Thinking Differently

My non-fiction blog this week is inspired by a fascinating article in the Times (Peter Evans) on the notion of thinking differently. The article features a lady called Bev Shah who was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia in her teens – but who has triumphed over her ‘neurodiversity’ in many positive ways.

What is neurodiversity and how does it differ from ‘neurotypical’? I am no expert on these particular terms – although I am a trained specialist in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and have taught children and young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other types of learning difficulty, including autism, in mainstream and special schools.

The article rightly suggests that society, in particular, employers of small companies, would do well to embrace the skills brought into the workplace by people who think differently. For example, Shah says that she makes connections where others may not, and that is what makes her a good analyst.

Experts often say that people with autism are logical and methodical – which make up for their problems in social interaction and communication. The article goes on to suggest that employers need to do a lot of soul searching on disability. The NAS estimates that just 16% of autistic adults have a job – even though three quarters want to be employed. A traditional barrier cited is the recruitment process – of phone calls, interviews and presentations. Yet, these days, on-line skill tests must go some way to alleviating some of these problems.

Richard Branson (who is dyslexic) is an investor in Auticon, a firm that specialises in placing autistic people in jobs. The rationale is that people with autism have unique cognitive strengths such as ‘the ability to recognise patterns in large data sets.’

Our world is in a severely troubled state, and if we are to resolve all of our problems, we need to invest in as great a range of thinking and reasoning as is humanly possible. Imagine a world in which high level thinkers ‘inside the box’ (neuro-typical) learn to communicate with, and share their skills with equally high level thinkers ‘outside the box’ (neurodiverse). What an explosive combination for potential problem-solving.

If only! For such a gathering of thinkers with different skills to be brought together, employers would also have to think differently in terms of their employees – and the potential of the different skills they might bring into the work place.

Such forward thinking begins at school. Differences in thinking skills must be celebrated and nurtured – as alternative strengths rather than weaknesses. Children with various types of SEND, as adults, have much to offer workplaces and society. Unfortunately, the accepted assessment and exam systems tend to squash such potential, as such alternative achievements do not often fit within our rigid, nationally recognised measures of success.

So, there is much to think about in terms of how we nurture the diverse skills and talents of our children and young people as they mature – and how society might use, rather than waste, such precious gifts.

The process begins with parents. Know your child. How does he think? Celebrate alternative skills and talents. Special means special – not always below average. Start by finding out WHAT your child learns and HOW. My books will help – Support Your Child with SEND (Book 1) and at successive Key Stages (Books 2 to 4), by Sylvia Edwards, are available from Lulu in printed form, and from Amazon, in printed form and ebooks. Visit my website:

Value different ways of thinking.

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