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Neurodiversity at : Guidance for Staff and Line Managers

This guidance provides an introduction to neurodiversity at . Further information on concepts, types of neurodivergence and support for staff can be found via the links throughout the guidance.

About Neurodiversity

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in terms of our neurocognitive ability. Everyone has both talents and things they struggle with. However, for some people the variation between those strengths and challenges is more pronounced, which can bring advantage but can also be disabling.

Neurodivergent people tend to find some things very easy and other things difficult. This can lead to inconsistent performance at school or work.

Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage when the individuals are in the right environment, making use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges. To achieve this, we must create inclusive spaces to work and learn that reduce disabling factors and amplify diverse abilities.

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Neurodivergence

Neurodivergence refers to the state of being neurodivergent: the way that individual brains function, learn and process information differently to the social norms of neurotypical minds. Neurodivergent people collectively make up at least

Each form of neurodivergence (such as dyslexia and autism) has a range of associated characteristics but these can vary from individual to individual. For example, the experiences of autism for one person can be very different to another autistic person. The effects on the individual can also change over time. Additionally, an individual can often have multiple co-occurring types of neurodivergence.

Neurodiversity: key terms

The following list includes some of the most frequently used terms when talking about neurodiversity (it is not intended to be a definitive or exhaustive list of terms). It should be noted that not every individual will prefer to be referred to personally by specific terminology listed below; when referring to an individual, always take the lead from them as to how they prefer to be described. If you are unsure, it is better to just ask them.

Neuroatypical: a term that is synonymous with neurodivergent and describes how a person’s brain differs from what society determines as typical in the processing of information and experience of the world.

Neurodivergence: the state of being neurodivergent (the way in which a person or brain differs from the typical in the processing of information and experience of the world).

Neurodivergent: describes a person or brain that processes information in ways that markedly diverge from what is considered typical. An individual may have a diagnosis like dyslexia, autism or ADHD, or they may not. The term neurodivergent is sometimes abbreviated as ‘ND’.

Neurodiverse: an adjective describing populations which contain individuals with different neurologies. The word neurodiverse should not be used to describe an individual or a condition; it refers only to populations.

Neurodiversity: the existence within a population of individuals who process information differently and experience the world differently.

Neurodiversity Paradigm: the way in which neurodiversity can be understood to be a form of human diversity that is subject to the same social dynamics as other forms of diversity (including dynamics of power and oppression).

Neurominority: a group or population of neurodivergent people who share a similar characteristics of their neurodivergence, such as autistic people, are a neurominority.

Neurotypical: often used to describe people who are not neurodivergent and who process information and experience the world in a way that society says is typical (i.e. a person whose neurocognitive functioning conforms to the dominant type). This can also be referred to as the ‘predominant neurotype’. The term neurotypical is sometimes abbreviated as 'NT'.

Other terms often used when discussing neurodiversity

Co-occurring conditions: refers to multiple conditions or neurodivergences which occur concurrently for an individual. Co-occurence is high amongst neurodivergent people, as if you have one neurodivergence, you are more likely than the average population to have more.

Hypersensitivity: a heightened awareness and discomfort caused by stimuli (sensory, physical or emotional) that may not impact other people.

Hyposensitivity: a decreased awareness caused by stimuli (sensory, physical or emotional).

Masking: the practice of concealing or suppressing aspects of a person’s neurodivergent traits or conditions to fit in with the norms of the workplace or society.

Self-stimulation/stimming: activities carried out by neurodivergent people to soothe or calm themselves to regulate and stabilise their emotions and nervous system. These activities may involve movement or sound of any kind.

