This March, The Blue Coat School Birmingham will proudly participate in Neurodiversity Celebration Week, recognising the vast spectrum of minds that enrich our world.

Approximately one in seven people (around 15% of the UK population) are neurodivergent. But despite this relatively high figure, many neurodiversities are still widely misunderstood.

And there are a lot of myths surrounding neurodiversity. Dyslexia does not mean less intelligent. ADHD does not mean badly behaved. Dyspraxia does not mean physically unable. 

Child holding two fidget spinners in his hands.
A pair of hands using a popping fidget tool.

Myth 1: Fidget Tools are Toys

Fidget tools are not toys; they can be essential aids for neurodivergent children in the classroom. While they may resemble toys, their purpose extends beyond amusement. 

For many individuals with ADHD or autism, fidget tools can provide invaluable support in managing sensory input, regulating attention, and alleviating anxiety. Offering a discreet outlet for keeping the body active makes room for the child to more easily engage in communication, reading, and listening. 

Myth 2: Getting a diagnosis will hold my child back

There is often apprehension surrounding formal diagnoses of neurodivergent conditions like autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, with concerns that labels may hinder a child’s progress. However, a diagnosis is not a limitation but a pathway to understanding and support.

Having a neurodiverse brain should never be perceived as a hindrance to a child’s success in the classroom; rather, it embodies a unique set of strengths and perspectives that can enrich the learning environment.

The truth of the matter is, without a formal diagnosis, there are some elements of support that cannot be accessed. From a school’s perspective, a formal diagnosis also enables the Learning Success team to work with the relevant expertise in offering bespoke, informed support specific to a child’s needs. Their outcomes will undoubtedly improve if they are given a learning environment which meets their needs.

Imagine a visually impaired child is in a lift. They haven’t been in a lift ever before. They cannot see where the button is to press for access to the next floor. But as soon as auditory support is available, that child can then access the next level. The same is true for education. Pupils may have different starting points, however, support will elevate their learning and continue to open doors for them. 

Myth 3: No point in a label 

It’s understandable that some individuals may hesitate to embrace the label of being neurodivergent due to concerns about stigma or feeling defined by a diagnosis. However, it’s essential to recognise that obtaining a diagnosis can provide crucial insights and access to support that can significantly improve a child’s quality of life. 

Rather than viewing a diagnosis as confining, it should be seen as a tool for understanding your child better and accessing appropriate resources and accommodations. 

Embracing a neurodivergent identity can also foster a sense of community and empowerment, connecting individuals with others who share similar experiences and challenges. This is one of the reasons the BCS Parent Inclusion Forum was formed this year.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a diagnosis is deeply personal, but it’s important to remember that acknowledging and accepting neurodiversity can lead to greater self-awareness, growth and resilience.

Myth 4: That child is just naughty 

The misconception that neurodivergent behaviours are simply misbehaviour overlooks the complex nature of conditions like ADHD. These behaviours stem from neurobiological differences rather than willful disobedience.

ADHD is a neurobiological condition characterised by difficulties with attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD often struggle to regulate their behaviour and may exhibit impulsivity or distractibility beyond their control. 

Dismissing their challenges as misbehaviour ignores the significant impact ADHD can have on academic, social, and emotional functioning. It’s crucial to recognise ADHD as a legitimate medical condition requiring understanding, support, and appropriate interventions rather than attributing it to naughtiness.

Myth 5: Neurodiversity is a mental health problem

Despite what many people think, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and OCD are unique neurological differences in how people process information, think, and interact with others. These are not mental health conditions or disabilities. Nevertheless, these individuals are at risk of struggling with mental health problems like everyone else, primarily due to bullying, stress, and a sense of isolation.

At The Blue Coat School Birmingham, we embrace neurodiversity, recognising the unique strengths and perspectives that each individual brings. Through education, understanding, and celebration, we create a supportive environment where every child can thrive.

Three girls walking away from the camera with their arms around each other.