As part of Neurodiversity Celebration Week (13 to 19 March), Wokingham Borough Council is proud to share stories from two councillors who have this subject close to their heart.
The week is a worldwide initiative that aims to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences.
Neurodiversity refers to a world where neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD are recognised and respected, with as much as one fifth of the population believed to have such a difference.
And neurological differences means just that, as every individual’s experiences, abilities and strengths are different, making every story unique.
Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, a Liberal Democrat member for Emmbrook, is autistic and says it is important to be as open as possible to help others becoming more understanding.
She said: “My neurological differences are more of a gift than a curse to me. Through education, marriage, running my own business, owning my own home, travelling, standing in elections and serving the public, autism has certainly not stopped me achieving in life.
“What it does mean is that I am good at focussing and processing lots of information and I think about it all in different ways. I also seem to sense and feel the world around me more intently than most people, which gives me rather a different insight to life. Sadly, I will always struggle with some human social situations – my behaviour can sometimes be a bit quirky and I know I don’t understand a lot of nuanced information very well.”
Although she feels there is still progress to be made to make everyday life and work environments easier for those on the autistic spectrum, Cllr Shepherd-DuBey added: “I have never felt that there is a better time than now to be neurodiverse.
“If you are aware of anyone who is neurodivergent, please give us the opportunity and be patient with us. Some of the greatest minds that have ever lived were neurodivergent.”
Conservative councillor Jackie Rance, who represents Shinfield South, has an adult daughter with ADHD. She also has two young grandsons with an autistic spectrum disorder and ADHD, as well as a granddaughter who is autistic and goes to a special educational needs school.
She said: “Celebrating neurodiversity is a huge part of my daily life. Celebrating small wins can be as rewarding as meeting bigger challenges, especially for my grandchildren. As a mother and grandmother, I am dedicated to supporting my family get through days where the difficulties overshadow the small successes. These struggles don’t reflect the abilities and talents of neurodiverse people – it’s their creative thinking, boundless energy and hyperfocus on their passions which are all strengths.
“As a borough councillor, I see my role as one of support and guidance for the parents of neurodiverse children, who struggle to find ways to challenge local authorities and organisations so that they receive the help they need for their children.
“I have helped many parents by writing letters on their behalf about all sorts of issues. I hope I am enabling parents and residents to gather the strength to find a voice when they felt had not been heard. Ultimately, celebrating neurodiversity for me is seeing the happy, exuberant faces of my grandchildren as they discover themselves, and their truly magnificent abilities.”
The council is currently developing a local strategy and action plan to improve services and opportunities for autistic people in the borough. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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