HM The King’s Medal: Sophie Dow

On 21 February, Sophie Dow was honoured with HM The King Carl XVI Gustaf’s medal of the 8th order, adorned with a high blue ribbon, in recognition of her ’substantial contributions to society.’

In 2018, Sophie Dow was awarded the BSCC Annual Award for her outstanding efforts in strengthening UK-Sweden relations. Throughout her professional career, Sophie has been devoted to supporting children with learning difficulties (ADHD, autism, dyslexia, OCD, Tourette syndrome etc) and their families. In 2001, she established Mindroom, a Scottish charity dedicated to raising awareness about learning difficulties and providing essential advice and support to those in need.

In 2015, Sophie co-founded The Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, a complementary partner to Mindroom focusing on research, assessment, recognition, and education to assist children, young people, and families living with learning difficulties.

We had the privilege to meet with Sophie to congratulate her on receiving the medal and to learn more about what this recognition means to her.

– It’s truly an honour to receive this recognition. The endorsement from HM The Swedish King underscores the importance of neurodiversity, which is incredibly meaningful to me.

Could you share more about how your journey in advocating for neurodiversity began?

– My journey began in 1990 when my daughter Annie was born. Annie has a unique chromosome deletion on Chromosome 1, 25 genes are missing, resulting in significant learning difficulties. At that time, there was little understanding of the causes, nor the consequences, of her challenges. 

– As Annie grew up, it became clear that she didn’t fit into predetermined criteria, leading to a lack of adequate support. It wasn’t until I attended a conference by Professor Christopher Gillberg in 1998 that I gained a deeper understanding of neurodiversity and its impact. This experience was life-changing and inspired me to take action.

How did you translate this inspiration into founding Mindroom?

– After the conference, I was determined to make a positive change. It was clear to me that this was a public health issue that had not had the focus and support it needed. In 2001, together with my husband, we founded Mindroom. The early years were challenging, but with the support of the Mindroom Board, we persevered. Establishing Mindroom was a pivotal moment, and I’m proud of the impact we’ve had since then.

How do you envision the future?

– If you consider that we know not even 10% of how the brain works – there is still a long way to go. However, there is finally now a focus on understanding the brain – according to the scientists’ the challenge for the 21st century is to understand the brain’. That is very exciting to me, but with that understanding MUST come a paradigm shift in how we look at and understand our fellow human beings. We must make sure that no mind is left behind!

Thank you for sharing your insights with us. Where can people learn more about your work?

– You can find more information about Mindroom on our website, and I will also be speaking at Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan) on 27 May. Neurodiversity concerns us all, and I’m committed to continuing this important work.

Today Sophie (and Mindroom) works with Prins Carl Philips och Prinsessan Sofias Stiftelse and holds the postions as a Advisory Board member at the Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karonlinska Institutet (KIND).

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