The following is an interview conducted with Rosie Morgan of London, England, by Jess Corinne of Learnfully. To maintain our guest’s original voice as authentically as possible, her responses in British English will be used instead of American English.

How did your personal experiences contribute to your career choice? 

While I was studying at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia when I was 23 and ADHD at 24. Before I knew about my neurodivergence, I felt that I was always masking a lot of challenges growing up, especially because I felt different but didn’t know why. It was a huge shift in my understanding of the world and myself within it, both as a child and adult. Many things made more sense, I realised that my anxiety and burnout came from having information overload, hyperfocus, and a need to be constantly busy. Awareness of Neurodiversity helped me to understand more about why I felt different and in turn, helped me to be kinder to myself and acknowledge my own individual strengths.

After my diagnosis, I became more interested in neurodiverse education and mental health. A clear way into this was music, creative, and play therapies, understanding how we learn and how this can contribute to mental wellbeing. I then studied a Master’s in Psychology of Education where I learned about counselling for children with social, emotional, mental health and special educational needs. My research explored parent experiences of accessing and navigating SEN support services for young children, which was inspired by my work as a 1:1 SEN support worker in charity settings for children with a wide range of needs. My own personal experience has directly led me to what I do today as I am now studying to be a Counselling Psychologist. Providing therapy and counselling for neurodivergent children and families are central to my university counselling placements and doctoral research.  From my experience, I hope to share my knowledge to guide and empower others. 

Why is mental health imperative for all learners, particularly the neurodivergent community (learners, their caregivers and ecosystem of support)? 

Mental wellbeing is the foundation for all to flourish. From my professional and personal experience, I have seen how mental health can transform people’s potential. Mental health can be viewed as ‘a ripple effect’; it is central to all learning and the benefits cumulatively reach far and wide. Wellbeing encompasses the efficacy for all support systems and those within it, including children, young people, caregivers, and practitioners. 

Awareness of mental health specifically in the neurodivergent community is essential to understanding and innovating ways to optimally support wellbeing. Neurodivergence extends beyond the learning needs of the classroom. It’s important to attune to the social, emotional, and mental health needs of neurodivergent individuals that impact their daily life. Without this awareness, we miss opportunities to connect to diversity and how in turn it can enlighten our daily life. 

Inclusion and participation are fundamental components of children’s development and life experiences. Participation is considered a key indicator of overall health and well-being across the lifespan. Participation is defined as involvement in life situations but for neurodivergent children there can be many barriers to inclusion. Feelings of exclusion directly impact our mental health and can have lasting consequences to psychological and even physical health. Exclusion creates a disconnection to a sense of belonging which can impact a sense of self, including self-esteem and identity. Neurodivergent individuals face exclusion on a day-to-day basis which significantly affects emotional regulation and reserve. As exclusion increases, resilience decreases alongside the time frame in which emotional dysregulation occurs. It’s like the saying, ‘if you get knocked down, pick yourself up’, but what happens if you don’t know how to get back up or have the resources to do so? This can be the case for many neurodivergent children, where overload and burnout can occur, which continues this cycle of overwhelm. Instead of placing barriers, it’s time to build bridges to nurture wellbeing through inclusion. With empathy and relatability, support is more inclusive as it considers another person’s process and acknowledges the effort that is involved. Through inclusion and acceptance, we have a more robust emotional security, which builds resilience to empower individuals to navigate challenges and succeed. As a result, nurturing mental health allows our wellbeing and learning systems to optimally engage. By helping neurodivergent children and young people access holistic support assists life learning and development skills on every level. 

As mentioned before, the ripple effect also comes into play here. To build a nourishing mental wellbeing environment for children, we need to consider who is providing this space. Caregivers, family members, teachers, and practitioners all contribute to children’s wellbeing; therefore, the support must reach everyone included in the system. By strengthening, building, and connecting the community, there are more people to share and provide support, which extends to a wider outreach. Engaging in approaches that consider each and every person in the community, a more accepting and caring ethos is embedded. 

How important is learning through play for all learners? 

I feel that play should really be a synonym for learning. The best learning happens when we are having fun. It’s important not to lose the power of play and its universality! The more we take the perspective that play is for all, the more we see the opportunities of unity and inclusion across many other contexts. 

Any final thoughts or ideas you’d like to share with our readers?

