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Simon Preston: shaping a neuro-inclusive world

ARU Alumni, Simon Preston with Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor at Anglia Ruskin University

Simon completed an MBA in Educational Leadership and Management with ARU in 2022, and is now Head of Maths and ICT in a special education school in Birmingham that is focused on autistic children. He has also launched a business that helps companies to implement neurodiversity inclusion initiatives.

He was proud to achieve a Distinction, especially given the focus on neurodiversity in his studies.

While at ARU Simon completed two projects that form the basis of his entrepreneurial activity:

  • a neurodiversity-focused appreciative enquiry led towards developing a framework for managers that focused on identifying appropriate adjustments that both maximise the talents of neurodivergent employees and support their challenges. This framework was the starting point for a neurodiversity inclusion-focused business
  • after further study Simon incorporated new knowledge into his Postgraduate Major Project, where he developed four critical considerations for senior managers and executives for shaping their neurodiversity inclusion intentions (and potentially using the framework as a tool for implementation).

The neurodiversity space is saturated with businesses that aim to raise awareness. However, Simon identified a significant gap in the market for a business that helps companies to implement their neurodiversity inclusion initiatives. He entered the student business-pitching competition at ARU in 2022, and secured start-up investment. Following this, Simon officially launched Embrace Neurodiversity Ltd in July 2022.

In August 2022, he founded the Neurodiversity Knowledge Exchange (NKE). The NKE is a monthly online event that anyone can attend to discuss aspects of neuro-inclusion. Regular attendees comment on the safe environment; as a collective, they generate different strategies for these issues for people to consider. This event has grown from six attendees in September 2022 to 20+ and gained interest from people in the UK and abroad.

In November 2022, Simon was invited as a guest speaker to conduct a two-hour lecture at ARU to approximately 200 MBA and MA students on ‘Considerations when developing a neuro-inclusive working environment’. The lecture was very well-received and resulted in some of the students either attending the NKE or continuing the conversation with Simon via LinkedIn.

It is Simon's belief that raising awareness and giving practical considerations to tomorrow’s CEOs and senior executives will help shape a neuro-inclusive world.

Simon was Runner-up for our Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2023.