Neurodiversity, sensory issues and the wider community.

Neuro-diversity is a term used to describe brain functioning and behavioural traits that could be considered different from the norm. Dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and attention deficit would all be considered to be examples of neurodiversity.

It is calculated that 15% of the population, or 1 in 7 individuals in the UK today are neuro-diverse. 

This 15% of the population attend schools, colleges, universities and places of work. 

When such a large group is marginalised, there are social and financial implications for society, in addition to the personal cost felt by the individual. 

A more inclusive society would bring innumerable advantages: increased creativity, improved social mobility, alternative problem-solving patterns, and a shift away from traditional thinking and the reinvention of the wheel. 

Possible ways to progress the inclusion of the neuro-diverse population: –

  1. Consulting neurodivergent individuals and groups.

The inclusion of marginalised groups within the mainstream community is about handling difference and empowering people. The size of the neurodiverse community means that they have a voice and their everyday experiences, positive or negative, need to be recognised. 

  1. Raising awareness among architects and urban designers around the planning of public buildings.

The needs of the whole population must be considered at the initial stages of planning, and adaptations not made as afterthoughts. The effect of spaces in schools, colleges, universities, offices and public buildings on those who use them must be thought through. 

Public buildings need specific zones: hubs for social interaction and conversation, dedicated areas for quiet work, and easily accessible calming, green spaces for relaxation and energising. All buildings need adequate sound proofing, sensitive heating systems, a good provision of natural light and access to fresh air.

  1. Increasing awareness among employers and teachers.

In schools, everyday accommodations should be available to all pupils: adjustable lighting, personal work stations, a good flow of fresh air, sensitive heating systems. quiet working spaces, noise cancelling headphones, visors to cut glare, and school uniforms that are designed with the comfort of the pupil in mind.

Key point = Good provision for the neurodivergent is good provision for all.

Adaptations at work need to include the same simple, generic accommodations as above, in addition to the choice of working from home if feasible, and flexible working hours.

  1. The use of assistive technology. 

Assistive technology, on-line working, and IT resources will help all pupils and employees to work more effectively, for example, alternative ways of recording and reading such as: speech-to-text and text-to-speech software, dictation tools, digital recorders and screen overlays. 

  1. Extending the understanding of professionals through mandatory training.

Mandatory training should include raising awareness around sensory issues, and the effect that sensory issues can have on an individual’s behaviour. Virtual reality software could be used to immerse the neurotypical population in the sensory world of the neurodiverse, with training to demonstrate the impact of anxiety, fear and panic on a child or adult. Such training must be mandatory for school staff, members of the emergency services, such as the police, and Human Resource departments. 

‘I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.’

(The Greatest Showman.)

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