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Another View: Celebrating talents, strengths of neurodiversity

This week, we are celebrating those who think differently. Neurodiversity Celebration Week is recognized March 18-24 this year.

“Neurodiversity Celebration Week is a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences,” according to its website. “It aims to transform how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported by providing schools, universities and organizations with the opportunity to recognize the many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent, while creating more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual.”

Neurodiversity is a term that describes the differences and variation in human brain function. Examples of neurodiversity include autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, OCD, Tourette syndrome and more.

Harvard Health Publishing emphasizes the importance of neurodiversity, stressing there is “no one ‘right’ way of thinking, learning and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”

The weeklong celebration was founded in 2018 by Siena Castellon, a young advocate and author from Ireland who is autistic with ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

“I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view, which focuses equally on our talents and strengths,” Castellon said.

The goals of Neurodiversity Celebration Week include increasing acceptance and understanding, providing education and celebrating neurodiversity. The website - neurodiversityweek.com - has resources for schools, students, parents and organizations and advice on how to get involved, as well as a number of virtual events for people to take part in across the world.

Autism Research Institute reported narrative shifts have been seen in the evolution of autism science and the effort to “amplify individuals’ strengths and place happiness and quality of life at the forefront of care goals,” its website says.

Visibility and celebration of neurodivergence are being seen more in pop culture. A number of television shows and movies are being made featuring strong and complex neurodivergent characters and battling the common representation of the neurodivergent odd, problematic or burdensome character.

Emphasizing the value and talents of neurodiverse workers, Whitehall-based company Isaava boasts “beautiful products made by beautiful people.” Owner Kristen Merkert started the bath bomb, shower steamer, spa-product company in 2022 with her daughter, Isabel, who has autism and cerebral palsy. The business grew and has allowed Merkert to hire more staff members, all with special needs.

Merkert and her staff make everything by hand and enjoy selling their wares at craft and vendor fairs. The business also has an Etsy shop.

In addition to selling soothing products, Isaava works to spread awareness of the importance and value of neurodivergence.

There are a number of resources and organizations in the area that work to increase awareness and support of the autistic and neurodivergent community.

Autism Society Lehigh Valley seeks to “create connections, empowering everyone in the autism community with the resources needed to live fully,” according to its website. The organization has information on programs, resources and more.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley has a section on its website to help Bigs better interact and understand their neurodivergent Littles.

Many organizations, schools and higher education facilities have worked to expand their resources and celebration of the neurodivergent community. For example, Lehigh University is planning a workshop exploring cultivating neurodivergent accessible and inclusive arts spaces, set for 10 a.m.-noon May 11 at Luag Main and Lower Galleries.

On a personal note, I am a proud neurodivergent. I view my ADHD as my superpower. It allows me to see and experience the world in different ways. One of my favorite things is comparing my experiences with my neurotypical partner and seeing how the same thing can be felt and seen in such varied ways. It makes the world a little deeper and richer for me.

It also enables me to work three jobs and indulge in my hobbies without losing track of things. I firmly believe I can do anything, and my ADHD makes that possible.

Samantha Anderson

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

Northampton Press

Catasauqua Press