The teacher was talking about the list of Autistic traits and then made the comment, “It sounds like we are all a little autistic!”  It was a throw away comment made to make autism feel more relatable to neuro-typical children.  Drake raised his hand and said, “Miss, I know that you didn’t intend to offend, but you did.  You are making Autism sound like a character flaw.  My divergence is not a flaw.  It is how I am made and see the world.  It is not a weakness.  It is not an over sensitivity.  It is a way of being.”  I was so proud on so many levels.  He did not shout, hate or call names.  He did not accuse her of intended harm.  He simply checked her bias.  There was an audible and very present pause.  It felt uncomfortable.  Then, the teacher apologised and thanked him for his feedback.  Now, will it always look like a learning moment?  No.  However, it will always be a learning moment.

An Ally Checks Their Bias…Constantly

Understanding bias requires a growth mindset.  As such, my learning and checking have become a mindful, intentional process.  There was a time in the 80’s when the word “retard” was thrown around as a common insult amongst children.  Then, a time came when society realised that this was insensitive and offensive.  We had 2 choices: become defensive whilst standing our ground and defiantly continue using the word or apologise and change.  Most chose the latter.  This was not the first nor the last time society evolved in favour of inclusion and holding itself to a higher standard.  Think of other terms and phrases that are starting to become unacceptable:  calling a sexually active woman a slut, using gay as a derogatory adjective, the n word, the f word, many other racially or sexually charged slang terms.

There are television shows and music and movies from my past that look different with the eyes of a person from 2020.  Why is this?  Because we are becoming aware of our unconscious bias.  Children need to learn that it is a part of life to have an unconscious bias.  Are we bad people for consuming this media in our pasts?  No.   The trick is to acknowledge it when it becomes conscious.  To be able to review our choices and preferences without judgement  or guilt,  to understand why we think what we think, to know why we make friends with some and not others, to see if we are putting value on anything other than the content of a person’s character.  Then, a true ally takes the most  important step to make a change.

An Ally Accepts Responsibility For Their Education

This is a hard one for many to understand and a hard one for me to explain.  I’ve seen and heard people of privilege in many circumstances ask people of diverse backgrounds (race, gender, nationality, neuro, sexual, religious etc) to explain their perspective.  There is a fine line between having a discussion and asking a person to act as an educator and ambassador for an entire group of people.  It is an abuse of privilege to assume that every black person who is angry about what is going on has some sort of responsibility to the people who are benefitting from their oppression to educate them.

An ally is a consumer of information and perspective.  In order to stand with and speak to the needs of someone, you need to understand what feeds the issues.  Why is the American CIvil War, a war that happened 150 years ago still an influence on politics today?  How does the 400 year history of slavery and oppression feed the narative of today.  Why is The Stonewall Inn a significant place?  Why do people appear to be angry with me when I haven’t done anything?  What does my culture represent to someone else?

Children can be taught from an early age to try to appreciate the diversity of our world.  Books, food and celebrations are a great place to start.  An ally knows that it is also important to look at the ugly bits.  To acknowledge history’s influence on today is what gives power to make the history of tomorrow different.

An Ally Sees Colour and Difference

To say, “I don’t see colour.  We are all the same.” whilst often well intended, is at best naive and condescending.  Colour signifies so much.  My colour is my history, my family, my culture, my experience.  Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu said on Good Morning Britain, “If you don’t see colour, you don’t see me.”.  You do not know exactly what it means to that particular person, but you have an understanding of the way society has treated them.  As a white woman, I do not fear police.  I do not feel my children should fear police.  I have the privilege of telling my son that if he is in danger, he can run to any police officer for help.  If I had a black son, there would be a different narrative.

The key that an ally understands is that seeing colour, noticing and naming difference does not come with a qualification.  It just is.  It is neither to be weaponized or fetishised.  It is simply a piece of information, a descriptor  or an existence.  Children get this a lot easier than many adults.  People are people.  Their history, family, culture are simply part of what feeds their experience of life.  Children can take this further when they begin to understand that their history defines their level of privilege in this world.

An Ally Does Not Seek Credit or Validation

An ally does not need those they are standing up for to give them credit for being a good person.  You stand up for equality because it is the right thing to do.  This is a faux pas I see many people make.  “I’m not one of those people.  Look what I have done to help you.”  Noone needs your CV unless you are applying for a job.  An ally does not act as an ally so that others can know they are a good person.  Other people may or may not notice what you have done or are doing.  Whilst it may feel nice to be acknowledged, this is in no way a driving  force in standing up for equality for all humans.

Our children need to understand that they do not have to prove to anyone that they are being good people.  Likewise, the people that they are standing beside and standing up for owe them nothing.  Being an ally is a life choice, a state of being.  It is a personal value.  The only credit or validation the need to seek for it is internal in knowing they are being true to themselves and their beliefs.

An Ally Knows When the Real Change Happens

Right now, diversity is all over the news.  It’s the hot button, in your face topic of the moment due to riots and protests.  A giant spotlight is being shined on a gaping wound in society.  This is true even outside of the current political climate.  Think of how many rainbow posts you see in Pride month.  Think of how the troops are valued on VE day.  Think of all the puzzle pieces you see during Autism Awareness month.  These are wonderful expressions of solidarity during the time the light is bright on a subject.

Children need to  learn that real change happens when it’s not in your face, when the light is shining somewhere else, when nobody is really noticing.  Change in society happens when the majority of  people within it collectively decide to make a change.  Do racism and sexism and every other ism still exist?  Absolutely.  The change did not happen when a law was signed or a speech was made.  An ally knows that this is simply the beginning of a constant and consistent process.  The change happens in the words we use every day, in the conversations we have at the dinner table, in the car or at the pub.  It happens when we stand our ground and don’t let the little things slide.  The change does not happen in the moment.  Change happens in the ripples that come from the moment.  Change happens when we do what is right even when we think no one’s looking.  An ally knows that the most important part of all  is that change happens.

Allies Matter webinar