A short while ago I happened upon a website for something called the Neurodevelopmental Neurodiversity Network, which being autistic myself, immediately piqued my interest. Its website describes it as "an interdisciplinary group - of university researchers, clinicians, neurodivergent people, and third sector organisations - working together towards a step-change in understanding and improving the lives of neurodivergent people."
Anything that is aimed at improving the lives of neurodivergent people - such as those with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and so on, has got to be a good thing. So, as you might expect from SNJ, I approached them to find out more.
This article is from network assistant, Alanna Shand who is a psychology undergraduate at the University of Bath. As part of her degree, she is currently working as a research intern at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, for her placement year.
All about the Neurodevelopmental Neurodiversity Network? by Alanna Shand
Did you know?
- Estimates suggest that autism affects approximately 1% of the UK population, although this figure is likely underestimated (UK Parliament, 2020)
- ADHD is believed to affect 1.5% of children in the UK (Centre for Mental Health, 2014)
- Around 10% of the UK population has dyslexia (GOV.UK, 2017)
Neurodevelopmental conditions – like Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Intellectual Disabilities – are often overlapping, but they are usually researched and managed separately by clinicians. The Neurodevelopmental Neurodiversity Network aims to bridge this gap between research and practice.
The Neurodevelopmental Neurodiversity Network is a group of university researchers, clinicians, neurodivergent people, and third-sector organisations. Our aim is to advance understanding of neurodiversity and improve the lives of neurodivergent people.
Our core team is comprised of researchers from the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter. To learn more about each of our team members, view the ‘Central Hub’ section of our website.
What is meant by neurodiversity?
The term ‘neurodiversity’ highlights that neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism are part of normal variation in the population. We should appreciate the strengths associated with these conditions and the contributions of neurodivergent people to research and society. For example, Richard Branson, Chris Packham and Greta Thunberg are just a few neurodivergent people who have made valuable societal contributions in recent years.
However, it is essential to recognise that neurodiversity is a spectrum. While there can be highly successful neurodivergent people, there are also individuals with severe neurodevelopmental issues who require support. Conducting beneficial research to help meet the needs of such a diverse group is a real challenge, but we hope that the interdisciplinary nature of our network can help to address this.
To explore neurodiversity, we commissioned Patrick Samuel – Asperger Artist – to create a piece of artwork that captured the essence of this concept. Titled ‘Different’, Patrick’s abstract painting (as pictured below) celebrates neurodiversity as a difference. We are proud to have taken part in this collaborative project and would be interested to hear your thoughts on this piece of artwork.
How can you get involved?
Whether you're an academic keen to get involved in research, a third-party organisation excited to collaborate with us, or a neurodivergent person looking to find out more and participate in our research, we want to hear from you.
Our website hosts a variety of useful videos to advance understanding of neurodevelopmental conditions. You can watch a few of these videos below.
In this powerful video, a series of autistic adults talk about what their diagnosis means to them.
This second video discusses potential signs of autism in children.
Similarly, this third video considers potential signs of ADHD in children and adults.
Dr Punit Shah, senior lecturer at the University of Bath and member of our core team, will be hosting an online talk on neurodiversity on Wednesday 3rd March 2021. If you are interested and would like to attend, please register in advance on Eventbrite.
About the author
Alanna Shand is an Assistant for the GW4 Neurodevelopmental Neurodiversity Network and a Psychology Undergraduate at the University of Bath. As part of her degree, she is currently working as a Research Intern at the Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, for her placement year.
Alanna first became involved in the network last year and has since co-authored her first academic paper with Ms Scarlett Close and Dr Punit Shah. Their paper explores the relationship between autism knowledge, contact with autistic people and attitudes towards autistic people.
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