Emily Kenna explains why she is on a mission to see society embrace people that are different
Iwant to talk about neurodiversity and my passion to see our sector, and society, embrace it. My children really changed my life, particularly my son. He is nine and non-verbal autistic. People often ask me about this: “He can’t say a word? Not even mummy or daddy?” No, he can’t say a word. Believe me, we have wished for it – to hear him speak – but just as others can’t see or hear, our son can’t speak. In addition to the lack of voice (although he is very loud with his screams and noises), he, like many autistic people, suffers with social interactions – he doesn’t play or have friends. But I believe he has a lot to give to society.
My fear is that society will not let him because we aren’t great at dealing with people who are different, despite what we say.
I have seen this in work cultures and the school system. He started at mainstream school because I didn’t want him shut away. He would have to adapt to the world we are in, just as much as I felt people needed to understand him – that we aren’t all the same.
Sadly, the mainstream didn’t want him and he is now in a special school, but we tried and he seems happy where he is now. I would love to promote a school system where all children can mix at some point during the school day to understand that these communities of ‘special’ children exist. I do think it is improving but it’s not there yet.
Perhaps it is because the school system is not there in terms of promoting collaboration that we are still failing in our work communities. There is a lot of talk about promoting neurodiversity but I wonder, are we so focused on commercial results that we do not put the social agenda at the forefront of our organisations?
In 2019, I became an Appointed Representative and this year, my husband and I started our own directly authorised brokerage because we want to give our son the opportunity to play a part in society one day, hopefully working with us. We are a long way off that, but he is still young and we have time, so while I feel that we are only at the start of a different path, I am grateful we have had the courage to leave one path and start on another. Our son has been instrumental in making that change.
I am excited for this new journey to effect positive change, not just for our family but also for those that feel the same way across our sector.
Emily Kenna is director of Sense Risk Solutions Ltd