By observing and building on our strengths, play and learning can wholeheartedly be for all. Using social and emotional learning techniques, like a ‘strength box’ or ‘hope box’ can promote wellbeing further. A strength or hope box can be filled with items that remind you of your own connection to these qualities. This could be an inspiring quote, a message from a loved one, drawings, trinkets, photos, or even an encouraging note to your future self. . You could create your box by yourself or with others, whatever suits your preference! Either way, the contents of the box is to help you embrace your own authenticity and see the value of your uniqueness. 

It’s time to view neurodivergence through a universal and humanistic lens. With more compassion, awareness, and acceptance, we are closer to entering a space that welcomes everyone

About our guest

Rosie is a Trainee Counselling Psychologist and SEND Consultant for nasen (National Association of Special Education Needs) and The LEGO Foundation. Her doctoral research explores psychologists’ experiences of working with neurodiverse clients and spiritual beliefs to support clients’ mental health. Rosie works in psychotherapy settings that specialise in supporting the neurodivergent community.

Summer reading is imperative to maintaining learner momentum. Without it, your child could easily lose progress they gained last school year and enter the classroom feeling less successful and confident overall. As a parent of four little learners myself, I constantly struggle to inspire our children to read consistently throughout the summer. So, in order to make summer reading as fun, engaging, meaningful and rewarding as possible, a few of our Educational Specialists have compiled a list of Learnfully’s favorite titles to make your lives easier as parents and to ignite joy in your whole family!

Looking for an independent bookstore to secure your copy of a summer reading title? Take a look at this list of some of the best 18 independent book sellers across the U.S.

See a list of our favorite middle school titles here.


