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Neurodiversity Champion Julia Harris is on a Mission to Radically Change the Education System.

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Co-Women are proud to invite guest author Julia Harris to tell you about her groundbreaking organisation The Painted Umbrella, and how you can support their Crowdfunder today.

Julia Harris; founder of The Painted Umbrella.

I am a neurodivergent (ADHD+) mum of two neurodivergent boys, and one of the Messy Women tribe.

Starting from a vibrant idea The Painted Umbrella, is a campaign and a CIC social enterprise, driven 90% by women, with a board of directors that is predominantly neurodivergent and ‘messy women’. TPU is founded on the idea of offering free Neurodiversity Champion training to artists, entertainers and performers and neurodivergent individuals. To send them into schools and communities with fun engaging workshops and resources.

At 50 years old, I have personal experience of how, historically, neurodivergent girls in a standardised mainstream education process and ‘traditional’ parenting, made for ‘messy women’ more often than not. Unfortunately, I also have experience of how prevalent the same situation (and worse!) is still true today.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my messy. I love my vibrance, my don’t-fit-the-mould or expectations or limitations manner, and the high levels of affective presence, lower inhibition level and ‘what box?’ thinking that I can bring to a workplace or event. My life experiences, current levels of financial security, likely shorter life span and increased chances of a premature death, due to poor understanding and management of my neurological differences throughout my life, not so much. TPU wants things to be different for our divergent young people. Now, preferably, but as rapidly as possible following that. We want their life experiences to be, and include, educational and celebratory affirmation of their neurological differences. Understanding that their challenges in meeting the unwritten expectations of mainstream, are actually their own strengths and ‘super powers’. Covid -19 has had a massive impact on our work as entertainers, and on the fundraising for our project. We were aiming to get into schools with Neurodiversity Champions as early as May. We wanted to bring the science and well evidenced methods of education and behaviour ‘management’ into everyday conversation in schools and communities. To start turning around the rather too large and powerful vestiges of an old system and attitudes that do not work well. Not only for our neurodivergent youth, but judging by the statistics on youth mental health issues, for many of our young people. It’s not time to let go though. The upheaval and current alternate educational provision could be a wonderful time for us to achieve so much. Families will be much more actively engaged in the educational process, and children will be learning the ways in which they learn and engage best as individuals.

The next few days are very important to our fundraiser. We are part of the Natwest bank backed Bring It 2020 fundraising campaign competition for female entrepreneurs. Prizes between £2020 and £10,000 are up for grabs. Natwest has already matched out backing with an additional £500 and a prize in the competition will help us dive into our work at this time even more impactfully.

This is our fundraising page with more details and where you can meet some of the team.

We would love to have your support. This week even a small donation could help us win a prize and turn out to be massive!!

If you work for a charitable organisation supporting vulnerable women or neurodiversity and would like to submit a guest blog, contact us here.

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