'Exploring Neurodiversity and Race In Higher Education?'

'Exploring Neurodiversity and Race In Higher Education?'

‘The traditional practices and systems show an honest reflection of how the system was designed’ - The Intersectionality Network

In my younger years of early education, I was told by educators that I was a “troublemaker or naughty”, because I wasn’t able to complete schoolwork. I strongly recall 30 minutes of homework taking me three hours. When I went into school the following day, excited and pleased with my attempts the teachers deemed my work as “not putting enough time and effort into it”. While they marked my homework with crosses in bright red pen. As I have grown and educated myself I understand that the education system did not understand how to teach and empower me, to allow success.

It was not until I started university at a much later age that it was recommended I undergo a test for dyslexia by a former lecturer. One year later I was informed of having dyslexia and Asperger’s 15 years after, aged 42. While I understand and embrace my whole identity, society tends to react with pathologising.

Why are we not asking and making actionable changes from common experiences of: ‘Not being seen, heard or included, enduring non-flexibility in teaching approaches, the lack of understanding of how someone learns, skill sets compared or undervalued to non-disabled people, there being no clear understanding of what inclusive language and practices are or how to implement the social model of disability, combined with the use of the intersectionality lens’.

As an expert in intersectionality, race and disability, higher education has its limitations also. One example would be in the area of disability studies in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, I noted for decades the lack of recognition surrounding Black Disabled representation in the literature, of lecturers and mentors. All disability studies courses should be inclusive of someone who looks like me with lived experiences, who will include or refer to authors who can resonate with intersectional experiences, and educators who empower, liberate and assist in ways to overcome intersectional barriers relating to race, gender and disability relates issues, throughout the education system and cross society as a whole.

While I acknowledge the social model of disability has assisted us in many ways, we require much more for the transition towards genuine inclusion. I would like to share the framework we at T.I.N use to ensure Black Disabled women, who may also like me be neurodivergent, adapt throughout higher education, employment and while manoeuvring, through society as a whole.

Recognition – You cannot start with inclusion without recognising the barriers which already exist.

Intersectionality – Applying an intersectionality lens and a social model approach combined.

Affirmative – Black Disabled women should not be pathologised – we should be understood as being intelligent, talented, worthy, valued, beautiful and whole.

Action in practice – Nothing speaks louder than action. Silence keeps discrimination, prejudice perceptions and oppression ongoing.

“I believe that inclusion has no limitations” - Melanie Hibbert.