Suggested Summer Reading List: Elementary

Grade
Title
Author
Genre/Text Type
Year
Topic/Themes
Categories
K-2Ada Twist, ScientistBeaty, AndreaNonfiction2016Inspired by real-life makers Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this beloved #1 bestseller champions STEM, girl power and women scientists in a rollicking celebration of curiosity, the power perseverance, and the importance of asking “Why?”STEM, Fascinating People
K-2We Are Water ProtectorsLindstrom, CaroleFiction, Native American Folklore2022Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruptionSTEM
K-2Chick and Brain: Smell My FootBall, CeceFiction, Graphic Novel2019Meet Chick and Brain. And their friend Spot. Chick likes to follow the rules. Brain might not be as smart as he looks. And Spot just wants to eat lunch.Silly Stories, Social Emotional Development, Friendship
K-2Yasmin the ChefFaruqi, SaadiaFiction, chapter book2019Yasmin loves hosting parties! Music, friends, fun! But what she doesn’t love is the spicy food her Pakistani family serves. Yasmin puts on her chef hat and plans to make her own amazing, fantastic recipe…as soon as she figures out what that is!Cultural connections
K-2What About Worms!?Higgins, Ryan T.Fiction2020Tiger is BIG. Tiger is BRAVE. And Tiger is NOT afraid of anything . . . except WORMS! Are Tiger’s worm worries worse than worms?Silly Stories, Social Emotional Development
K-2Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two FriendsKugler, TinaFiction, short stories2016Told in three comical, episodic shorts and ranging in topic from adventuring to having pets, Snail and Worm will have readers laughing at the friends’ silly antics, making it a perfect book for readers transitioning between picture books and chapter books.Silly Stories, Social Emotional Development, Friendship
K-2Sofia Martinez: My Family AdventureJules, JacquelineFiction2015Little Sofia Martinez has a big personality and big plans, which makes every day memorable. Between her sisters and cousins, her family is the focus of her many adventures. From taking school pictures to doing chores, this 7-year-old knows how to make every moment count. Sofia loves her family and loves her life. Family, Cultural Connections
K-2Hair LoveCherry, Matthew AFiction2019Story about self-love and self-care. Adapted into a Pixar short.Family, Cultural Connections
K-2Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved ReptilesValdez, PatriciaNonfiction2018Biography of a pioneering scientist.STEM, Fascinating People
K-2Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in NatureBarss, PatchenNonfiction2018Introduction to identifying patterns in nature.STEM
K-2Power UpFishman, SethNonfiction2019Introduction to how the human body is powered by energy.STEM
1-3In the PastElliott, DavidNonfiction, poetry2018A poetic introduction to the world of dinosaurs.STEM, Animals
1-3A Boy and a JaguarRabinowitz, AlanNonfiction, autobiography2014Alan Rabinowitz, a famous jaguar expert, tells the story of how becoming an advocate for animal conservation helped him overcome his stutter.STEM, Animals, Fascinating People, Social Emotional Development
1-3King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost ToothHillestad Butler, DoriFiction, mystery2018Kayla and her dog, King, investigate another mystery. Part of a series told King’s point of view.Social Emotional Development, Animals
1-3Summer in Savannah (Ana & Andrew)Platt, ChristineFiction2019Ana & Andrew travel to visit their grandparents in Savannah, Georgia. While they are there, they learn Grandma and Grandpa’s church was built by slaves. Part of the Ana & Andrew series.History, Social Emotional Development, Equity
1-3ImagineHerrera, Juan FelipeNonfiction, poetry, autobiography2018Poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera tells his own story about leaving home and finding yourself through an illustrated poem.Social Emotional Development, Fascinating People
1-3The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to ReadHubbard, Rita LorraineNonfiction2020The story of Mary Walker, who was born into slavery and learned to read at 116 years old.History, Social Emotional Development, Fascinating People
1-3Zoe & Sassafrass Book 1: Dragons and MarshmallowsCitro, AsiaFiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy2018Each story in the Zoey and Sassafras series features a new magical animal with a problem that must be solved using science.STEM, Adventure
1-3Most Perfect YouSimon, JazmynFiction2022Irie’s mother helps her come to love herself just as she is.Social Emotional Development
1-3Poppy & Sam the Leaf ThiefCathonFiction, Mystery2018Poppy and her panda friend, Sam, lead an investigation into a suspicious commotion.Friendship, Animals
1-3Dragon MastersTracey WestFiction, Fantasy2014Illustrated chapter book filled with dragons, wizards, and magic. Part of a series.Adventure
2-4Gross as a Snot Otter: Discovering the World’s Most Disgusting AnimalsKeating, JessNonfiction2019A collection of some of the world’s weirdest, wildest, and grossest creatures (and how what makes them gross also helps them survive).STEM, Animals
2-4Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space RaceShetterly, Margaret LeeNonfiction2018This book explores the pivotal contributions of African-American women mathematicians to America’s space program.STEM, Space, History
2-4Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories From IndiaSoundar, ChitraFiction2018A series of stories inspired by traditional Indian folktales featuring best friends Prince Veera and Suku.Adventure, Friendship, Cultural Connections
2-4The Dragon Slayer: Folktales From Latin AmericaHernandez, JaimeNonfiction, Graphic Novel2017Jaime Hernandez transforms beloved myths into bold, stunning, and utterly contemporary comics.Adventure, Cultural Connections
2-4Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food RemixMarin, Jacqueline BriggsNonfiction2017Famed chef Roy Choi explores how food not only means culture, but love.Cultural Connections
2-4Frankie Sparks and the Class PetBlakemore, Megan FrazerFiction2019Frankie Sparks, the self-proclaimed “best inventor int he third grade,” creates a tool to try to persuade her classmates that a rat would be the perfect class pet.STEM, Animals
2-4The Birchbark HouseErdrich, LouiseHistorical Fiction1999A seven-year-old member of the Ojibwe tribe lives through the joys of summer and the perils of winter on an island in Lake Superior in 1847.History, Cultural Connections
2-4Wedgie & GizmoFisinger, BarbaraFiction2017Gizmo, an evil genius guinea pig, is constantly thwarted by the lovable Corgi, Wedgie.Animals
2-4Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi QueenFlorence, Debbi MichikoFiction2017Eager to do something her big sister has not done first, Jasmine Toguchi decides to pound mochi with the men and bous when her family gets together to celebrate the New Year.Cultural Connections, Family
2-4Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orechestra of ParaguayHood, SusanNonfiction2016The true story of Favior Chavez, a music teacher who transforms Ada and her small town with a love of music.STEM, Fascinating People
3-5Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be YouSotomayor, SoniaFiction2019A book about how our differences make each of us unique.Social Emotional Development
