Study says it’s time to highlight positive skills associated with neurodevelopmental conditions

Hands holding puzzle ribbon for autism awareness

New research says the wide variety of skills displayed by people with conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism should be celebrated to help reduce stigma and change society’s expectations.

Creativity, resilience and problem-solving are just some of the strengths exhibited and a study is now calling for a change in the way we think about people with neurodevelopmental conditions.

Dr Edwin Burns, senior lecturer from the School of Psychology at Swansea University, worked with academics from Edge Hill University on the study and their findings have just been published by online journal Neuropsychologia.

The researchers say people with these conditions are almost always discussed in terms of the problems that they face.

They are often characterised by a range of associated cognitive impairments in, for example, sensory processing, facial recognition, visual imagery, attention, and coordination.

However, Dr Burns said: “We would say that if only the wider public were aware that these groups exhibit many strengths and skills – some which are actually enhanced compared to the general population – then this should reduce stigma and improve their educational and employment outcomes.”

For the study, the team identified a wide variety of skills exhibited in different groups such as Williams syndrome, dyslexia, autism, ADHD, developmental coordination disorder, aphantasia.

These skills include improved social skills, creativity, problem-solving, resilience, and visual search.

The research also puts forward reasons why these skills occur such as genetics, experience adapting to the environment, repurposing the brain, and medication.

Dr Burns added: “In our research we present a table of potential strengths across conditions, and we hope that this may act as a stimulus for a major systematic review in the future.

“This should help reduce the stigma around neurodiversity, instead promoting greater social inclusion and significant societal benefits.”

 


 

Founded in 1920, Swansea University is a research-led, dual campus university located along Swansea Bay in south Wales, UK. Its stunning beachfront campuses and friendly welcome make Swansea University a desirable destination for more than 22,000 students from across the globe. There are three academic faculties, delivering around 450 undergraduate and 350 postgraduate degree programmes.

Swansea is a UK top 30 institution, ranked 25th in the 2024 Guardian University Guide. In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, 86% of Swansea University’s overall research and 91% of its research environment were classed as world-leading and internationally excellent, with 86% of its research impact rated outstanding and very considerable.

Swansea University is a registered charity. No. 1138342.