How creativity unlocks understanding in neurodivergent youngsters


Enhanced recognition of neurodivergence as a pure variation in human minds that’s worthwhile and in want of help is steering a major shift in science and analysis in direction of a non-pathologizing strategy to neurodevelopmental variations, reminiscent of autism and a spotlight deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD) (Chapman R. et al, 2021).

The estimated prevalence of autism is 1-2% globally (Lai MC. et al, 2014; Roman-Urrestarazu A. et al, 2021), nonetheless, prognosis is usually delayed or inaccurate because of difficult referral routes and lengthy evaluation waitlists (NHSE, 2023). But, analysis research on autism have largely neglected the lived expertise of autistic people, notably youngsters and younger individuals, and the insights of autistic researchers.

Co-production all through the analysis course of and participatory analysis strategies are key components of the trouble to make sure larger deal with the wants and priorities of the autistic neighborhood. Typical qualitative strategies, like focus teams or interviews, will not be probably the most appropriate for the vary of communication kinds and preferences inside this inhabitants.

Thus, Lewis and colleagues within the present paper sought to discover the benefits and difficulties of using inventive qualitative strategies with neurodivergent youngsters with diverse communication profiles to extend accessibility and inclusivity in psychological analysis (Lewis Ok. et al, 2023).

a girl in a blue long sleeve top with brown hair is drawing on a white sheet of paper with a pencil

The best way we research autism is altering with the neurodiversity framework that disputes the normal pathologizing and deficit-centred view, however we’re nonetheless enormously lacking views of neurodivergent younger individuals, which requires modern and artistic analysis strategies to make sure inclusivity.


The authors supposed to realize their purpose by outlining and reflecting on their participatory strategy of making use of inventive, individualised qualitative strategies with neurodivergent youngsters in an ongoing longitudinal research about transitioning from major to secondary college in England. Thus, this can be a methodological paper, appropriately not together with any formal analyses.

The contributors included 13 neurodivergent youngsters aged 11 years, recognized or awaiting evaluation for autism, of which all had been white and 77% had been boys.


Pre-study interval (consent and familiarisation)

The authors collected written parental/guardian consent and knowledgeable assent from collaborating youngsters utilizing an easy-to-read plan of the research with textual content and pictures, together with names and pictures of the analysis group. Individuals circled both a thumbs up or thumbs down picture to supply their assent, which researchers repeatedly reviewed.

Earlier than the beginning of the research, the analysis group gathered info relating to pursuits, wants, preferences, communication kinds, sources of stress or particular person challenges of every collaborating youngster in two methods: preliminary calls with mother and father/carers adopted by a familiarisation assembly between researchers and contributors to share details about one another by a inventive train of drawing, writing, and chatting. This knowledgeable the adjustment of analysis protocols to be accessible and fascinating to every participant and helped set up belief and a constructive relationship.

Knowledge assortment interval

The pre-study interval was used to develop individualised analysis protocols encompassing a number of inventive knowledge assortment strategies that aligned with the participant’s pursuits and communication preferences. The authors described these strategies, broadly organised into three classes, and reported their perceived worth and effectiveness drawing on the primary wave of knowledge assortment within the longitudinal research.



Individuals had been requested to attract or write their responses to a mix of prompts, adopted by a side-by-side dialogue with the researcher.

  • Benefits:
    • This strategy helped youngsters to attribute which means and diminished potential misinterpretation by the researcher.
    • It was notably participating for youngsters who preferred inventive actions and eased the strain to maintain eye contact for many who felt overwhelmed by it.
  • Disadvantages:
    • It was much less acceptable for these dealing with challenges with wonderful motor expertise, and people preferring extra directed actions over open-ended duties.


Individuals had been requested to take pictures or got photographs, which both served as prompts throughout an interview or had been used to create a collage for particular dialogue matters.

Benefits: This child-led and collaborative strategy facilitated conversations relating to summary ideas (e.g., future college transitions) by connecting them to the related setting (e.g., college). It eased the expectation of considering on the spot for many who could discover this difficult.

Disadvantages: It appeared much less appropriate for many who struggled with the exercise’s unstructured nature, which restricted the depth of the dialog the place contributors would deal with factual descriptions of the photographs.



Individuals had been requested to information the researcher round their college, discussing or mentioning components of the setting that had been vital to them, with the potential of photographing vital locations.

  • Benefits:
    • This strategy supplied company to the collaborating youngsters to information the dialog.
    • It was thought acceptable for many who discover transferring round useful and notably appropriate for these with co-occurring ADHD.
  • Disadvantages:
    • The shortage of goal-directed duties and construction restricted the depth and breadth of discussions, so contributors had been inclined to indicate both too little or all the things within the college not accounting for private significance.
    • Challenges included minimising background noise throughout recordings, college restrictions on areas for strolling or photographing and respecting the opposite pupils’ privateness.