3-5Kitten Construction CompanyGreen, John P.Fiction, Graphic Novel2018Marmalade is a trained architect who isn’t taken seriously because, well, she’s a kitten.Social Emotional Development, Equity
3-5Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two SlothsAnnable, GrahamFiction, Graphic Novel2018Peter and Ernesto are sloths. Peter and Ernesto are friends. But Peter and Ernesto are nothing alike.Social Emotional Development, Friendship
3-5Stella Diaz Has Something to SayDominguez, AngelaFiction2018Stella wants to be able to speak in front of the class, but sometimes she accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English, which makes her turn roja.Social Emotional Development, Cultural Connections
3-5Emmy in the Key of CodeLucido, AimeeFiction2019Emmy has never felt more out of place, but when she takes her first coding class things start to look up.STEM, Social Emotional Development, Friendship
3-5Front DeskYang, KellyFiction2018English is not Mia Tang’s first language, but she wants to be a writer. That’s not her only secret, either — her family lives and works in a motel. In the empty rooms they hide other immigrant families like theirs.Social Emotional Development, Cultural Connections
3-5Selena: Queen of Tejano MusicLopez, SilviaNonfiction2020The story of Selena Quintanilla, who faced an uphill battle to be come a star in a genre dominated by male performers.Cultural Connections, Fascinating People
3-5Rocket to the MoonBrown, DonNonfiction, Graphic Novel2019The history of rocket building, from ancient Chinese rockets to the moon landing.STEM
3-5Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a DisabilityBurcaw, ShaneNonfiction, autobiography2017A humorous, relatable, and honest glimpse into the life of Shane Burvaw, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy.Social Emotional Development, Equity
3-5Rutabega the Adventure ChefColossal, EricFiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy2015Rutabaga and his magic cooking pot, Pot, join young adventurers Winnifred, Manny, and Beef on a quest to defeat a dragon, discover new ingredients, find monsters to have for and/or to dinner, and to save the day through cooking. Adventure, Friendship
3-5Wow in the World presents Wow in the Wild: The Amazing World of AnimalsThomas, Mindy and Guy RazNonfiction2022A hilarious guide to creatures big and small.STEM, Animals
3-5The Magical Adventures of Phoebe and Her UnicornSimpson, DanaFiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy2020Phoebe and her unicorn best friend explore a world full of magical mysteries and adventure, taking on everything from cruel classmates to candy-breathing dragons.Adventure, Friendship
3-5Cucubmber Quest Book 1: The Donut KingdomD.G., GigiFiction, Webcomic, Graphic Novel2017The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a hero, Instead, they have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician, and his way more heroic sister, Almond.Adventure
3-5+Zita the SpacegirlHatke, BenFiction, Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi2011When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. First book in a series.Adventure, Space
3-5+The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian #1: The Fuzzy ApocalypseMessinger, JonathanFiction, Graphic Novel Sci-Fi2020When Explorer Troop 301 gets stuck on a planet that’s about to explode, Finn and his friends will have to face giant aliens, a leader with mind control powers, and one evil, fluffy bunny rabbit in order to save the planet and themselves.Adventure, Friendship, Space
4-6Pilu of the WoodsNguyen, Mai K.Fiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy2019A beautiful and bittersweet story of friendship, loss, and finding your way home.Social Emotional Development, Family
4-6Your Place in the UniverseChin, JasonNonfiction2020A book all about the mind-boggling scale of the known Universe.STEM, Space
4-6Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite MonstersBeccia, CarlynNonfiction2019The historical and cultural origins of eight famous monsters.History, STEM
4-6Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and InjusticeChambers, VeronicaNonfiction2018The stories of 35 people who changed the world by taking a stand.History, Social Emotional Development
4-6Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the WildThimmesh, CatherineNonfiction2018How humans are helping China’s panda population make a comeback.STEM, Animals
4-6Chasing SpaceMelvin, LelandNonfiction2017After his football career was cut short by an injury, Leland Marvin found a new dream that was literally out of this world.STEM, Space, Fascinating People
4-6StargazingWang, JenFiction, Graphic Novel2019Growing up in the same Chinese-American suburb, perfectionist Christine and impulsive Moon become unlikely best friends.Cultural Connections, Friendship, Social Emotional Development
4-6PashminaChanani, NidhiFiction, Graphic Novel2017Indian-American teen Priyanka attempts to reconnect to her mother’s homeland through a magical shawl.Cultural Connections, Family
4-6Witches of BrooklynEscabasse, SophieFiction, Graphic Novel2020When Effie moves to Brooklyn she discovers that her strange aunt might actually be a witch.Family
4-6Becoming RBGLevy, DeborahNonfiction, Graphic Novel2019The illustrated origin story of the one and only RBG.History, Fascinating People
4-6Each Tiny SparkCartaya, PabloFiction2019Emilia Torres struggles with ADHD, her controlling abuela, her mother’s job, and her father’s challenges after returning from deployment on top of her struggles with friendships and growing up. Family, Friendship, Social Emotional Development
4-6Finding LangstonCline-Ransome, LesaFiction2018A book of Langston Hughes’ poetry in the library helps a boy cope with the loss of his mother, moving north, and being bullied.Social Emotional Development, Fascinating People
4-6StarfishFipps, LisaFiction2021Ellie has been bullied for her weight, but now a swimming hobby, a kind therapist, and a new neighbor help her embrace her true self.Social Emotional Development, Friendship
4-6Get a Grip, Vivi CohenKapit, SarahFiction2020KEleven-year-old knuckleball pitcher Vivy Cohen, who has autism, becomes pen pals with her favorite baseball player after writing him a letter as part of a school assignment for a social skills class.Social Emotional Development
4-6Simon B. Rhymin’Reed, SwayneFiction2021Chicago fifth grader Simon Barnes is forced to confront his shyness and fear of public speaking to demonstrate his talens during an oral presentation at school.Social Emotional Development
4-6TwinsJohnson, VarianFiction, Graphic Novel2020Twins Maureen and Francine try to distinguish themselves by pursuing different interests at the beginning of 6th grade.Family, Social Emotional Development
4-6A PHO Love StoryLe, LoanFiction2021Two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.Family, Social Emotional Development, Cultural Connections
4-6Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story)Nayeri, DanielFiction, Autobiographical2020In an Oklahoman middle school, Khosrou (whom everyone calls Daniel) stands in front of a skeptical audience of classmates, telling the tales of his family’s history, stretching back years, decades, and centuriesCultural Connections, Family
4-6American as Paneer PieKelkar, SupriyaFiction, Autobiographical2020As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs.Cultural Connections, Family

