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Supporting Neurodivergent Individuals

Some useful information from a training session on neurodiversity delivered by Starling CIO.

In April 2024, the Arts Emergency Mentoring team arranged a supplementary training session, delivered by Katie from the charity Starling CIO, for mentors who wanted a better understanding of how to support a neurodivergent mentee. The following resource has been put together from the transcript & materials shared in that session.

Starling's approach to neurodiversity emphasises a lived experience approach that views disability through a social model rather than a medical one. The presentation covered a broad scope of neurological differences and encouraged compassionate and curious engagement from the attendees.

Understanding Neurodiversity and Supporting Neurodivergent Individuals

  • Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in the human brain that leads to differences in how people think and behave
  • The term 'neurodiverse' describes the abstract concept of diversity within a range of neurocognitive styles. A person or group would not, in a grammatical sense, be described as 'neurodiverse'
  • The term 'neurodivergent' describes a person or group whose ways of thinking differ significantly from typical neurocognitive style. Starling encourages the use of 'neurodivergent' as an identity label and emphasise that neurodivergence is not limited to specific diagnoses
  • Around 15-20% of the UK population are neurodivergent and the training discussed the challenges faced by this group, such as higher rates of exclusion, unemployment, and loneliness
  • Starling encourages the use of inclusive language and the social model of disability to better understand and support neurodivergent individuals
  • The training stressed the value and strengths of neurodiversity, and reminded attendees that understanding and addressing their specific challenges can help individuals access and develop their strengths

Sensory Experiences, Executive Function, and ADHD Strategies

  • Some of the main areas where neurodivergence has an impact on people are: sensory experiences, executive function, and working memory
  • When seeking to understand how this might be experienced, it is helpful to reflect on one's own sensory experiences and consider the challenges these can present. For instance becoming overwhelmed by noise in a crowded space. These challenges, which may be occasional for the majority of people, are often heightened or more frequent for those who are neurodivergent or have experienced trauma
  • Another common area of impact is on executive function, which the training likened to 'the CEO of the brain'. Executive function is something which develops over time, and is one of the most common areas of difficulty for people with ADHD
  • There are various strategies for supporting individuals with ADHD, such as creating routines and reducing distractions, and the training emphasised the importance of cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control
  • Starling advocates for the expansion of accommodations in the workplace and education system to better support neurodiverse individuals and foster innovation and inclusion

Adapting Approaches for Neurodiverse Mentees

  • The training stressed the importance of adapting approaches when working with young people and mentees in the creative sector, particularly those with neurodiverse backgrounds
  • It highlighted the need for understanding individual needs, creating supportive environments, and empowering mentees to navigate challenges in a neurotypical world. Katie also discussed potential challenges, such as stigma, stereotyping, and identity issues
  • There was a strong emphasis on the importance of continued conversation, resources, and building a supportive network - all things which the Arts Emergency mentoring team can also support you with

If you would like to discuss anything raised in this resource with your Mentoring Officer please get in touch and we'll be happy to have a chat.