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Students Present On Their Experiences With Neurodiversity

Pictured: Student Alex Radinsky, social worker Kiera Heller and student Nattie Martin.

Photo courtesy the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District

To promote acceptance and understanding, students and staff across the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District celebrated Autism and Neurodiversity Acceptance Month with various events and activities in April.

Students Nattie Martin, a sophomore, and Alex Radinsky, a senior, prepared a presentation about their experiences with neurodiversity on April 16 at Sanford H. Calhoun High School.

“You have to understand what it is before diving into it,” Radinsky began the discussion. “We all think, feel, observe and learn differently. A neurodivergent person can have just one disorder or a variety of them.”

“My goal in speaking to you all today is to inform and educate more people on neurodivergence from a perspective of a neurodivergent person,” added Martin. “Often times education is often done by neurotypicals, or parents of neurodivergent people and I feel like we should give more neurodivergent people a voice.”

Radinsky echoed a similar sentiment of wanting to “educate the community at Calhoun about neurodivergence, so that we can make it a more welcoming place.”

Neurodiversity is represented by a rainbow infinity sign, explained the pair.

“The rainbow represents a spectrum, which shows that neurodiversity is a spectrum, and the infinity sign shows that there are infinite ways to be neurodivergent,” added Radinsky.

Martin noted that being a neurodivergent “in a world that isn’t designed for you isn’t easy.”

“We all have coping mechanisms to deal with it,” she explained. They each listed art, music, reading, cosplay, animals and more as some examples.

Radinsky also travels the country speaking on panels at cosplay and fan-based conventions about nondivergence and her experiences in effort to educate others.

“My goal is to speak about how people can go to conventions without their disability holding them back,” she added.

Martin recently visited her elementary school, Chatterton, to reach a younger audience about the topic.

Additionally, Martin spoke at the April 3 board meeting, addressing trustees during the public speaking session. She encouraged the district to consider changing verbiage from Autism Awareness Month to Autism and Neurodivergent Acceptance Month, as well as utilizing the infinity sign instead of the puzzle piece. Martin explained that both are more universally known and being utilized within the community.

“The next day, one of our board members, Megan Ryan, who is the interim CEO of Nassau University Medical Center, went in and changed the symbols at NUMC as a result of Nattie’s words,” explained Superintendent Michael Harrington explained at the April 16 presentation. “What you two are accomplishing just makes us all so proud.”

At each event, participants in each event were asked to fill out paper infinity symbols with what makes them unique and special. These individual symbols were planted throughout the month to form a rainbow infinity tree.

Kiera Heller, a social worker who works closely with Radinsky and Martin and helped to organize the presentation, said the students “have taught her so much.”

“I never thought that I could learn from students this much and they really have changed by perspective,” she explained. “I try to bring it back to our department here and they have prompted me to sign up to learn more through workshops and other trainings.”

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