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Magical neuro-inclusive spaces exist – here’s how.

by Adina Levy

I had the utter pleasure of being at the Yellow Ladybugs conference in person. I’ve attended it online for 3 years and if you don’t know Yellow Ladybugs please click now to go and know them. Incredible organisation supporting Autistic and Neurodivergent girls, women, and non-binary folks. I’m a speaker at the conference (it’s a recorded panel that you can watch for the next 3 months if you register, along with SO many other incredible neurodivergent speakers). 

The in-person part of the conference was a special bubble of neurodiversity-affirming… what I wish to see in the world, more broadly.
In fact I was wary to leave the conference space to re-enter the ‘real world’. As an Autistic ADHDer, I can ‘cope’ in various spaces but big crowds and big events almost always leave me feeling frazzles, overwhelmed, and burnt out. Yesterday’s even was indeed exhausting but in the most beautiful, warm, exciting supported way.

Here are just some of the ways that the conference was supportive, inclusive, accessible, and magical. As you read through my points, I hope that you’ll consider what is within your sphere of influence to change in the world you live in, and the world you invite people into? How can you support the mission to make ALL spaces more inclusive and supporting and welcoming for Neurodivergent folks?

  • Detailed preparation ahead of time with a social story, photos, menus, and expectations clearly set out
  • A safe space to be so much more myself, knowing I was surrounded by neurokin (other neurodivergent folks)
  • Stimming, movement, sitting how you want, listening how you want, participating how you want – this was all explicitly encouraged with tools, objects, words, modelling and reminders
  • Dimmed lights (I think I heard that they had the room lights at 25% of the usual level)
  • Lots of breaks, and a mix of presentation lengths and presentation styles keeping it interesting
  • Presenters communicated in their own ways and styles, often direct communication, ‘odd’ wonderful sense of humour, visuals, moving around the stage, calling out awkwardness. It was so refreshing to see and experience that different communication styles are totally OK
  • The people! I had met zero of the attendees in person before, but knew so many online, all the way from acquantances to really deep friendships. Stepping out from behind the Instagram feed and into real life was amazing, overwhelming and beautiful. Many of us prepared each other ahead of time for things like: What we’ll be wearing, how we like to be greeted, new haircuts, etc. In many other circles this preparation might be seen as ‘excessive’ or ‘unnecessary’. And you know what, even if it’s unnecessary, it harms no one and may help someone to give these bit of preparatory information.

I don’t have the words to properly capture the magic of this. I’m a delayed emotional processor (it takes me a while to really sink in to the emotions of something) so I feel like I’m only just realising it now. And I’m also a massive optimist and hopeful AF that the future for neurodivergent people is a more safe, supportive and welcoming space wherever you are in the world.

    Keep learning with me!

    Register for the Communicate and Connect Webinar Series for Professionals who support Neurodivergent Children: https://playlearnchat.com/communicate-and-connect-webinars/

    The 3 webinars in the series are:

    • Responsive Relationships: Communication Strategies for Professionals to Connect with Neurodivergent Children

       

    • Collaborative Connections: Coach and Communicate with Carers & Teams of Neurodivergent Children

       

    • Supportive Spaces: Creating Inclusive and Accessible Environments to Support Neurodivergent Children in their Communities

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