MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Institute Of Neurodiversity Launches In Europe And Australia

The Institute of Neurodiversity aims to create an equal and inclusive world.
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The Institute of Neurodiversity (ION) launches to give a voice to all neurodiverse individuals across the world.

According to a press release, ION’s purpose is to influence an equal and inclusive world in which neurodivergent people are well understood, represented and valued. Its vision is to be a significant part of developing a world where neurodivergent individuals are spotlighted for the positive as opposed to the negative.

What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is one form of diversity. Neurodiverse groups include ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and Tourette syndrome. People who are “neurotypical” are those whose brain works in the way that society expects.

The term neurodiversity describes these natural variations in the human brain, which affect sociability, learning, attention, and mood. Judy Singer, the sociologist, coined the term in 1998 and journalist Harvey Blume helped to popularise the word.

What Is ION?

The organisation was founded by former chair of the Institute of Directors and governance expert, Charlotte Valeur. Valeur has had a 35-year career in financial services and the broader corporate world as a non-executive director. While at the Institute of Directors, she revealed in an interview with The Independent that she was autistic.

ION aims to have 1 million members drawn from 100 countries by 2025. Today (15 November) it starts in operations in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia. More is to follow. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland and is the world’s only umbrella organisation that represents all neurodiverse groups.

“We’re a vertical slice of society—in all colours, cultures, industries, countries, we are doctors, we are cleaners, we are everywhere,” says Valeur. “Neurodiverse individuals all have different ways of thinking that have value.

“The route to equality for us all is not through making society comfortable with our existence, it is to educate society into breaking down those barriers and being inclusive of all types of viewpoints in the world,” she explains.

What Is ION Hoping To Achieve?

By bringing all neurodiverse groups together, ION aims to create a single, unified community that supports and celebrates the multitude of contributions of neurodivergent people throughout all sections of society. Unfortunately, neurodiversity has long been regarded as something to “overcome” or assimilate. This is a view ION seeks to challenge.

To this end, ION will lobby government and industry, the education and charity sectors, to promote a greater understanding of the reality of being neurodiverse. It will also work toward eliminating institutional discrimination.

Some of the things the organisation has outlined it will work on are:

  • Building more awareness around the reality of being neurodiverse.
  • Ensuring neurodiverse voices are part of educational, research and mental health programmes developed for our community.
  • Providing leadership training.
  • To provide networking opportunities to foster a deeper sense of community among neurodiverse groups.

Who Is The UK Lead Of ION?

ION is also taking on challenging research programmes on neurodiverse groups by highlighting the unintended, future consequences that research might have. Another is to call for reform to common conversion therapies that aim to “cure” neurodiversity. However, these include cruel practices and have misguided aims of changing neurodivergent people to be different from what they naturally are.

Morwenna Stewart, who is leading the UK launch and will host podcast ION Stories, says: “After our global launch in October, I’m delighted to lead the launch of ION in the UK. There are many wonderful neurodiverse/divergent people and businesses globally.

“At ION we’re excited to bring that work under one umbrella and to welcome our one million members by 2025. Each country franchise—overseen by ION Global, Switzerland—will help to make a world that celebrates neurodiverse people, so they can thrive and contribute their best.”

You might also be interested in viewing the recording of this Make A Difference webinar:

New Webinar: How to Inclusively Support the Wellbeing of Neurodiverse Colleagues in a Hybrid World of Work