Neurodiversity Children’s Profiler (for parents)
Embracing neurodiversity – an inclusive whole child approach
Neurodiversity is about all of us and considers the diverse and different ways our brains work and how we process information. It is also about understanding each person in the context of their lives, past and present. It is about inclusion and considering how we ensure everyone has an equal chance to be active and participate in society in the best way they can.
Our present diagnostic system benefits some children and young people who have particular characteristics and opportunities. It tends to focus on disorder, difficulties, and disabilities. We also often view these in separate boxes.
There are two parts to the Neurodiversity Children’s Screener (for parents) . The first part considers seven main areas which group together:
This is despite knowing that conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADSD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia( Developmental Coordination Disorder(DCD), also known as Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome and Developmental Language Disorder all often overlap with each other to a greater or lesser degree. This is also sometimes called co-occurrence.
The challenge often is that –
Children and young people only gain a diagnosis when:
- They have a significant challenge in one specific area for example to get a diagnosis e.g. having difficulties with spelling, reading, or writing.
- Awareness by others that challenges are related to a specific condition such as their teachers or parents.
- Opportunity to be screened for specific conditions (but this may miss important information).
- Local services available for a diagnosis.
- Professionals have sufficient training across all conditions and not just some so there is a child centres neurodevelopmental approach.
- There are short waiting lists in the area.
- Parents are able to pay for a diagnostic assessment privately
The contra to that is –
Children and young people get missed, misdiagnosed or misidentified when:
- They have challenges in areas where teachers have less awareness such as developmental language disorder/communication difficulties of ADHD.
- The child moves schools several times so is not known so well to the teachers.
- The child gets excluded from school and so the focus is on their behaviour but not the reason for their behaviour (children have higher rates of undiagnosed Developmental Language Disorder and ADHD in alternative provision settings).
- The child has a mix of challenges in more than one area so is not ‘bad enough’ to be Dyslexic or Autistic for example, but has a scatter of difficulties across areas, such as difficulties focusing, handwriting and speaking clearly.
- English is the child’s second language, so there may be an assumption that their literacy or communication challenges are because of this.
- They are ‘in care’ and so may move around home and school settings. Looked After Children or Young People have higher rated of undiagnosed neurodivergent traits.
- There is an assumption they have something else (diagnostic overshadowing) e.g. Autism when it is a specific language challenges, or Attachment Disorder when it is ADHD, or ADHD when the child has had a head injury.
- The child is not in full time schooling e.g. been ill.
- A genetic disorder that has not been identified.
- Factors at home such as being homeless, or marital breakdown, or parent unwell.
- Girls where challenges are seen as something else such as anxiety or self-harm rather than relating to Autism.
- When other things are going on e.g. Covid-19 and children are then in and out of school.
The categorical basis of looking at a set of traits and behaviours isolations means to gain a diagnosis you have to have enough signs and symptoms to fit one specific condition but if you or your child scores below this score then they don’t gain a Dyslexia/ADHD etc and then often don’t gain support.
Neurodiversity is dimensional and not categorical. Our brains are not neatly compartmentalised. There is growing recognition that this dichotomous approach ( you have it or not) stops some children being supported especially those that have cumulative adversity ( i.e. have other challenges alongside the neurodivergent traits) they may interfere with them functioning and participating at school or at home.
By looking at parts of a child we can miss out on other areas. Additionally, we may not consider the strengths a child offers and so not consider the young person overall.
The all- or- nothing approach can especially stop some children gaining support and as a result they continuously get missed, misdiagnosed or misinterpreted. A consequence of this (not surprisingly) can result in anxious, frustrated and in some cases angry child or young person.
If we think about different challenges like different balls in the bucket, we can see by using Neurodiversity Profiler we can address practically challenges that a parent is more concerned about.
Every child has their own ‘spiky profile’ with their unique pattern of strengths and challenges.
Most parents want to better understand the challenges their child is facing and gain some practical strategies so they can help them as soon as possible. Waiting two years to gain a diagnosis for some families is hugely frustrating. Even when they get seen there may be a need to consider across neurodevelopmental conditions and not screen for one or another.
There are two sides to every coin and the other side to challenges is considering a child’s strengths so we can harness their talents, build confidence, self-esteem and increase resilience.
The opposite of no helped no help! By providing practical child centred guidance and strategies we can help every parent today rather than having no advice and waiting.
The time is now to move away from rigid lines and be child centred, equitable and inclusive, while remaining robust in what we do. Trying to understand each child in the context of their lives both past and present seems sensible.
Neurodiversity Profiler takes a person-centred approach
A person-centred approach means that strategies are tailored to each child’s spiky profile.
The Neurodiversity Profiler provides an indicator of traits associated with some conditions, but it is NOT diagnostic. We recognise a diagnosis is undertaken by professionals with appropriate training . It also means they need to have background including current and past factors to ensure that a complete picture is painted of the child and their life.
Alongside the Profiler we ask some key questions that teachers and other professionals may need to consider so that we don’t jump to one diagnostic conclusion or another.
We use flags that may alert teachers or other professionals that a child may be a ‘learner of concern’ .
This additional information builds a picture of the child so that conclusions can be drawn on a more complete picture. There is a lot of research evidence that some children are at higher risk of some conditions such as Dyslexia running in families. Premature children also have a higher rate of some neurodivergent conditions. However, we need to remember that a higher risk doesn’t mean your child will definitely have ‘it’.
But by understanding a more complete picture of each child we are less likely to assume that attention difficulties are for example due to ADHD when they could be related to a child having had a traumatic brain injury at some time. If we don’t ask relevant questions, we won’t know.
When we report traits in Neurodiversity Profiler associated with specific conditions this is an indicator only. We recognise that this information can help to stimulate further discussion or exploration with suitably trained professionals.
Cleaton and Kirby, 2018