Welcome to BRAINHE
Brain.HE is a non-commercial/non-profit-making resource website for students and staff in higher education. We are hosted by neuroknowhow.com. In 2015, BRAIN.HE reached its 10th anniversary. It was founded at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.
This website has been an archive for several years. It is not being updated, because we do not know of anyone with both the knowledge and the time to do this. We no longer have any funding to support such work. However, we believe that visitors to this site will still find useful material here.
Accessibility is a key aspect for us. We are aware that at present, this site contains a lot of text (printed words). Originally, we had a toolbar which allowed site users to adjust the appearance of the pages and to hear text spoken. This would be replaced if anyone were to sponsor it. There is a free text-to-speech engine here which is nice and clear, but you have to copy and paste the text into it.
We support the 'social model of disability' and use the term neurodiversity to encompass the types of brain currently associated with 'specific learning difficulties' (UK) and 'learning disabilities' (USA), as well as Meares-Irlen syndrome, Tourette's, stroke survivors and mental well-being issues. Click here for information about the history of BRAINHE.
The Holist Manifesto
The holist manifesto is based on principles of the social model of disability and neurodiversity. It is also underpinned by two realisations that were first articulated in the Bagatelle Model of specific learning differences (Cooper, 2010). The first is that all people with specific learning ‘difficulties’ have two things in common: a strong need to process information holistically for them to be meaningful and difficulties with working memory. The second realisation is that apparent ‘difficulties’ with working memory are a product of a strong need to process information holistically, since unlike sequential processing, holistic processing requires imagination rather than working memory. This then makes holistic learners vulnerable to the charge of appearing to have ‘difficulties’ with any process which requires working memory. (Sequential thinkers could be vulnerable to the charge of a lack of imagination, but sadly, schools are rarely concerned with this inability).
The school sector is dominated by the requirement to process information sequentially, depending on working memory and indeed rote learning creating significant barriers to holistic learners. This is largely because education serves the fundamental purpose of social reproduction. This requires a close control over what is learned, how it is learned, in what order, and how it is assessed. Consequently, holistic learners are unintentional casualties of this arbitrary imposition. We are systematically invalidated, bullied, humiliated, punished, medicated and imprisoned. Yet holistic thinkers (notwithstanding their apparent ‘difficulties’) are at the forefront of original thinking, problem solving and creative endeavours. The world needs us rather more than we need them. The political implications are that we need to challenge the imposition of sequential thinking, teaching and assessment. There should be no tyranny of ‘experts’, no ‘remediation’ without representation. Holistic approaches and values should be supported in a context of the free association of ideas. Together we represent at least 20% of the population. We are entitled to be different and to learn and work differently for the benefit of all. This is not just about education, it is time for a political and social agenda of neuro-liberation.
BRAIN.HE supports this manifesto. The text above is an abstract of Ross Cooper's full manifesto, which can be seen here.
What is Neurodiversity?
We prefer the word neurodiversity to other words or phrases, not only because we include such a range of brain types (which may not always be associated with an educational context), but also because it is a more "user friendly" term. Within neurodiversity, we include stroke survivors and those with mental health issues. Terminology is a tricky issue and there are different views of the term 'neurodiversity'. The late Mary Colley from the UK Developmental Adult Neurodiversity Association (DANDA) had some thoughts on this subject.
- The Wikipedia entry on neurodiversity can be found here.
- Opposing views to the concept of neurodiversity: Generation Rescue & F.E.A.T
- This diagram aims to show the overlaps between many of the types of neurodiversity. It is our first attempt at such a thing, and is based on the work of Mary Colley of the UK DANDA. We welcome comments on it, and links to any similar work elsewhere.
- We support a social model of dyslexia, and recommend this statement of it, written by Dr Ross Cooper, formerly of London South Bank University. The Adult Dyslexia Organisation in the UK also has a similar statement.
- Dr Cooper also has some video blogs about the social model of dyslexia and a new paradigm of specific learning differences (called the Bagatelle model). You can see them by following this link .
- Brainhe supports the social model of disability which underpins the concept of neurodiversity. Our paper on the topic by Ed Griffin can be found here. We also like this article on applying the social model to health and social care services.
- Dr Armstrong’s website provides some detailed and interesting ideas about neurodiversity here.
Achieveability was set up in London by high achieving dyslexic people who work in education and training. It offers a range of courses, workshops, projects and events.
In March 2015, they held a meeting in parliamentary premises in London:
‘The future for Dyslexic Neurodiverse Communities’ covered what can work and what changes can happen for greater cohesive involvement of dyslexic and neurodiverse individuals in our society.
The themes which came from the meeting are:
1. Collective Voice:
The meeting expressed a collective voice that called for social justice equality to ensure the recognition of diversity of intelligence, and opportunities to express knowledge and skill utilising that wider range of intelligences.
2. Teacher Training, education and exams : The debate recognised the urgent need for embedded teacher training on dyslexia and neurodiversity so that education can become inclusive. In particular, exams must be changed so that they can capture our intellectual contributions, rather than disable us.
3. Human value: The meeting asserted our capacity to make a hugely positive, creative and innovative contribution, but, in contrast, endemic disabling systems often mean that we become demonised as a drain on social resources. Thus this situation continues a huge loss to society of dyslexic and neurodiverse talent, which impoverishes the world.
4. Social model of dyslexia and neurodiversity: There was a strong consensus that dyslexia and neurodiversity is about difference, not disability. But a clear recognition that our community is disabled, incapacitated and invalidated by current social and educational systems leading to the experience of difficulties for individuals. However, we flourish where we are valued for who we are, and allowed to express and develop our ways of holistic thinking. This is a human right, and is largely protected by current legislation even though it is rarely enforced.
5. Social inclusion, social justice and equality and the workplace : Dyslexia is currently misperceived as primarily an academic issue, when most of us are positioned in the practical world, even if the evidence is that we are more likely to be excluded from education and employment. This is despite our great successes in the creative industries, entrepreneurial activity and the caring professions. Greater emphasis should be placed on the dyslexic and neurodiverse lived experience and our on shared voice articulating the changes from which the whole society would benefit.
6. Strategy: The meeting argued for collective action, a 5 year strategic plan to match the political timetable, closer staging posts such as a call for more dyslexia awareness focused on our strengths, and a specific need to change assessment systems and processes so that they become more inclusive and accessible and thereby support academic standards more effectively.
BRAINHE supports these excellent principles, and urges all UK users of this site to lobby their MPs in support of them. If you live in another country, let your legislators know about this British initiative! Ask them for action!