Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland, Events

Aim High

So many children and young people are disadvantaged by their learning difficulties or neurological difference. I believe that every child or young person should be encouraged to be the best they can, supported, stretched. Praised for their efforts and achievement; there is always space to grow, learn all of which can improve self-esteem and a sense of well-being and happiness.

Difference doesn’t need to be a short-hand for disadvantage. The routes for learning are many and varied, it is our job as parents and educators to find as many entry points to learning as possible. We all know what the barriers are, many children are stumbling over them every day. There are many creative ways to access channels to learning but our education system has chopped them down to a few. Many talented, educators and pupils find these few routes restrictive, uninspiring. But there are others ways; not all of them costly.

My concern is that currently teachers just can’t spare the time to explore new and alternative learning styles in a busy mainstream classroom, as so eloquently explained in this opinion piece: But I’m optimistic when I read about a 16-year old autism advocate who is promoting a NeuroDiversity Celebration Week between Ma7 13 – 17, asking headteachers and SENCOs to sign up. Will you share it with your place of learning: 

I will be talking all things education, diversity, autism, and inclusion in a couple of week’s at Khembe’s Return to Your Roots in Birmingham, UK. Would love to see you there.

I would love to hear your thoughts?

Next up on the blog… if campaigning and taking to the streets isn’t your style…

© Suzy Rowland


Uncovering Autism & ADHD: the Black Child’s Perspective

I’m excited to tell you I will be doing a talk at Khembe’s Return to Your Roots on Sunday 5th May. The event will be held at the H Suite, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The theme of the talk is “Uncovering Autism & ADHD: The Black Child’s Perspective, and it promises to be a stimulating and educational talk. People who’ve experienced my #happyinschool project talks, know, I’m not about talk for talk’s sake. I’m about taking action, discovering solutions and activating change.

Khembe’s Return to Your Roots is an event celebrating the Black experience: culture, hair, beauty, well-being encompassing and highlighting the more positive attributes of the black family. These are exciting times: times to take a sharp look at ourselves as human beings, as social beings and as parents. I will be urging parents to take particular interest in how we can best equip our children for an education system that despite firm efforts, still contains systemic bias against significant groups of pupils: those with special educational needs, and those of Caribbean heritage.  These are not merely opinions, statistics from the Department for Education evidence that these biases do exist. (2017/18).

In 2007, a pamphlet called ‘Challenging Exclusions, Handbook for Parents’, was published by Birmingham’s Partnership for Achievement, set up to ensure that Birmingham’s Caribbean community was achieving their full potential socially, economically through educational attainment. One of the findings from this study conducted by the then DfES (Department for Education & Skills) was that a disproportionate number of Black Caribbean and or Black of mixed heritage pupils, were excluded from school.

I have a copy of this pamphlet, in my extensive library of SEN and child development literature. Part of the reason I have a copy is that it was co-authored by my late mother, Cas Walker, a huge champion of education equality and diversity. The apple, as they say, rarely falls too far from the tree!

© Suzy Rowland

Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland

happyinschool loves the ‘i’ word (inclusion)

One of the many things that inspires me, is the sheer breadth and depth of educational information available to research, analyse, absorb, and form an opinion on. In particular inclusivity in education. Even those two words, ‘inclusive & education’ can create a flurry of differing opinions.

Some educationalists and parents think, for different reasons, that inclusive education is doomed to fail. I’ve met some! For others, the reality of inclusive education is more nuanced: does inclusion mean children with SEND in a mainstream school with additional support in the classroom, or playground, or children with SEND taught in a unit attached to mainstream school? Naturally, your opinion will be flavoured by how successful your experience of inclusion has been.

Like most big education issues, the debate needn’t be polarising, a myriad of factors influence the success of an inclusive educational environment: the culture of the school, the leadership, the size of the school and its budget, the nature of the disabilities, even the built environment of the place of learning. The needs of the individual child are naturally at the heart of the debate. If a child prefers to be educated at home or in a unit away from their peers rather than in the classroom, their desire for separateness to enable them to learn, is key to the success of inclusion. Needs are not homogenous, they can be as complex as the individual child or startlingly simple accommodations, once they are understood.

Inclusion visual
happyinschool loves the ‘i’ word

In a fair and just society, all children should have access to a varied educational experience, one that will enable them to learn and eventually become independent beings. A reasonably wealthy state should consider the financial support of its vulnerable citizens as the ultimate charitable and socially responsible act. This does not preclude generous individuals or families contributing their own means towards educating society’s most vulnerable members.

If inclusion helps to flatten out the educational, and in many cases, social disadvantage that exists for many children and young people with disabilities, long may the discussions continue – hopefully in many shades of orange (the colour of determination, joy and creativity:)

So, what does the ‘i’ word mean to me? Individuality/ Independent/Ideas/Ingenuity/Intrigue/Insight…. you get me?

© Suzy Rowland