On Monday 13th March, the long-awaited and highly anticipated ‘It Takes All Kinds Of Minds’ (ITAKOM) Conference was kicked off by the incredible and inspirational, Sophie Dow, at the EICC. The conference focused on the far-reaching concept of neurodiversity. Over the course of two days, it brought together people with lived experiences of various neurodiverse conditions such as Epilepsy, ADHD, Autism and Dyslexia; Professors; Doctors; Researchers and PhD students (to name a few!) in a supportive and thriving environment. Both days were jam-packed with talks; workshops; panel sessions and more!
On Day 1, MMEC’s Prof. Richard Chin was a panellist in the session ‘No Mind Left Behind…At The Clinic’. During the session, panel members discussed their thoughts, experiences and work on different topics including why it’s important that health services become more neurodiversity-informed; and how to allow neurodiverse people working within health services to flourish and improve their working conditions. It was acknowledged that health services do not operate in a vacuum and that users and providers represent the wider society. Therefore, one way to tackle this is to address it more widely by increasing awareness of neurodiversity. It was also highlighted how other inequalities, such as those based on race, sexual identity and mental health are being addressed by greater and more positive inclusion within high visibility settings, for example in TV programmes and films; therefore, a similar approach should be adopted for neurodiversity as well. The focus doesn’t need to simply be on resources, as increased awareness would facilitate innovation. For example, raising awareness of individuals with anxiety caused by a sudden change in routine/plans could lead to increased efforts into planning ahead for those individuals to help manage their anxiety. The importance of encouraging flexibility in how services are planned and delivered via discussions with neurodiverse users and service providers was also highlighted in the session.
On Day 2, our Voluntary Head of Social Media, Holly Wagner, gave a talk about what it is like to live with epilepsy, from her initial diagnosis as a young teenager to the present day. It was the first time she had spoken at a public event about this, but it was clear that the audience were captivated and moved based on their responses both in person and on social media. Holly’s talk provided a very open and honest insight into the things people might not be aware of when it comes to living with epilepsy, and it was clear from feedback that audience members went away with a much better understanding of the condition and hopefully, an ability to empathise more. As her talk came to a close, Holly said that she hoped what she had shared would lead to more acceptance and accommodation towards people with epilepsy, and we think her talk will do just that.
As a whole, the conference was a fantastic opportunity to learn about multiple neurodiverse conditions in depth; establish useful and meaningful connections with people from all around the world; ask questions; and contribute thoughts and ideas. There was a very strong sense of community and support throughout the two days, which made the conference even more enjoyable for Holly and Richard. Some key take-aways included how important lived experience stories are and that it is so important to raise awareness of neurodiverse conditions.
In relation to epilepsy, the conference provided an incredible platform for Holly and Richard to raise awareness of the condition and share their thoughts and experiences with a large, diverse and international audience, which was extremely valuable.
As the conference came to a close, it was clear that people had not only absorbed lots of information, but many had also been touched by some of the talks and the positive environment that everyone at ITAKOM created.
Thank you to all involved in ITAKOM, but especially to the wonderful Sophie Dow. It has been an experience that Holly and Richard will treasure.
(Photo credit: Jess Shurte)