Championing Neurodiversity: A Q&A with Dr. Morénike Giwa Onaiwu on Advocacy and Resilience

Championing Neurodiversity: A Q&A with Dr. Morénike Giwa Onaiwu on Advocacy and Resilience

Dr. Morénike Giwa Onaiwu is a global educator, writer, consultant, public speaker, and advocate/activist. A proactive, resourceful leader, Morénike, whose undergraduate and graduate degrees are in International Relations, Education, and Humanities, is passionate about diversity, human rights, intersectionality, disability justice, inclusion, neurodiversity, and research.

Morénike has written for or been featured in the BBC, NPR, NY Times, Autism Research Journal, Spectrum News, Pediatrics, Autism in Adulthood, Salon, HuffPost, Poz, Mashable, Conde Nast, PBS, Madame Noire, OutSmart, Texas Tribune, The Mighty, Positively Aware, & other media platforms.

How has being neurodivergent made your life difficult and how have you used it to your advantage?

We who reside at the intersections of oppressed identities have learned hard lessons from life. However, though our existence is marked by struggle, it is not unilaterally defined by it; we rebel and resist, but we simultaneously live, learn, and love. Our arduously acquired knowledge has granted us the ability to consistently convert our pain into platforms for growth; our regrets into resourcefulness; our crying into creativity.

How did being neurodivergent influence how you chose your career path, and what made you choose it?

Being neurodivergent has absolutely influenced my life and career path. Truthfully, I really don’t think I chose it; it chose me. My work is eclectic and sincere, fueled by my lived and learned experiences, my various identities, and the communities that I am part of and led by an intrinsic conceptual framework. The work is collaborative in nature, creative in method, and (hopefully) caring in its application.

Were there any role models or people who inspired you and gave you hope, and made you feel positive about being neurodivergent?

I am inspired by so many people every day. A lot of them might not even have any idea that they’ve inspired me, as they might not have a large following or platform. But just in the day-to-day ways that they live their lives, they give me hope and encouragement. In an ableist world, neurodivergent people have no choice but to become fighters - we have to fight to survive, fight to be heard, fight to be seen…even when we wish we didn’t have to. It’s unfortunately not a matter of choice, but one of survival. However, despite that fighter nature, I see so much hope, so much tenderness, so much love for others - even when we have every reason to be hardened, cynical, and closed off. It invigorates me, and it moves me deeply how almost intrinsically, those of us whom society has deemed as “other” make space for, uplift, and replenish one another - all while laboring to usher in a tomorrow we realize that many of us will likely never live to see.

Was there something someone said or did that helped you become what you are today? What was it that they said?

A neurodivergent colleague, Sandy, who has since joined the ancestors, emphasized the value of giving “grace and space.” As someone who is often hard on myself, that resonated deeply with me. We should grant ourselves - as well as others - a little grace when we falter, and we should try to allow for time to change and grow. Not to shirk responsibility, because accountability is vital - but to recognize our humanness and fallibility and to afford people an opportunity to reflect, process, and potentially improve.

What advice would you give to neurodivergent people?

There will be many instances of change, growth, and loss as we travel life’s winding paths. Sometimes we’re going to get it right; sometimes we’re going to get it wrong; we should still try to celebrate the overall journey itself, and especially ourselves.

About the Author:

John Stanton

John Stanton graduated from Emerson College with a bachelor’s degree in film production. He is passionate about helping individuals maximize their neurodivergent potential and transform it into a “superpower.” Additionally, he is interested in the education field's adoption of new teaching methods that cater to unconventional learners. In his free time, John enjoys hiking, reading, and getting out on the water.

Author’s Website

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