National and international experts in their fields, including some excellent local speakers, came together at the Riverside Centre in Newport earlier this month to talk about some of the issues affecting neurodivergent people on the Island.
Neurodiversity is a concept whereby neurological differences are recognized and respected as a natural human variation. This includes people diagnosed with conditions such as Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome and many more.
The day was designed to be accessible to neurodivergent people, and included a coloured lanyard system for people to indicate whether they were happy to be approached (green for yes, red for no, and orange if people only wanted to speak to people they already knew), a pop up Anxiety Cafe run by Independent Arts, and a creche run by Care Connect IOW.
Range of speakers
150 people attended to listen to 17 speakers, local, national and international, including Professor Jeremy Turk, Dr Beatriz Lopez (University of Portsmouth), Dr Gillian Harris (University of Birmingham), and Trude Stenhammer (Autism Society Norway).
Attendees could choose five from fifteen workshops held during the day, on a variety of topics including Autism and Mental Health, Avoidant and Restrictive Eating, Pathological Demand Avoidance, Violent and Challenging Behaviour, and much, much more.
The final event of the day was the keynote speaker, Chris Packham, known now for his Asperger’s Syndrome in addition to his wildlife campaigning and TV presenting.
He spoke about growing up in Southampton as an autistic person, how he navigated university and the workplace, how he manages his home environment to support his well-being and how he has always gained solace from spending time in woodland.
He generously also took questions from the audience, who were clearly glad to have heard him speak to them, not as a TV star, but as an autistic person sharing their concerns and hope for the future.
Brainchild of a group of friends
The conference was the brainchild of a group of friends with caring responsibilities, some of them neurodivergent themselves, lamenting the problems they faced accessing conferences on the mainland.
They decided to directly approach the people they wanted to hear speak and, to their surprise, were met with positive responses.
Neurodiversity IW 2019 was born, run and staffed by volunteers, and funded entirely by the generosity of Community Action Isle of Wight, Parents Voice IW, WightAid, and Psicon, with Independent Arts, Care Connect IOW, Healthwatch and People Matter providing additional support on the day.
Report shared by Amy and Christa from Neurodiversity IW. Ed