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Introducing Brook’s Interim Designated Neurodivergence Lead 

This Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Helen Dring-Turner, Brook’s Interim Designated Neurodivergence Lead, talks about the importance of their new role and Brook’s plans to develop services and resources to support neurodivergent young people in the next year.

My name’s Helen and I’m really excited to be taking on the role of Interim Designated Neurodivergence Lead over the next year. As Interim Designated Neurodivergence Lead I’ll be focusing on improving access and representation for neurodivergent and neurodiverse people throughout Brook’s services.

From our work with young people in education, clinics and digitally, we know that neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people can encounter barriers in accessing sexual health services and relationships and sex education. 

With approximately 15-20% of the population being neurodiverse, it’s important that we’re getting our services right so that everyone can access them

Over the next year, we’re committed to removing these barriers for young people. This is an area close to my heart given my background in teaching and my recent PhD in Education and Social Justice looking at how the RSE curriculum can help represent and meet the needs of young disabled and neurodivergent or neurodiverse LGBT+ people.

What do we mean by neurodivergence and neurodiversity?

By neurodivergence, we’re referring to anyone who’s brain works neurologically differently from what is considered typical. It’s an umbrella term developed by Kasiane Asasumasu which includes, but isn’t limited to, conditions such as autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and OCD. 

Neurodiversity is another umbrella term that represents that all brains are different. Coined by Judy Singer in the 1990s, it was intended to be used as a political term. Singer says “When I first used the word “Neurodiversity”, I did not intend it to be a diagnostic term. I saw it as a banner for a “Neurodiversity Movement” – a civil rights movement for those of us who had been stigmatized for being “weird, odd, or unfathomable” outsiders.” 

What are we going to do?

Talk to young people

Participation is key to how we work at Brook. We want to improve access and representation for neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people based on what they want and need. 

To find out how we can improve clinic visits, our Annual Participation Consultation 2022-23 is asking neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people aged 16-25 to reflect on their experiences of sexual health care (and health care in general).

We already run several national Participation Forums which bring people together to work on projects and influence Brook’s services and work. Over the coming months, we’ll be establishing a new national forum of neurodivergent young people to understand how we can better support them. 

Respond to young people

We’re also putting suggestions young people have given us into practice. In 2022, we held a series of consultations with young neurodivergent people with learning disabilities who asked for more visual and easy-read resources. Based on this feedback, we’re now trialling these resources in clinics across the country. 

Once our Annual Consultation has finished, we’ll be looking at the findings and planning how to put them into action in our clinics. We’ll also be sharing them with other organisations in a toolkit for creating an inclusive clinic environment for neurodivergent and neurodiverse young people. 

Develop our staff

We’re lucky to have a great team at Brook who are committed to continually learning and expanding their practice. Part of our training over this year will be to increase our knowledge of neurodivergence and neurodiversity and to have the skills to make sure that all people feel included and welcome when they use our services. 

Work with others

Brook wants to lead the way in improving sexual health outcomes for neurodivergent and neurodiverse people, and we don’t want to do it alone. We’ll be looking to work with other organisations to grow and develop our work. 

Interested in collaborating or partnering with us?

We’re looking to partner with other organisations to amplify our impact in this area. If you think this could be your organisation, please email us via press@brook.org.uk

Want to join our new Participation Forum?

If you’re a neurodivergent young person and you’d like to join our new national Neurodivergence Participation Forum, please get in touch with us by email participation@brook.org.uk

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