It’s practically summer and the world feels open in a way it hasn’t for years. Many of us are traveling for the first time since this all began what felt like a lifetime ago (others may yet be avoiding travel, or traveling for the first time entirely—having not known life before COVID). Regardless of your recent travel itinerary (or lack thereof), what’s always been true is that traveling with children is no easy feat—and it’s even more challenging when traveling with neurodivergent children. Instead of testing the waters, in February, I decided to dive in head first, by taking my son to Dubai. Throughout our trip, as I encountered travel-related frustrations stemming from my son’s differentness, I repeatedly asked myself, “Can I let this go? Does it even matter since I’ll never see these people again?”  Pausing to assess each situation and surrounding, and redirect accordingly, helped us walk away with some beautiful lasting memories.

Letting Go and Getting Away

I was nervous about our trip to the UAE, considering what would likely be many challenges awaiting us along the way. Of course there were the usual airport problems that haven’t evaporated during the pandemic: long security lines, flight delays, and the like. Still, I was the most worried about being airborne for 16 hours straight with my son, who has ADHD. This would require a strict in-flight bedtime routine and frequent movement breaks. 

I booked us on Emirates, a known family-friendly airline. They do their best to keep families seated together, which is especially important when you have a child who benefits from reminders and monitoring to prevent behavior escalations. I selected seats that were in a row with only two seats and towards the back of the plane closer to the restrooms, leaving us with no third person to contend with for breaks—this was money well spent. I also intentionally booked a later flight that would coincide with my son’s regular bedtime so that I could enjoy a luxurious 10 hours of me-time. While he slept across my lap, I leisurely watched half a dozen movies and took a few short naps.  

How I Learned to Leave My Worries Behind and Enjoy Myself

When we landed in Dubai, I was impressed at how well my son managed the flight and the customs lines. He wasn’t jet-lagged, rather he was eager to explore the oceanfront—at 9 pm! I wanted to get him to bed and on the local schedule, but I decided to let it go. We headed out to the beach, where we were greeted with the Burj Al Arab lit up against a dark sky, reflecting off the ocean. That scene confirmed for me that ditching the bedtime routine was the right call for us that particular evening.  

It’s no mystery that neurodivergent children do much better with structure and routines. However, I was facing a week full of changes, so I needed to try my best to keep a looser framework during our trip when possible. Real life doesn’t always allow us to bring our routines (especially on vacation), and it’s during these times we have to make sacrifices in order to make the best experience possible.

