Published: 2 February 2022
For a long time, neurodivergent people (those with a natural variation in the way their brain works which leads to different ways of thinking and behaving) was little understood by wider society.
But an increased interest in recent years has meant those with conditions like dyslexia, autism and ADHD are getting access to the support they need.
This week, the Health and Wellbeing team at the University of Sunderland in London are talking through some of the key issues when thinking about neurodivergence and study.
“We all process the world in different ways. Where one person will focus on the big picture, another might think about the smaller details.
Some of us have even greater divergences in the way we look at things. Those on the autism spectrum, for instance, may struggle with social skills ‘neurotypical’ people find second nature.
Did you know that 1 in 7 people in the UK is classified as neurodivergent? With such a high proportion of our friends, family and colleagues falling within this category, it’s important to understand the diversity around us and what that may mean for the way we process our learning.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Alongside the difficulty with social skills mentioned above, people with ASD might showcase repetitive and restricted actions, get anxious or upset in unfamiliar environments and take longer to understand something.
But people on the autism spectrum also typically learn to read much earlier, have an ability to memorise quickly, and be exceptionally detail orientated.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This common medical condition, regularly identified during childhood, typically affects a person’s attention span, ability to sit still and self-control. They may struggle with managing emotions, following instructions and memory.
Despite this, there’s a huge list of things people with ADHD excel at. For instance, they have a tendency to be good problem solvers, using out of the box thinking to come up with unexpected solutions.
A strong connection to their emotions also leads to empathy, a desire to learn and be entrepreneurial.
Perhaps one of the best understood neurodivergencies, dyslexia is a complex condition that limits a persons ability to fully understand written text.
It can range from mild to severe and usually runs in families. But people with dyslexia tend to show strengths in other fields, especially visual and creative arts.
There is lots of help available for students suffering from the condition. It’s worth reading the Good University’s Guide for some up to date advice.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
First identified in war veterans, PTSD is a mental health disorder experienced following a traumatic event and can be caused by a wide range of things.
Symptoms can include nightmares and flashbacks caused by triggering events (those that remind the sufferer of the original cause of their trauma in some way).
If you think you’re suffering from PTSD it’s important to speak with your GP as soon as possible. You can also try a variety of treatments from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication to yoga.
While this is not an exhaustive list of neurodivergent conditions you or someone you know may have, they are some of the most common and therefore worth thinking about.
If you believe you may have any of these, or indeed any others including anxiety, Tourettes or dyspraxia, there is help out there for you.”
Please do get in touch with the Health and Wellbeing team to find out what kind of assistance you get with your studies.