I’ve worked in education for fifteen years now; as a class teacher, a reading recovery teacher, a SENCo and now a specialist teacher. Over the years, education and society have undergone huge changes in terms of their understanding around neurodivergence. It’s not always easy to keep up and as a parent of two neurodivergent children, and as an educational professional, I still feel I’m learning more every day and I’m sure I will continue to do so.

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Most people know when they are feeling a certain way.

They can identify that certain feelings in their bodies indicate certain emotions. They would recognise if they had butterflies in their stomach and would understand that this meant they were feeling nervous. But what if you didn’t know what you were feeling and why? Imagine the confusion you would feel.

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Autism and ADHD very often co-exist.

Life as an AuDHD-er is constantly trying to find a balance to satisfy opposing needs. And those needs are changing all the time, depending on the environment, the day and the chapter of life.

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Anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences at points in their life. It is common to feel anxious when faced with a threat.

However, when this anxiety gets out of control and starts to impact on an individual’s day-to-day functioning, it may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

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Disordered or restrictive eating is often the first sign of autism in a person who does not have their neurodivergence recognised.

It is VITAL to seek medical attention/supervision if a person is restricting their food or fluid intake to a dangerous extent.

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How autistic girls present differently.

The topic of autism and girls has been much discussed in recent years, but while many are aware that autistic girls may present differently, there is widespread misunderstanding about exactly how. This is a huge issue because autistic girls (and those who present in the same way) are being missed and outcomes for autistic females are particularly poor.

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There are a lot of myths out there about autism, many of which stem from research done when autism was first recognised. You’re probably already aware of many of the myths, considering that a lot of them influence how autism is perceived and understood by the majority of society today.

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OCD is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are persistent, unwanted, intrusive thoughts or images which cause distress and affect a person’s ability to function.

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Periods present challenges on many different levels. It is very important to recognise the complex interactions that periods can have for neurodivergent folk.

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Sleep problems are common among neurodivergent individuals, and there are many reasons for this.

One of the main factors could be a sleep disorder, such as Delayed Sleep Wake Disorder (DSWD), which is a type of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder. DSWD causes individuals to have a naturally delayed urge to sleep, making them fall asleep much later than others.

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If your child requires special educational support due to their special educational needs (SEN), they may require additional assistance during their time in nursery, school, or college. It is mandatory for every educational institution to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that your child can access the available education.

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A Practical Approach to Neuro-Affirmative Recruitment.

Promoting inclusivity and diversity in the workplace is crucial for fostering a healthy and productive environment. The path to inclusivity begins at the recruitment stage, where organisations have the opportunity to embrace neurodiversity and empower neurodivergent employees. By implementing simple but effective strategies, employers can ensure a smoother recruitment process and provide the necessary support for neurodivergent individuals.

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The workplace is a very demanding place, filled with a lot of sensory input and pressure. Not only do you have a lot of work to do, but you must meet targets to earn a living and keep your job. It isn’t like school where you get a do over, and depending where you work the pressure to be perfect is paramount.

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It would be hard to think of an area where society has taught us the ‘right’ way more than gender. Many of us have grown up thinking of gender as a binary concept – male and female. But we know now that gender identity is a spectrum

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Hyperacusis and Misophonia

Many neurodivergent people experience differences in processing sound. In shared environments, this can pose challenges.

In busy environments, this can sometimes be debilitating, and can lead to Sensory Overload and a fight, flight, freeze, fawn, flop response. There are very obvious impacts which may become apparent in school for young people who are neurodivergent.

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The autistic community doesn’t have a good history with having real allies, which is why neurotypicals spoke for us, wrote stereotypical and often incorrect findings, and turned autism into something that should be feared. Thankfully, the community is starting to take back its voice and does amazing work, but having good allies is really important as well.

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Written by
Dr Beth Sheldrake, Child and Educational Psychologist

In my role as an educational psychologist, I am all too aware of the pressure on capacity in the profession to support young female students who have reached crisis point in Secondary School, whilst also aiming to work preventatively in Primary Schools to avoid such issues.

Early intervention can lead to the prevention of mental health difficulties, isolation, trauma, and withdrawal from education for so many young people who internalise the presentation of autism.

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Unexplained joint pain is a very frequent experience for neurodivergent people.

This may be accompanied by hypermobile joints too, and other symptoms such as fainting spells/seizures, gastric issues, breathing issues, dizziness and a racing heart beat. The pain and discomfort can be persistent, permanent or intermittent. It can be that there is no obvious ‘cause’ found.

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The interviewee
Going for an interview when you’re not sure if the company supports or understands autism can be terrifying. You don’t know what the people will be like, what the questions are or what answers they want from you. Although there are many ways employers can make interviews easier for autistic people, most neurotypically dominated places won’t have accommodations in place, and have a ‘one-size fits all’ procedure.

