ND1.3 – Why Support Matters

Section 3 explores real life experiences at the start of placement or when starting in a new learning environment.

The first few weeks in a new environment can be challenging for neurodivergent people. Each individual’s experience will be unique, however, some aspects that can be particularly difficult are changes in routine, adapting to new sensory and social environments and managing energy levels. This is often on top of what is expected of all learners; understanding expectations, learning new workflows, and establishing learning objectives.

If the environment or role is new to that person then they may not know in advance what support or adjustments they need. This section highlights the importance of creating safe learning environments and opportunities to understand and support one another.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand why initial support matters
  • Learn how to provide opportunities for disclosure
  • Explore and understand some of the barriers faced
  • Understand the impact of not having reasonable adjustments

A) ‘First Day: in our shoes’

To start, this short video explores some of the experiences of a ‘first day’ relevant to many workplace and placement settings, professions and learners.

The video demonstrates the impact and importance of offering opportunities for disclosure conversations.

Furthermore, it supports the learner to consider what the most appropriate adjustments might be and where possible, this should include a consistent point of contact.

In order to receive initial and on-going support, an individual needs to disclose their personal information. This may cause anxiety and stress which itself can be a barrier impacting on an individuals learning and growth. It is important to ensure the initial meeting is relaxed and consideration is given to the environment, noise levels and in a confidential space so that the learner feels they are able to share personal information.

We’d love to hear from you. Learners and practice educators, what ideas or experiences can you share about what can help make the first day/week go smoothly?

B) Disclosure

Dr Fiona Gullen-Scott speaks about some of the barriers around disclosing and why creating psychologically safe environments is so important for our learners.

Disclosure should not be exclusive to those with a diagnosis.The waiting lists for neurodivergent diagnoses are currently extensively long.

  • Even though neurodivergent conditions are present from birth, not everyone receives a diagnosis in childhood. Due to our increased understanding of neurodivergent conditions, diagnosis is now common in teenage years right through to older adulthood
  • Learners can fall through the gaps between child and adult diagnostic services, some may still be waiting for diagnosis at university despite having had access to support and adjustments through school or in the workplace
  • Some people may have a ‘working diagnosis’ as diagnostic waiting lists can take longer than 3 years
  • Some people may have self-identified as neurodivergent (due to recognising traits in themselves or having neurodivergent family members)
  • Many only seek official diagnosis at university due to the need to access more comprehensive support
  • In the same way, some people may only realise they are neurodivergent once they begin in higher education. This can be for many reasons, for example increased work demands causing overwhelm or moving away from home where routine, domestic tasks/cooking had been scaffolded by family/guardians

For these reasons, it is common that learners may need to disclose that they self-identify as neurodivergent or have a working diagnosis and are on a diagnostic waiting list. 

Not having an official diagnosis can impact one’s psychological safety. Or, it could be the first time someone has disclosed their condition to someone else. We have heard Dr Fiona Gullen-Scott speak about the importance of disclosure. Therefore, disclosure of any kind must be taken seriously, with compassion and appropriate reasonable adjustments offered.

Please use the Padlet to share your feelings on disclosure. What helps? Do you disclose right away? Learners and practice educators, what ideas or experiences can you share about what can help create a safe environment to disclose.

Made with Padlet

C) Understand the impact of not having reasonable adjustments

Note to Road Testers – visual aid currently being created to accompany the audio*

Members of SSHINE discuss the impact of not having reasonable adjustments. These short stories demonstrate barriers that individuals can face without such adjustments.





Barriers can take many forms. Even when we discuss a plan, as you heard in the video, a plan may not reveal clear guidance as to how it transfers into placement or practice.

If something is not working, it is important that it is discussed with the learner at the earliest opportunity. This way, the learner and practice educator have the chance to adapt plans and explore alternative adjustments together. It is imperative that the learner is part of discussions/plans about their own adjustments. The university should also be available to provide support if needed. Addressing challenges and making appropriate changes is foundational to enabling the learner and practice educator to get the most out of the placement learning opportunities.

Section 3 Recap
In this section we have focused on the importance of having a good first contact with the placement supervisor/buddy within the workplace. The first contact and initial support is critical to establishing a good relationship and trust with their supervisor. Furthermore, the opportunity to agree on a plan that can make a real difference to the neurodivergent learner’s ability to get the most out of their learning environment, to achieve their learning outcomes.

Making the time, finding an appropriate space and being ready to listen to understand if a learner discloses a neurodivergent condition or disability are key ingredients to initial support being in place.

In the next section, you will learn more about reasonable adjustments, and the importance of reviewing plans.

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