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Neurodivergence in schools: therapeutic support

Young people today face a complex web of academic, social, and personal challenges, with many also navigating personal challenges linked to neurodivergence and mental health difficulties. This in turn can lead to stress, anxiety and other mental health problems that can lead to behavioural problems in the classroom, at home and can lead to additional issues such as school avoidance - significantly impacting daily lives, wellbeing and interfering with a young person’s ability to achieve their potential.

We know that education settings are feeling an increased pressure to tackle student mental health and manage challenging behaviour in classrooms. We know this contributes to students becoming at risk of poor academic attainment, risks deterioration in their mental health and places them at risk of exclusion and expulsion. More and more parents are resorting to home schooling their children due to not being able to find a way to meet their child’s needs in the school environment.


What is neurodivergence?

Neurodivergence is a non-medical description of people with variation in their way their brains function. This includes individuals who have autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, among others. This description includes an individual’s strengths as well as their challenges. The term neurodiversity refers to a concept that brain differences are normal, and acceptable.


Neurodivergence in schools

Between 15-20% of children and young people in the UK are thought to be neurodivergent, and yet our current mainstream educational systems remain primarily designed for neurotypical students. This can lead to difficulties for students with neurodivergence as they can struggle with the school environment due to the many cognitive, social and sensory challenges that come with this. This can lead to behavioural problems in the classroom, at home, anxiety, and mental health difficulties.


Neurodivergent students can feel as if they need to supress behaviours that feel natural to them to conform to the social structure in their neurotypical environment. This concept is known as ‘masking’. This is exhausting for a neurodivergent person and can result in anxiety and feeling burned out which can cause wider issues at school for example, school avoidance, challenging behaviour, irritability, or social isolation. Difficulties for neurodivergent students in schools can include:


-            Sitting still for long periods of time

-            Being quiet for long periods of time

-            Being on time for lessons

-            Homework compliance

-            Concentration in lessons

-            Heavily populated classrooms with can cause sensory overwhelm

-            Navigating social interactions and relationships

-            Tolerating changes

-            Starting and finishing tasks


Neurodivergent students possess their own strengths such as heightened sensory awareness, empathy, and creativity. Some may be brilliant at pattern recognition, analytical thinking, capable of deep concentration and attention to detail. Unfortunately, these strengths are not always recognised by mainstream schools who often discipline or punish students who exhibit ‘poor’ behaviour in classrooms without looking beyond their behaviour to the source.


Sadly, many teachers and parents are unsure where to turn for appropriate, trustworthy support for their children, their students and sometimes themselves. Unfortunately, we know that many psychological support services for young people have lengthy waits, are of variable quality or are brief in nature, leading to a degree of frustration for the young person, their family and for education providers. 


How can psychotherapy help with neurodivergence in schools?

Here at the Condition Management Company, we are highly experienced in working with children/young people and their families, having worked across multiple health, education, and social settings.


We have extensive experience working with neurodivergent young people experiencing issues relating to behaviour at school, school avoidance, depression, anxiety and much more. We can offer therapeutic and practical interventions for those with neurodivergence such as ADHD or Autistic Spectrum Disorder, with or without a diagnosis. We are also able to offer bespoke training and 1:1 support for educational establishments on how they can improve outcomes for their neurodivergent students


If you think we might be able to support you then please contact us for an informal, free and no obligation discussion about your individual needs as a person or as a business.

Check out our pages on ADHD, Autism and our young person's services, or book an appointment to speak with us.

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