The best way to plan for a job interview is to cover all avenues and practice lots. Print off sample interview questions from a few different sites so that you have a variety and start to craft your answers, getting someone who has been through the interview process or is a manager to take a look at them.

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Meltdowns are NOT temper tantrums, even though they can involve screaming, kicking, stamping feet etc. What parents have to realise is that meltdowns don’t overwhelmed by their experience, environment and emotions that their anger, sadness and frustration bursts out.

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The first step toward an autism diagnosis often begins with recognising early signs and seeking professional advice. Many women only begin to realise that they might be autistic when they go through the process of a child being diagnosed

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The first step toward an autism diagnosis often begins with recognising early signs and seeking professional advice. Parents, caregivers, teachers, or healthcare providers may notice behavioural patterns such as delayed speech development, repetitive behaviours (stims), or perhaps difficulties in social interactions in external presentations.

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A Parent’s Handbook to Supporting Newly Diagnosed Teens and Pre-Teens

This book caters to parents of older children and young individuals who may be autistic, recently diagnosed, or struggling with their autistic identity. It does not claim to provide a comprehensive guide, as every child is entirely unique, possessing distinct strengths and challenges unlike any other.

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You may have heard of the term ‘special interests’ (however some autistics do not prefer this term), referring to an interest that brings autistic people a lot of joy. Neurotypicals often misinterpret these interests as obsessions, as the amount of repetition and enthusiasm shown for the interest is sometimes larger than what a neurotypical would show. It is important to understand that passionate interests are not negative, and the reason it brings the autistic person so much joy is because this world can be very unaccommodating and scary, whereas a beloved movie, book or hobby can feel like a safe space.

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So you just found out you are pregnant and are wondering what to do next. Congratulations! you are at the start of your fabulous autistic pregnancy journey.

So like any journey you will need to prepare and have a toolkit and some friends you can call on if needed. Awesome, autistic and pregnant! There is a lot to consider and think about so let’s break it down.

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What to expect during your pregnancy
Some things are common and of no concern and other things need to be discussed with your Midwife.

Please always ask for advice if you are unsure or concerned about any symptoms or changes in your body or emotions. Never feel as though you cannot ask or don’t want to bother anyone.

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A letter template to give to your healthcare provider.

Dear Midwife/Health Professional

I am autistic. This means I can find some situations overwhelming and may need extra support and reasonable adjustments during my pregnancy, birth and post delivery.

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Simplifying the Law
In today’s diverse workforce, it is essential for employers to create an inclusive environment that supports neurodivergent individuals. Neurodivergent employees are protected by the Equality Act 2010 in the United Kingdom. This legislation triggers legal duties on employers to ensure that neurodivergent individuals are not substantially disadvantaged in the workplace due to being neurodivergent.

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Here are some possible reasonable adjustments that can be established in schools to make neurodivergent pupil’s school careers more equitable with their peers. All schools, employers, local authorities and shops or services like leisure centres have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act, 2010.

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Handling any difficulty with personal hygiene can vary with age, but the cause is usually to do with sensory needs, executive functioning and how much energy you can give to a task.

If water on your skin isn’t a nice feeling, then showers are going to be a struggle. The taste of toothpaste might be too strong. Clothes become complicated when  they’re all different textures, leading to an autistic person wearing the same thing over and over.

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reasonable adjustments that can be established in schools to make neurodivergent pupils’ school careers more equitable with their peers. All schools, employers, local authorities and shops or services like leisure centres have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
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It is important to acknowledge that some topic areas of the curriculum can themselves present difficulties for a neurodivergent young person.

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Positive family support is brilliant to have, and is especially vital in a crisis which might be what an autistic person experiences prior to formal recognition.

It is really important to recognise that our individual understanding of what it means to be autistic is grounded in how neurodivergence has been understood in the past.

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The support for autistic adults can be very minimal, if non-existent, and it can be a shock to the system when you’ve come from a school full of support. Losing your one-to-one, the teachers who know your needs or even school if it was a safe space is heart-breaking, so imagine then being told you don’t get any additional help when you’re an adult!

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You have the diagnosis and probably a ton of medical jargon. How on earth are you meant to explain this to your child who is, if they have been diagnosed young, still learning to write their name?

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Too often, when people receive their diagnoses of autism or ADHD, they are told that they have been diagnosed and then are discharged from services. This is usually not the fault of the professional, but of services not being commissioned to provide follow-up care, and of waiting lists for assessments being years long.

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What do we mean by Identity First Language?
For some years now, person first language has been taught as the ‘correct’ and respectful way to refer to people who are disabled. Thus, ‘people with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled people’. This is often the way professionals are trained. However, some disabled communities now reject this terminology and prefer identity first language.

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