Neurodiversity (Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia) – Some simple tips

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Neurodiversity is not a well known term. It’s used to reflect one the diversity of ways people’s brain functions. There is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ way. People with autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or dyslexia are part of this neurodiversity.

infinity symbol with pride colours
The infinity symbol represents autistic pride (Istock art)

Here are some tips based on the Home Office ‘Do and don’t Posters’ and a talk by Rachel Morgan-Trimmer for Accessibility Manchester

Simple tips

1. Tell people what to expect

Whether it’s a meeting, an event, a webinar or an application on a website: Tell them when it will start, if there will be a break, how long it will last, who will take part, what is expected of them.

Provide some practical information: are toilets available? is there a quiet room, any documents they might need to bring for example.

2. Remember that they don’t have your knowledge

They might:

  • not see things the way you do
  • understand some terms differently
  • not understand your jargon

Be clear, use plain English, explain acronyms and terms, make sure people know they can ask if they don’t understand a term.

3. Use pictures

Use images to support your text.

For example, add a photo of your building entrance on your website so when people come and visit for the first time, they recognise it and are confident this is the right place.

Good visuals will make your information more memorable, and will help support people’s attention.

4. Use fewer words and use simple sentences and bullet points

Only give people what is relevant to them at the right time.

Dont create a wall of text.

5. Have a clear presentation

  • align text to the left
  • don’t justify your text
  • be consistent
  • do not underline words (underline is for links)
  • don’t write in all caps, it’s harder to read as you lose the shape of the word (unless it’s an acronym or something people are used to, like GOV.UK, or ADHD for example)
  • use good contrast but not too bright
  • use simple colours
  • leave enough space between lines

6. Listen properly

Sometime, neurodivergent people don’t speak with enough intention so you might not realise something they told you is really important to them. So listen carefully.

7. People might not know what they need

By asking them what they need (sitting at the front or at the back, having a break now or later etc…) you force them to actually think about what they need and to communicate it to you.

8. Remember that how you create your information is not necessarely how it will be received

People might be distracted, doing something else or not understand it the way you intented to.

9. People might be hiding their condition or needs

… and be very good at it as they have done it for years!

10. Do nothing

Neurodivergent people are often seen as a challenge or a problem, but treating them normally makes them feel included.

More on this

Edit 12/10/20: Rachel Morgan Trimmer made another presentation on that same theme and it is really worth watching:

Dyslexia

What dyslexia can look like

There is a wide variety, these are just some examples of how it can be for some people. There is a very wide umbrella of effects.

Autism

Note

After publishing this post, Rachel Morgan-Trimmer published a very detailed post of her own talk, so do have a read as well!

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