Types of neurodivergence

Acquired or Traumatic Brain Injury: acquired brain injuries usually occur after illnesses or trauma to the brain. They can cause challenges similar to those associated with neurominorities, such as dyslexia or ADHD. The effects of a brain injury can be wide ranging, and depend on a number of factors such as the type, location in the brain affected, and severity of injury.
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ADHD: ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; sometimes also referred to as ADD or attention-deficit disorder) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by differences in regulating focus and processing information. Individuals may experience effects that predominantly fall within one category or a combination of categories (not everyone experiences hyper-activity, despite this being a commonly held belief. Individuals with ADHD can exhibit strengths like 3D visual skills, passion and enthusiasm, creativity, crisis management, and problem-solving skills.
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Autism: autism is a neurodevelopmental condition categorised by differences in cognitive and sensory processing which affects how individuals experience the world. Autistic people have a wide range of strengths and challenges that could include under- or over-sensitivity to senses (like sound, light, or touch), pattern spotting, attention to detail, lateral thinking and highly focused special interests. Some autistic individuals exhibit exceptional cognitive talents. Autism is often referred to as a spectrum because experiences vary widely from individual to individual.
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Dyscalculia: Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have challenges understanding and applying number concepts, performing mathematical calculations and have problems learning number facts and procedures.
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Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a condition that affects information processing, primarily around language cognition and literacy. Dyslexia can result in challenges around accurate and fluent word reading and spelling, but dyslexic people also often exhibit strengths in areas like creativity, 3D visual thinking, problem solving and verbal skills.
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Dyspraxia/Developmental coordination disorder (DCD): Dyspraxia or DCD is a neurological condition, which affects muscle co-ordination and perception. Perception includes vision, hearing and proprioception, or the awareness of where your limbs are in space. Whilst there may be challenges in some areas, there are often heightened sensitivities or abilities in others (like verbal skills, problem solving, and creativity). Dyspraxia exists as a condition on its own but is often found together with hyper mobile joints, dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD or autism.
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Tourette Syndrome: Tourette syndrome is a chronic neurological condition characterised by the presence of involuntary movements and noises (tics). A misconception of Tourette Syndrome is that these tics involve rude words or gestures (which are only experienced by about 10% of people with Tourette Syndrome) – many people may experience less noticeable tics. There are a number of strengths associated with Tourette Syndrome such as verbal skills, resilience, creativity, and empathy.
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Getting support

There are a number of sources of support available for Neurodivergent staff and their line managers at , which are outlined below.

Workplace Health

Neurodivergent staff (or PhD students) can contact Workplace Health if they are experiencing stress, issues with mental health and general wellbeing impacting their ability to undertake their role at . Where possible, employees should obtain a management referral from their line manager or supervisor, as this will allow Workplace Health to create a report following your consultation.

Workplace Health provides ’s occupational health service who, upon receipt of the referral form, will contact the employee to arrange a confidential consultation. They will then generate, with the employee’s consent, a report back to the referring manager, with advice and recommendations around adjustments to the employee’s work context for the manager to consider. Further information on ’s occupational health services can be found here. Unfortunately Workplace Health are not able to offer diagnostic services. For Workplace Needs Assessments, please contact the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team (details below).

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team

We acknowledge that receiving a formal diagnosis for neurodivergent conditions can take a long time, and that staff may wish to receive a diagnosis to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify appropriate reasonable adjustments for the workplace. However, a formal diagnosis is not required to implement reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and we therefore offer a screening process for suspected neurodivergent conditions, followed by a Workplace Needs Assessment to help staff identify appropriate adjustments.

Staff should contact the EDI team if they suspect they may be neurodivergent and would like to access a screening, followed by a Workplace Needs Assessment. Staff who have a formal diagnosis can access a Workplace Needs Assessment straightaway without a screening.

The process for screenings and Workplace Needs Assessments are outlined below.

Screening

If an individual suspects they have neurodivergent conditions but do not have a formal diagnosis, a tailored screening to identify the likelihood of neurodivergent conditions can be organised bycontacting the EDI team. Screenings are conducted by an external specialist consultant with , and the staff member can then proceed to undergo a Workplace Needs Assessment to identify appropriate reasonable adjustments for them.

It is important to note that a screening is not a diagnostic assessment. Read more about diagnostic assessments below.

Workplace Needs Assessments

A Workplace Needs Assessment is carried out by an external specialist assessor with (for staff who have either a formally diagnosed or suspected neurodivergent condition) who will work with the staff member and focus on the specific challenges they may be having in relation to their work tasks. As part of the Workplace Needs Assessment, a separate meeting with the line manager will also take place, to discuss any recommendations made. A workplace needs assessment is undertaken online, followed by a report with a recommendation for adjustments the consultant believes will help the member of staff work more effectively.The report produced can be given to Access to Work as part of any application for funding (for more information, see the ‘Funding reasonable adjustments’ section below).

You can contact the EDI team to arrange a Workplace Needs Assessment.

These assessments are paid for using the central budget for reasonable adjustments.

