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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

 
Yellow signpost in the mountains pointing in different directions

Research question

How can disabled students with mental health conditions who also have co-occuring neurodiverse conditions be identified and supported?

 

Project team

  • Chay Graham, undergraduate student reading Natural Sciences

 

Project report

Report: Diagnosis & Screening Project (PDF)

 

Abstract

Students with mental health conditions may also have support needs arising from neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. Identification of neurodiverse conditions in students can be challenging however if mental health conditions are emphasised when students come forward for support. Simultaneously, a lack of support for neurodiversity can lead to poor wellbeing and attainment.

The aim of this project was to explore how students with co-occuring neurodiverse and mental health conditions can be identified and supported in an effective manner. To this end, analysis of Disability Resource Centre student records was conducted to estimate how many students are impacted by co-occuring conditions, and this estimation was further contextualised by synthesising sector-wide and medical literature. Qualitative interviews of student co-researchers with mental health conditions who had attempted to access support for neurodiversity were conducted to examine trends in diagnosis and support.

Based on Disability Resource Centre record analysis, approximately 1 in 6 Cambridge undergraduate students with mental health conditions also have a neurodiverse conditions, although this is likely to be an underestimate. Thematic analysis of interviews and literature was used to create a summary model of the hardship experienced by neurodiverse students, and determine key intervention points. Five factors were found to be integral to an effective process:

  1. an accessible screening, both financially and in accounting for disability access
  2. relevant competencies of the evaluator, and wider staff training in neurodiversity support
  3. supporting students with disclosure
  4. empowering students to self-advocacy
  5. signposting students to specialised services and communities