It is important to be aware of the language of neurodiversity for neurodevelopmental
conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is believed
that the term neurodiversity was coined by autism activist Judy Singer in the 1990s and is
short for neurological diversity – or differences in the brain. It is an approach and movement
you may have heard of, particularly within the autistic community, which challenges the idea
that neurodevelopmental differences are abnormal and need to be cured (see Understood.
org for more information). Individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions often define
themselves as neurodivergent because their differences diverge from neurotypical
development. Embracing neurodiversity is important in the Early Years because we know
that some children will go on to be diagnosed with lifelong differences. We have an important responsibility to ensure that children view their identity positively when this occurs.
Is it time we moved away from the term Special Educational Needs?
Special Educational Needs (SEN) & Disability are terms adopted by the government.
SEN is defined in terms of age-related and comparative progress indicating a deficit approach. You will notice that the formal definition does not account for learning differences, rather it emphasises learning difficulties and disabilities. You can view this in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice.
You can have SEN with or without a disability or diagnosis, but if there is an identified disability, a child has additional protections under the Equality Act (2010). Many more children are protected by this than we realise, because of the intersecting characteristics.
It is important to note that there is no formal definition of SEN for children under compulsory school age meaning we can choose the language which best describes our children.