Dr. Maureen Dunne: Neurodiversity and the Power of Play

by The Bloom Report | 07 Apr 2022

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

As we kick off Autism Acceptance month, it's a perfect time to contemplate the extraordinary power of "Play" to help actualize the full potential of neurodivergent children.

 

Neurodiversity refers to a strength-based framework for understanding conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and other cognitive typologies as existing within the normal variation in the human population.

 

While there are many strategies to help neurodivergent children better adjust, develop, and blossom, "play" has not been given due attention as a potentially powerful part of that process. And yet, Play has such potential because children of all types are naturally drawn into it for their own reasons and by their own natural motivation to have fun, explore, create, and enjoy interesting interactive possibilities with stimulating feedback systems.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) now estimates that one billion people, or approximately 15% of the global population has some form of disability and 1 in every 160 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Global estimates also suggest at least 5% of the global population fits diagnostic criteria for AD(H)D, whether officially diagnosed or not.

 

In other words, the need is there.

 

The motivation should be there as well because when neurodivergent children develop within a context of understanding, value, and empowerment, then we all stand to benefit from their extraordinary potential to contribute.

 

Neurodivergent children who think and learn differently have gone on to change the world as innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists. Barbara McClintock, for instance, received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Alan Turing is credited with developing the first modern computer. Albert Einstein did not speak until the age of 3 but completely revolutionized our understanding of the universe. And American artist Andy Warhol pioneered the Pop Art movement. But far too often, such children grow up to be undervalued and untapped resources, never actualizing their true potential. This is how we all lose out.

 

This week, LEGO Foundation launched an equity free accelerator fund and fixed term mentorship program for social enterprises, ventures and organizations who wish to support autistic children and children with ADHD with play-based learning.

 

The Play for All Accelerator will provide up to USD $20 million of funding to 25 companies, organizations and/or social enterprises from around the world with the first cohort scheduled to kick-off later this month. To learn more about the program or to register your interest in a future cohort, please visit: https://www.playforallprogramme.com/.

 

Autism Acceptance month Neurodiversity