This April sees another year of autism acceptance, awareness and autism centred activity – I sat down with fellow autistic dancer Anne and find out more about her experiences in education, and hear more about the Silver Arts Award she is completing with teacher and advisor Nicky Norton.
The questions were inspired in part by Neurodiversity Celebration Week, ‘a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences’, encouraging equity and inclusion in schools and workplaces. I hope they also link to some of the knowledge I shared in last years blog series on Autism Acceptance and inclusion which you can find linked at the bottom of the page.
Anne is a determined young person who I’ve been privileged to watch grow into a confident dancer and invested assistant teacher, I hope you enjoy her brilliant answers to my questions!
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Anne, I have had 18P- since I was born and I was diagnosed in Year 10 with Autism. When I was younger I used to go to ballet classes. I joined Stopgap in 2013. I want to be an assistant dance teacher when I am older. I love to dance.
What makes you feel supported and celebrated when learning at school and with Nicky?
I just like doing what I am doing. I don’t have a 1:1 at school which I really like, but there are people there to help me if I need it. I feel encouraged when I do have support and the bespoke programme I am following with Nicky (Arts Award) I also feel lucky and happy to be able to do this. My school is really interested in what I do. I am always excited on a Wednesday to help Nicky lead dance classes at a primary school. Receiving Dancer of The Year from Stopgap in 2019 made me feel proud. I had an RE award in Year 10 and that was my first subject award I had ever got again I felt proud and pleased. Since I received this I have had many subject including history, maths and most recently NOCN.
How does it feel when you aren’t supported to learn? Is it frustrating? Upsetting? Do you feel left out?
I remember when some people don’t include me in team activities in lessons, I find this can be frustrating. I had ideas that would have been useful, but people weren’t listening to me. People thought I couldn’t understand what they were talking about, but I did.
There was one teacher a long time ago that I remember that didn’t want to include me in something which made me feel upset.
There is a statistic that says ‘33% of teachers believe that learning disabilities are sometimes an excuse for laziness’, what do you think about that?
I disagree because we just struggle with things in the conventional way and have to find ways to adapt to things that everyone else finds easy to do and take for granted. Why I think some teachers might think this is because of a lack of specialist knowledge.
As neurodivergent people, I think we have many strengths and talents – we see the world differently and have our own challenges, but it’s not all negative. What are some of your biggest strengths?
Nicky always says I am really good at remembering things in dance and I feel I am good at this. I am very encouraging when I am teaching and focus on the positives in people. I don’t let my disability stop me from doing what I love. I like to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t. I like to challenge myself to do things that I struggle with. I think my strength is my courage and confidence to do what I love and achieve my aspirations. I am perseverant. I am assertive. I am never a ashamed of being me. I want to help change people’s perceptions of how people are viewed with autism.