Updated: Aug 16, 2020
With GCSE results less than a week away I wanted to take some time to reflect on what really matters for our children and the outcome of their learning. In recent weeks I have heard from many nervous parents who are anticipating their neurodivergent child’s GCSE results and expressing concern over whether they will achieve the necessary grades for the next steps in their learning journey. This has got me thinking about my own experiences of school and what I needed when I was sixteen years old heading into college. The truth for me was that despite achieving good GCSE grades, I was not ready for college.
I was academically able, but…I was not able to regulate myself, organise myself or concentrate effectively to take the next steps in study at that point.
It is important to add that I was an unrecognised neurodivergent child and as such very much left on my own to navigate the education system. Therefore, it is difficult to predict whether my learning outcomes would have been different should I had received an earlier diagnosis. Non the less, I think there is something to be said for allowing neurodivergent children to learn at the time that they are both interested and emotionally able to learn.
I believe that a child will not learn to their full potential if they are unable to process information in an environment that is not suited to their needs. Nor will they learn if they are not ready or uninterested in what they are being taught.
I did not stay at college long, I mostly skipped lessons and then dropped out to do some temporary work in an office. I did not think I was academically able (I write this with a smile on my face), I thought I would be better suited to work. The truth is I was trying to find a place that did not exist. Until I was able to control all aspects of my own environment, I was not able to regulate appropriately (I still find it difficult now). I was also not able to learn until I was passionate about the subject I was studying and for that I needed to go and explore the world a little bit first.
From the age of 25 onwards my study took off. I completed a Certificate in Early Years Practice, a Psychology degree, a Postgraduate Certificate in Communication Science and a master’s degree in Special Educational Needs. I am also looking forward to starting my PhD this October in Organisational Psychology. That is not to say that my later learning journey has been easy. I had a family young and chose to study when they were small. Although had you had met me at 17 you would have thought I was a ‘drop out’ and you may have been concerned about my future. I believe that the reason that I have been so successful in my learning journey to date is that I have done it my way. I study at 3am if I want to and I nap in the day. I limit my environmental distractions and I know that I find certain aspects of learning tough and I go easy on myself and utilise as many supports as I can. I am able to learn because I am passionate about what I am learning, and I believe that I can achieve.
So please do not be distressed if your child does not make the grades this time around. They may need another go, they may need a different learning environment, they may not be ready right now. They may need a more specialised subject to capture their interest. Instead of worrying about the grades our children achieve this week, let us take the time that is needed to indulge other aspects of life. Let's grow confidence in our children, let us foster their passion and let us remember that at sixteen years young, some of us are simply not ready to study at this level YET and that is OKAY!
Supporting and Celebrating Neurodiversity,
Jess x x