Riley Jones with his class 9LW delivering their Chapel service 

"Diversity" by Year 9 student Riley Jones

Imagine that you’re walking through a shopping mall on your way to meet your friends. Now watch this video clip about how different and difficult it can be for an autistic person, doing exactly the same thing. Now watch this one

 Every little detail makes his experience so much different and more difficult. You saw little snippets of all the sensations he experienced. Did you notice how he used his hands to try to calm himself down? In this sermon I’m going to be talking about what ASD is and understanding autism. Then I will be persuading you that we should be accepting of everyone for who they are, by celebrating a neuro diverse world.

Firstly let's get to know a little bit about ASD. ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is basically a condition where people can find it hard to socialise, read body language and interact with others. People with autism also find it difficult to accept changes in routine. They have different ways of coping like, counting, flapping their hands, or rocking to name a few. There are different degrees of autism. Someone who is very mild might just struggle with socialising and might need a routine. Someone with severe autism may be non-verbal and to us will appear to be locked in their own world. The Autism Speaks website says that: 1 in 59 children have an autistic spectrum disorder and more people are starting to be diagnosed with it every year. It is a hidden disability which means that you can’t just look at a person and tell if they are diagnosed with it. You have to watch what they do and how they interact with the world. Scientists are discovering that people with ASD are born with brains which are wired differently, they see the world differently and they think differently. I think that this is not wrong, it is just different to neurotypical people - neurotypical meaning people who do not have ASD. So, do you think it is okay to be different? Now this video on where it just talks a little bit about autism. Now do you have an answer to the question I just asked about being different if so, I hope your answer is something like, “Yes - it is okay to be different”.

Now my second point is that we need to be accepting of everyone. I believe that accepting people is what we should be doing, and that just because someone is different or acts differently doesn’t make it an error, but more something we should be looking into. Some people believe that people who have autism and other neurological conditions like ADHD are considered to be dysfunctional and they are diagnosed with the name of a disorder or disability. Now let’s take those three words. Dysfunctional, Disorder, Disability. What does ‘dis’ mean? It means not, apart or having a negative or reversing force. Are we saying that people who have ASD, or even those who are disabled have a negative effect on the world? Do you remember the quote in the video which was, ”Just because a playstation can’t read an x-box game, it doesn’t mean it’s broken.” This means that not everyone's the same because the playstation is just not meant to work for an x-box, and that is the same for an autistic person. People with ASD all have strengths and weakness just the same as neurotypical people do. We are so concerned with trying to make the people with disabilities act like the neurotypical people, but we are not trying to make the people who are neurotypical fit in with the people with disabilities. Do you remember the Duck or Rabbit question? I saw a duck, but what did you see? This shows you that all our brains work differently and we see different things, and that is okay. It isn’t that I’m right and you’re wrong. We should be accepting of all people for who they are, no matter how they think, or even what their race, religion or gender or is. And this leads to my next point - diversity.

When we think about diversity, we usually think about race, gender or religion, but there is another type of diversity you may not know about. It is called neuro-diversity. This is a concept meaning someone whose brain is wired differently should be respected and not excluded. So what are the advantages of a neuro diverse world? Well the ‘Institute4Learning’ believes that it will provide different and unusual ways of thinking. It might give answers to problems that wouldn’t otherwise have been thought of. ‘Now This’ also believe that there is too little attention given to people who have neurological differences, to be accepted for themselves. I think we should be celebrating our strengths and not be put down for things just because it is not what neurotypical people do. Would you like it if you kept being put down just because you have a disability or because you’re gay, or a certain race or follow a different religion? I don’t think that anyone deserves to be put down because of this. Some people believe that this neurodiversity is an evolution of our species which has been happening on earth for over 10,000 years. I can’t believe that we haven’t noticed it until now. So neurodiversity should definitely start being thought about more.

So what can we do to be a neuro diverse world? Well don’t laugh at people with ASD because their brain is getting too much information and that can cause a lot of stress. ‘Amazing Things Happen’ believe that when an autistic person is stressed, the worst thing you can do is laugh at them because this causes even more stress for the person. We should also just accept people for who they are.

Celebrating differences is something we should now be doing no matter how big, small, skinny or wide someone is, or what their eye colour is and I could continue to make a list that goes on forever, but I’m not going to do that. Instead I personally think that whatever or whoever you are, you should be accepted..

What I mean that is that the whole world isn’t going to stop spinning or your life isn’t going to turn to custard just because someone around you looks different or acts differently. Google says that the definition of diversity is understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences through acceptance and respect. I have got an idea of my own for having a diverse society which is not just to respect and accept people, but also to admire them and learn about how they can add value to our world. God has put us all here for a reason and I think it is to learn from our differences. This is a great opportunity which we should definitely take.

So the main points to take from this sermon are that... Autistic people can be different. The prefix ‘dis’ should not be used to label any of these conditions. Neurodiversity should be recognised. God put every person in this world for a reason and overall we should be celebrating differences by being nice to everyone, no matter what. 

This sermon on "Diversity" by presented at a Chapel service by Year 9 student, Riley Jones