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.