On Wednesday 3rd November we held an online event featuring 3 talks and a panel discussion on Neurodiversity.
- Jamie Knight, an autistic developer at the BBC, gave an overview of what neurodiversity is (and isn’t) and ran through some of the lenses which are useful to meet the needs of neurodivergent users within products.
- Angela Prentner-Smith, the dyspraxic founder and managing director of This is Milk, talked about being ill at ease with the space time continuum through dyspraxia, dyslexia, and ADHD.
- Steve Miller-Perry, a researcher with ADHD, talked about how to adapt as a squirrel in a slower environment.
- Gianluca Petraccaro, designer, also joined us for the panel discussion, for perspective on ADHD and design.
Links shared on the night
- ‘To Siri With Love’ and the Problem With Neurodiversity Lite (article)
- The Spoon Theory – article on managing limited energy levels
- Monotropism (Wikipedia page) – a monotropic mind focuses its attention on a small number of interests at any time: a key feature of autism
- https://catfriendly.org – website about Chloe the autism assistance cat
- Interviewing Inclusively – blog from the perspective of interviewee and interviewer
- Cognitive Accessibility (video) – another talk by Jamie Knight
- Posters on designing for accessibility, by the UK Home Office
- Ladder of Citizen Participation (model)
- Difference between co-design & Participatory design (blog)
- Design to build bridges: when to use disability simulation (video, transcript & slides) – talk by Ashley Peacock at Accessibility Scotland 2019
What is neurodiversity
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of conditions affecting how the brain works. Neurodiverse conditions can be complex, usually occur along a spectrum, and can interlink. Examples of neurodiversity include autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and Tourette syndrome.
Neurodivergent people may experience a range of cognitive impairments, including:
- Not understanding or processing information the same way you do
- Memory loss – for example, struggling to remember information they’ve just been given
- Difficulty reading and understanding written language
- Losing attention easily
- Feeling overwhelmed by large amounts of information
- Struggling with complex problem solving or decision making
But it’s not all negative and they are often very creative and good at thinking ‘outside the box’. As a designer, this can actually be an advantage.
Rachel Morgan-Trimmer is a neurodiversity coach and consultant. Watch the video below to learn more or read this article if you prefer: What is neurodiversity and why should you care about it?
- Outside the box: neurodiversity and the changing workplace
- Cognitive UX design principles from a neurodivergent perspective
- 5 top tips for neurodiverse workshops
Autism is a spectrum condition and affects everyone differently. There are differences in communication, sensory processing, social understanding and how you process information. Women are often diagnosed very late as there are still a lot of misconceptions about what autism is.
A good resource for employers: DWP Autism and Neurodiversity Toolkit for staff and managers
Video from the Scottish Goverment: Around 1 in 100 people in Scotland are autistic. To understand more, visit differentminds.scot #Differentminds
What women with autism want you to know:
- Scottish autism
- “Autism is a spectrum” doesn’t mean what you think
- Designing for the autistic community
- Am I disabled?
- View the GOV UK poster on designing for users on the autistic spectrum
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be categorised into 2 types of behavioural problems: inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Most people with ADHD have problems that fall into both these categories, but this is not always the case.
For example, some people with the condition may have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness.
This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms may be less obvious. (Source NHS)
Women are often under diagnosed as their symptoms are not always as obvious because they have learned to mask them.
Despite the name, ADHD doesn’t exactly result in a “deficit” of attention, but more an issue regulating it, making it harder to plan, prioritise, avoid impulses, remember things and focus.
Learn more in this article from the Guardian The lost girls: ‘Chaotic and curious, women with ADHD all have missed red flags that haunt us’
- British Dyslexia Association
- Designing for Dyslexia
- BBC podcast – Word of mounth – Dyslexia
- View the GOV UK poster on designing for users with dyslexia
Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination.
Dyspraxia does not affect your intelligence. It can affect your co-ordination skills – such as tasks requiring balance, playing sports or learning to drive a car. Dyspraxia can also affect your fine motor skills, such as writing or using small objects. (Source: NHS)
There is a disconnect between your brain and your body. Giving specific sequences and steps for task to follow can help.
Some personal takes on this from this twitter thread by Sacha Coward: “I was always clumsy, but it went further than that; I couldn’t tie my shoes till I was 13, or put months in order, or tell the time from an analogue clock. Something about my brain always struggled with sequences, fine motor skills and choreography.”
“The clumsiness is the most common thing people picture when they hear ‘dyspraxia’, but it also (for me at least) includes difficulties in memory of lists, in knowing the way a shape/letter should face, and an excessive or weak grip (I’m as likely to drop a glass as smash it!)”
A good article to understand how living with dyspraxia can be: A disability that does not count by Ronan J. O’Shea and Living and working with dyspraxia by Angela Prentner-Smith who will be speaking at this event.
Prosopagnosia – or face blindness – could affect as many as 2% of the UK population, and its symptoms can even lead to it being mistaken for autism.
- Prosopagnosia – the disorder that can leave you unable to recognise your own children – Article from the Guardian
- My face blindness is embarrassing – but it tells me a lot about other people – Another article from the Guardian