by Fiona Barrett
Not everyone shines at school. There can be many reasons for this, but the biggest one is the difficulty of those with neurodiverse conditions such as Dyslexia and ADHD. Access to the world of employment and self-sufficiency in adult life, is through the key building blocks of learning techniques, self-confidence and basic life skills such as literacy and numeracy. Without these skills, young people find that their difficulties at school are repeated in difficulties getting and keeping jobs, and functioning in the adult world. This can lead to despair, offending, and dropping out from society.
Genius Within works with learners at HMPYOI Rochester who have a variety of complex needs and often have extremely negative experiences of formal education. These young people need tools and techniques tailored to help them break away from the cycle of reoffending.
Genius Within CIC is a social enterprise established in 2011 to help people with neurodiversities to fulfill their potential in employment and life. We are working towards a future where all adults with Specific Learning Difficulties / neurodiversities will be able to maximise their potential and work to their strengths; where those with problems at work or in custody receive the diagnosis, coaching and support that they need.
Through the work we are delivering in HMPYOI Rochester, we have won the award for ‘European Social Fund Project of the Year’. It is an honour for the company to be recognised for our work, and also vindication of our assertion that everyone can be helped to learn the skills necessary to enter the world of work and be a full contributing member of society.
Genius Within, which is co-funded by the European Social Fund and National Offender Management Service Co-financing Organisation, provides a specialist service to ensure offenders with neurodiversity are equipped to get the most out of mainstream support networks. When I heard that we were nominated for the ESF award for the work that we are doing with the young offenders in Rochester; I was really pleased. I feel honoured that the work we are doing on the CF03 project has been recognised, and I hope that the nomination means we will continue to grow our client base with more neurodiverse offenders in Rochester and not just 18 to 21-year-olds.
I’m proud that the work we carry out with the young offenders has made a positive impact and has gained national recognition for Genius Within CIC. I am passionate about helping young people to achieve their full potential; especially neurodiverse individuals. Many of the young people we work with end up in custody because they had always been told what they could not do, and what their barriers were; emphasising the negatives of being neurodiverse.
Genius Within’s ‘Memory Genius’ course does the complete opposite; we work with the young men to create awareness of the unique strengths of neurodiverse thinkers, and it’s quite profound to watch the transformation that takes place in such a short space of time with these young men. Once they realise they have unique strengths in areas that other people (neuro-typical) do not. I believe this engenders self-efficacy amongst the young men, as they learn to develop strategies to manage some of the difficulties and also focus on utilising their strengths.
This project proves that, whatever your background, education or life story, it is never too late to learn. Whatever the barriers have been to getting through education and into satisfying, productive work, they can be overcome. Whatever your reservations about starting again to learn and move forward, there will be resources and people to help you.
Genius Within is proud to have won this award, and looks forward to continuing to help offenders, employees and the unemployed with life skills and awareness of their individual strengths.
Genius Within CIC are Festival of Learning 2016 ESF National Project Award winners. Read their full story.