The following morning, to my son’s delight, an endless colorful buffet of sugar and carbs waited for us at breakfast. He ran off and returned with a plate heaped full of donuts and pancakes, topped with syrup and powdered sugar. I weighed the consequences of the sweet-saturated pastries, and the impact it might have on his emotions and ability to self-regulate. I considered bringing him healthier options, like fruits and juice, etc., but then I thought some more and realized I didn’t want to test the full throwing-speed velocity of a banana. I decided then and there to let him enjoy his selections. Reflecting back on his smiling face covered in powdered sugar, I don’t regret this decision (not to mention—there is evidence that supports my ultimate decision). I resolved to sip my coffee as I watched him happily devour his sweets and bounce around energetically. For the rest of the week, we made a breakfast game: we decided to see how many donuts he could eat each morning, and we’d try to guess which colors the frosting would be. 

In another moment from our trip, we had to pivot while on a walking tour with a guide who was explaining the history of an older part of the city. My son was keen on the experience at first, but he lost interest when we got to the souks. He started jumping, freerunning, and tugging on my sleeve while the guide spoke in detail about the importance of dates (the fruit) to the local cuisine. It was clear; I recognized the signs that my son was over the walking tour. He had the eyes-glazed-over look of overstimulation caused by the crowds and loud surroundings. I abruptly changed course, explaining to the guide that we were going to have to turn back. I thanked him for his time and tipped him a little extra, but decided not to apologize and insinuate that my son was being rude—because I knew he wasn’t. His brain just works differently. However, I knew if we stuck around I’d soon have something to apologize for

More often than not, my son’s actions and unfiltered questions showed how excited and interested he was.

When I’m at home with friends and neighbors, I feel pressure to make my son conform to societal standards and make his behavior fit into the environment around us. I caught myself doing this in our hotel, when he was doing parkour through the lobby, off marble benches and down staircases. I chased after him, whisper-yelling things like “slow down” and “stop jumping.” Then I noticed a few other kids were running around (although not at his intensity) and decided that if other parents weren’t too concerned, why should I be?

More often than not, my son’s actions and unfiltered questions showed how excited and interested he was. He wasn’t being rude or misbehaving—he was enlivened and stimulated by his surroundings! I would never see these people again, but my son would carry these memories with him forever, and I wanted him to remember how happily we explored a new part of the world together.  

Thinking of Traveling This Summer? Here are a Few Things to Keep in Mind

  • COVID testing is an added step to traveling internationally (and even domestically in some areas). Make sure you plan ahead, and be sure to coordinate the testing dates with flights, and confirm the types of test required (consider paying extra for drive through testing or house-call visits). Our hotel concierge arranged a nurse to visit our room to administer our test before our return flight. It was as easy as calling him in from the pool for five minutes and was well worth the money. 
  • Remember to set realistic expectations that your children can handle during travel. Neurodivergen kids can successfully complete a trip with some help and a few compromises.  
  • The price of convenience can be invaluable and help mitigate situations like waiting in long lines or around large crowds. Upgrading your seats, choosing take-out vs. dining in, and purchasing event tickets ahead of time can help alleviate major stress.
  • Research your destination to find some outlets just for your kids. For example, I found a Bedouin ghost town to check out that was right up his alley. It was in the middle of the desert, covered in dunes; the perfect landscape for him to run, jump, and yell.
  • It’s okay to leave if an activity or event isn’t working for your family. You aren’t obligated to explain yourself or stay until the end. You know your kids best, if you know there is potential for an upset or meltdown, don’t hesitate to cut things short.
  • And of course don’t forget to pack screens (tablets, iPhones, etc.) ! Equally as important, download content ahead of time and bring an extra battery pack and charger.  Like them or not, we’ve all been there–screens can be a lifesaver for those unexpected bumps in the road. Here’s a list of some of the best iPad and iPhone games this year.

Conclusion

There is comfort to be found amongst strangers. Our trip gave my son the opportunity to be himself, with a clean slate for the duration of our travel. In Dubai, people weren’t expecting the “wild child” to show up, and any past mishaps didn’t follow him there. This allowed for a safe space where he could be himself. His confidence grew as he embraced a world where everyone was “different”: They were from another country, spoke different languages, dressed in different fashions, etc. All children, especially neurodivergent children, should have the chance to explore a world where their differences blend in with those around them, releasing them from the pressure of having to fit in, and allowing them to revel in the simple joys of childhood.

