Diverse Minds - Destigmatizing Learning Differences

Blake Cesarz

By all accounts, Mozart was a genius. At the age of five, he could play almost anything on the piano, not only that, he could play it upside down and backwards too. Most of us though, wouldn’t be half as good as that even if we spent a lifetime working on it. Thankfully, the market for upside-down and backwards piano playing isn’t really booming.

Instead, what is driving markets today are things like disruptive innovation and diversity. In this current environment, learning and attention challenges are easily viewed as disadvantages, but the neurodiversity that non-traditional learners exhibit is quickly becoming an important resource in a fast-paced global economy. We need people who see things differently and who can identify new opportunities, unexpected solutions, and hitherto unimagined possibilities. We need and have needed leaders like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk, as well as thinkers like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford.

Interestingly enough, most of the folks in the preceding list have had to overcome dyslexic disorders, while Elon Musk, perhaps the greatest visionary of our time, publicly stated that his day to day experiences are filled with “great highs, terrible lows, and unrelenting stress,” all of which highlight the importance of looking after one’s mental health in a high stakes position. It might be surprising, then, that there is such a stigma levied against individuals with learning differences and even more so against those with mental health issues.

Why are we afraid to ask for the help we need and why do we resent others who receive that help?

The truth is that fair defines a situation where everyone gets what they need and not a situation where everyone gets exactly the same. Here at the SALT Center, we don’t view learning challenges or mental health issues as stigmas. We endeavor to create an environment where our students feel safe, where they can ask for and receive the support they need. We believe that individuals with learning differences and those who struggle with issues related to mental health, if properly supported, have as much as anyone else to contribute and we know that ensuring their success guarantees greater prosperity for us all.