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Striving for a Neuro-inclusive Health Service

Striving for a Neuro-inclusive Health Service

Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly talked about over recent years. These discussions have spanned industries, including sports, commercial, education and obviously, healthcare. This Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Lauren Britcher, Occupational Therapist, and Dr Stephanie Summers, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead, in the NCH&C Neurodevelopmental Service, share tips on how healthcare workers can better support individuals who are Neurodivergent.


Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that includes a range of Neurodivergent conditions including Autism (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, and Tourette’s Syndrome.

The Equality Act (2010) says that reasonable adjustments should be made for individuals with ASD and ADHD (an official diagnosis is not required), to ensure they are not substantially disadvantaged when accessing services such as education, employment, and health care. ASD and ADHD are registered disabilities and therefore it is a legal requirement to provide reasonable adjustments to support individuals to access a range of activities including education, employment, and health care services.

Within the UK there is a strong Neurodivergent community that re-frames neurodiversity as a difference with brain development that can bring many strengths. They highlight that it is environments, and lack of understanding, that can result in these differences disabling people with ASD/ADHD from participating alongside the rest of their community. This is a valid reminder for services, employers, and the education system to consider if what they are providing is neuro inclusive. Within the Neurodevelopment Service (NDS) at NCH&C we work with a range of children, young people, and their families through their ASD/ADHD assessments. As a team we are constantly reflecting on and adapting our service to make our approach more neuro-inclusive; not only for the individuals we support but for the staff working in NDS too.


What can healthcare workers do to better understand and support individuals who are Neurodivergent?

Be Person-Centred

  • Ask the patient what support they need, what would be helpful when attending appointments and delivering care to them?
  • Consider speaking with people who know your patient best (with their consent of course) – what can they tell you about how to support the patient? What do they use at home with that person in their everyday life?
  • Remember, even though lots of individuals have the same diagnosis, everyone is different in their strengths and needs.

Make Reasonable Adjustments

Adjusting your services to help individuals who are Neurodivergent access health care is essential. This may include:

  • Use of neuro-inclusive communication – have a range of ways to share information, including easy read version of leaflets/letters, social stories of what to expect coming to and during appointments and use of visuals rather than text. Providing information discussed in appointments in a written format can aid memory and understanding.
  • Offering appointments via face-to-face, phone call or video call for people to choose what suits them. Can you use questionnaires to reduce conversation, as this is an area some individuals find difficult?
  • Some Neurodivergent individuals can find attending healthcare appointments a very uncomfortable experience. Consider the sensory experience of the environment – is it noisy? Lots of visual stimulation? Bright lights? Uncomfortable/rough chairs? Is there anything you can do to reduce the impact of these? Think about consistency, can they see the same clinician in the same room/space? This can help people know what to expect when attending appointments and in turn reduces anxiety.

Don’t Forget Your Colleagues!

Many people you work with in your team may also be neurodivergent. Therefore, improving your knowledge and understanding will also help them in their daily lives at work.

There are some great resources from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) about supporting neurodivergent nursing colleagues. However, these concepts can be applied to all NHS staff.


Lauren Britcher, Occupational Therapist
Dr Stephanie Summers, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead
Neurodevelopmental Service, NCH&C


Click here for more information about how we’re marking Neurodiversity Celebration Week.