All children, especially neurodivergent children, should have the chance to explore a world where their differences blend in with those around them, releasing them from the pressure of having to fit in, and allowing them to revel in the simple joys of childhood.

About the Author

Kendra Demler is a single mom and parent writer living in the Bay Area. Her personal experiences have given her a talent for candidly retelling the good, the bad, and sometimes cringe-worthy adventures in neurodivergent and high-needs parenting. Raising her son as a solo parent has driven her passion for using her voice to spread awareness, increase acceptance, and provide support and resources for families of neurodivergent children.

Originally posted May 9, 2022, on LinkedIn. View original post.

Last week, my colleague Jess Corinne and I stepped off a plane in the quaint town of Billund, Denmark. 

Billund is a community of about 6,000. It’s known for its historic downtown, its colorful buildings, and for serving as the headquarters to one of the most popular toy companies in the world: LEGO. 

A few weeks ago, the Learnfully team was honored to be named to the inaugural LEGO Foundation “Play For All” Accelerator. The accelerator provides equity free funding and fixed term mentorship programs for social enterprises, ventures, and organizations who wish to support autistic children and children with ADHD with play-based learning.

We traveled to Billund for the kickoff meeting of the program. There we explained Learnfully and our vision to LEGO Foundation representatives, entrepreneurs, and neurodivergent advisors. We collaborated with other organizations, exchanging ideas on how to best serve the growing needs of neurodivergent learners through a wide range of solutions and channels. It was an eye-opening and productive week, and it reinvigorated our focus and passion as we head into the busy summer season. 

Aligning of Missions

Our mission at Learnfully is to ignite learning and unlock the potential of every learner. The LEGO Foundation’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.

One of the main reasons we were thrilled to be part of this LEGO Foundation accelerator is that we felt there was a great deal of overlap between our missions. Our work in the neurodivergent space has shown us just how differently people learn. Our many educational specialists, child development specialists, and therapists bring innovative techniques to our learners everyday – with the understanding that every learner is unique and that a strength and interest-based, personalized approach is the path to better outcomes. 

That’s because we all process information differently and many neurodivergent learners do not learn in the conventional ways supported in classrooms. They may be bored with traditional classrooms – even as they excel on testing. Or they may not be able to pay attention in class, but read extensively in their free time. They have tremendous strengths, but the traditional systems do not always accommodate their unique needs. Maybe they do well in school, but have a hard time with Social and Emotional Learning and Executive Functioning. 

Personalized learning and experiential learning are powerful ways to reach the 1 in 5 learners who are neurodivergent. Likewise, play is a vital way to communicate with these learners. In fact, Forbes reported that 87% of parents of a neurodivergent child used play or toys as a key mechanism to discuss these differences.

Like LEGO, we believe that this is an area that is ripe for innovation and investment. Too often children are given a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. We’re proud to play a part in working to change the system and provide supplemental services for all learners. 

Innovation in the Industry

But why have learning differences been overlooked and underinvested?


To begin with, many parents are guarded when it comes to discussing the challenges facing their children. They’ve done this for good reasons, but it’s often hindered progress: companies and investors haven’t seen how massive a need or market this is. In fact, our own studies show that more than 40% of parents suspect their child has a learning disability or has been diagnosed with one, more than double that of generally accepted neurodiversity figures. 

And the investment that has flowed into the industry has addressed other issues. LEGO states: “To date, investment has largely focused on furthering the understanding of causes and diagnosis, and education-technology is mostly adapted to, not developed for, neurodivergent children. This has created a funding gap between scientific research and innovation, meaning that investment does not address some of the most critical and basic needs of neurodivergent children.”

The Play for All accelerator tackles this gap head on, with $20 million earmarked for organizations who are helping “provide all children an equal opportunity to exercise the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century.”

What we learned in Denmark

It can be lonely as an entrepreneur in a space that hasn’t received much attention. It’s even more lonely during a global pandemic. 

Our trip to Billund helped us feel more connected to other entrepreneurs in the space. It also validated our mission: many other founders were like us in that they have neurodivergent children and felt society can do better on including and supporting them. It showed us that the challenges facing the neurodivergent aren’t just limited to the U.S.; but rather, there are wide ranging needs on a global level. 

It was inspiring to see so many startups tackling these challenges. It was inspiring to see all their different approaches. And while we all have a different method to address these issues, we have the same collective mission: we want a future that is better for our children.