Diagnostic assessments

A diagnostic assessment is a detailed assessment by a team of medical professionals and provides a confirmed diagnosis of specific neurodivergent conditions, as well as a clearer picture of the person’s strengths and challenges and their individual cognitive profile. This type of assessment is not specific to the workplace but can touch upon this.A diagnostic assessment usually involves a range of tests (e.g. around verbal reasoning, time management, any difficulties with literacy, problem solving, working memory and processing speed) and can sometimes be a stressful procedure for individuals.

Diagnostic assessments are not available for staff at unless the individual’s job requires them to undertake one (i.e. if the job role requires individuals to undertake external exams and the examining body request evidence of diagnosis to be able to implement reasonable adjustments).

Funding reasonable adjustments

Not all adjustments will have a cost. Where they do funding should be derived from the following sources:

  • For a new starter that applies to Access to Work (for more information, see below) within the first 6 weeks of employment, Access to Work will cover 100% of the costs of all adjustments. New starters who require reasonable adjustments are encouraged to put in an application within these first 6 weeks.
  • For existing staff, if a set of reasonable adjustments comes to less than £500, departments are required to cover this from their own budgets.
  • Desks, chairs,laptops or any standard office equipmentwill be funded by the department/division, even if over the £500 threshold.
  • Costs from £500 to £1,000 will be shared between departments/divisions and the central fund for reasonable adjustments on a 50/50 basis.
  • For costs over £1,000, the staff member will be expected to apply to Access to Work, and the central budget can be used to assist departments meeting the Access to Work funding threshold.
Access to Work

is a programme run by the Department of Work and Pensions to support Disabled and Neurodivergent people in obtaining reasonable adjustments. Access to Work is intended to provide funding towards adjustments such as training, coaching, additional travel costs, services, support or equipment that would be above and beyond what is reasonable for an employer to supply.If the cost of the required adjustments are over £1,000, the staff member would be expected to put in an application to Access to Work.

For Neurodivergent staff members, it is often helpful to undergo a Workplace Needs Assessment whilst waiting for an Access to Work application to be processed, as the report produced can be given to Access to Work as evidence of required adjustments. Access to Work do also provide Workplace Needs Assessments, however it is helpful to be aware that the assessors may not be specialists in neurodivergence. There is more information about Access to Work available on our website.

Software

TextHelp Read and Write software: this is a text-to-speech package, designed to help proof and correct work. It can also be used for other tasks including reading text aloud (e.g. PDFs and other documents, webpages, screen grabs, photos) using a variety of computer voices. It is available on both the Student Desktop@ and Desktop Anywhere@.

Staff can obtain a copy for work PCs from theDigital Accessibility team,as well as training on how to use the software. The Digital Accessibility team can also show you how to use other assistive equipment/software so that you can see what will be most suitable for your needs. There is other software that may be helpful, but have additional costs (e.g. Dragon, a speech-to-text software), and these would need to be considered as part of the funding for a set of reasonable adjustments for a staff member.

Examples of common reasonable adjustments for Neurodivergent staff members

The following are some practical examples of common reasonable adjustments that can be helpful for Neurodivergent staff at work. It should be noted that these adjustments are examples and intended for illustrative purposes – adjustment needs will vary from person to person.

  • Changes to working hours to avoid rush hour, if commuting, to reduce possible sensory issues or stress.
  • Working from home the majority of the time, if in-person presence is not required for the job role, to help with managing the work environment for focus or sensory issues.
  • Individual coaching for staff members to help devise strategies for managing any work challenges they may be facing (e.g. time management, memory and organisation). Coaching is most often funded by an Access to Work grant, though some departments choose to pay for this themselves to avoid time delays.
  • Equipment and aids (e.g. noise cancelling headphones).
  • Awareness training for the wider team. Other staff members attending awareness training related to neurodivergence in the workplace can help build understanding amongst team members, and improve effective communication. Training like this can be funded through Access to Work.
  • Regular, short breaks to help with focus or stress management.
  • Clear, written instructions for tasks or priorities.
  • A static workstation in a hot-desking environment. This can help reduce the anxiety or stress with a changing or unpredictable office environment.
  • A support worker to help manage administrative tasks.
Useful links

sources of information

External sources of information

  • and in particular, the contains questions that are predictive of dyslexia