While Tiffany Staples loved school as a child, she often wondered why everyone else seemed to find learning so easy when she often had to pretend to know what the teacher was talking about.
For her, learning was difficult, and she was afraid of being asked a question she didn’t know the answer to. It was like wading through an invisible fog to understand what she was hearing or reading.
Mrs Staples didn’t know it at the time but she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a mental health disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviours.
She wasn’t diagnosed until she was an adult and as she got the medical support she needed, the fog lifted and her world came into focus.
As a teacher, the Bunbury Baptist College primary principal had experience with children who had ADHD, but now has a newfound understanding of the disorder that made learning challenging for her as well as many of her students.
Stepping into the role this year, Mrs Staples made it her mission to change the language used while speaking about students with neurodiversity; the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.
“Students that would normally sit back and try to go unnoticed, stood up proudly and confidently to share their experiences.”
Tiffany Staples, Bunbury Baptist College primary principal
“Learning disabilities” became “learning differences” to get rid of negative connotations that came with a diagnosis, and Mrs Staples with deputy principal Andrew Horn created Learning Difference Day to ensure all students had their learning needs met to reach their individual potential.
Primary students went to school for the inaugural Learning Difference Day on June 25 in bright clothes to symbolise people’s differences, while in classrooms students shared their “learning superpower”.