'There is strength in neurodiversity - we just need to see it'

Neil Barbour and his daughter Daisy.
Credit: Neil Barbour
Neil Barbour and his daughter Daisy. Credit: Neil Barbour

There's strength in neurodiversity - we just need to see it, writes ITV News Anglia content editor Neil Barbour.

In 2018, my daughter Daisy was diagnosed as autistic.

She was two years old, and the signs had been increasing. Daisy had been developing like any other child. She was speaking in full sentences, reciting books out loud, interacting with family.

Then, gradually, she lost all of her speech. She became detached from the world. When she looked at you, it was as if you weren't there.

Since then, so much has changed. Daisy's life, our lives, are completely different.

That doesn't mean our lives are bad. 

There are daily challenges, but also moments of pure joy. Credit: ITV News Anglia

I've been reporting on the crisis in the special educational needs and disabilities - or SEND - system ever since Daisy's diagnosis, and what I've found has often been harrowing.

Families pushed to the brink, financially and emotionally. Children systematically failed, councils and schools doing more with less.

It's really hard to see any positives in this story. But there are.

The people I've met, and spoken to, are almost always equipped with extraordinary strength. They have to be.

They face daily battles for provision; unusual fights for things we might expect to be easy; anxiety and pressure beyond comprehension.

But they also find joy in the most unlikely places. It could be the first word of a child who hasn't spoken for years. Or the first time they interact with a friend.

Those highs are so much more intense - and incredibly strengthening.

"She brings joy we never expected, and laughter every day." Credit: Neil Barbour

Almost every parent, teacher and professional I've spoken to will tell you they are better people because of the neurodiverse and disabled children they have in their lives.

It's still difficult for the children and adults who face daily challenges, but you become a more inclusive, understanding person. 

You're less judgemental of others, more accepting of the differences in our world. 

I've said before that I feel lucky. Lucky that Daisy is in a good school, and has good provision. But I'm also lucky because of the difference Daisy has made.

She's 7 now, and still doesn't talk. She has changed my life, and the lives of those she loves. She brings joy we never expected, and laughter every day. 

Her life, and the lives of thousands of neurodiverse and disabled children and adults, should be easier. 

If you speak to anyone who is neurodiverse, they'll tell you things are getting better, slowly, but tolerance, acceptance and true inclusivity is still a way off.

The people I've spoken to show that there is strength in neurodiversity, we just need to see it. 

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