Card type

Individuals obtained a set of playing cards with footage and temporary explanations displaying college experiences and rated them utilizing as much as 5 stars primarily based on their choice, whereas additionally being inspired to elucidate why they selected the score.

  • Benefits:
    • The strategy proved to be participating for all contributors and was versatile sufficient to successfully have interaction those that struggled with sustaining consideration.
    • The playing cards provided a helpful construction to the child-led discussions.
  • Disadvantages:
    • In some circumstances, contributors had various understandings of the playing cards’ content material, which was simply solved by clarifying with contributors after the exercise.

Assertion type

Individuals obtained a set of statements relating to their mainstream college and transitioning to secondary college experiences and responded to every with ‘sure’, ‘no’, or ‘undecided’.

  • Benefits:
    • This strategy enabled a structured and child-led dialogue.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limitations included the various understandings of the statements between youngsters and the misuse/overuse of the ‘undecided’ reply for advanced statements.
    • Following up with an interview supplied a chance to make clear solutions.

Semi-structured interview

Individuals had been requested to answer a pre-determined set of interview questions, whereas additionally permitting for flexibility, concurrently or after the opposite analysis strategies.

  • Benefits:
    • This strategy enabled the researcher to make clear earlier matters and talk about new related ones that had not been beforehand coated.
    • It could possibly be made extra appropriate for neurodivergent youngsters by rephrasing, giving particular examples, or taking time to substantiate understanding the place wanted.
    • The pliability of this methodology meant that researchers could possibly be selective with their questions and prioritise depth of solutions over much less insightful responses to a wider vary of questions, which helped to handle the declining consideration of contributors on the finish of the information assortment session.
  • Disadvantages:
    • This strategy could be much less acceptable for many who discover one-to-one discussions difficult.
white puzzle pieces on a white background

This methodological paper affords compelling insights into modern participatory approaches for inclusive qualitative analysis with neurodivergent youngsters, together with a considerate pre-study familiarisation stage and individualised strength- and interest-based inventive knowledge assortment strategies.


The paper concludes that no ‘one-size-fits-all’ relating to conducting analysis with neurodivergent youngsters, who differ enormously of their wants, strengths, and pursuits.

In comparison with conventional qualitative strategies, the authors show many potential advantages in choosing inventive and participatory strategies which can be individualised, versatile, and delicate to the profile of the neurodivergent youngster. These approaches supply a extra inclusive and accessible strategy to have interaction this inhabitants in analysis, democratise the method, and centre the kid’s voice, thereby making certain richer knowledge and elevated rigour of qualitative analysis.

The substantial worth of two-way familiarisation between youngster and researcher and spending time to construct belief and rapport earlier than knowledge assortment, in addition to reflecting on researcher positionality through the analysis course of had been additionally emphasised.

big bulb fairy lights hang from above

Utilizing individualised, inventive strategies for analysis with neurodivergent youngsters has the potential to facilitate inclusivity, richer knowledge, and a extra rigorous strategy in comparison with conventional qualitative strategies.

Strengths and limitations

There are a number of strengths of the research, together with efficiently participating contributors all through the analysis course of and an excellent try to centre the voices of neurodivergent youngsters. The authors used a mix of visible, embodied, and discursive strategies individualised to every participant’s profile. Importantly, each benefits and limitations of every methodology had been mentioned.

The breadth and depth of the qualitative knowledge collected through the research’s strategies couldn’t be evaluated because the paper centered solely on methodology. The effectiveness and acceptability of the strategies weren’t empirically examined, quite the research described the process and perceived worth of the strategies.

The authors acknowledged the under-representation of non-male genders, and non-white ethnic teams as a limitation. An extra limitation was the shortage of autistic people with co-occurring mental incapacity, indicating a possible choice bias (Russell G. et al, 2019).

Lewis and colleagues reported the shortcoming to conduct all knowledge assortment in faculties as a limitation, as just a few interviews had been performed in contributors’ properties. Conducting the analysis in a unique setting to the one of many research’s curiosity may hinder recollection and interpretation of college experiences, and trigger infringement of non-public boundaries throughout the youngster’s dwelling. But, the authors famous some logistical difficulties in conducting analysis in faculties, together with noise, having to make use of unfamiliar areas, and busy college timetables that prohibit the length and frequency of classes. Moreover, they mirrored on the issue in making certain absolutely knowledgeable assent and company when conducting analysis with youngsters, particularly when it’s carried out in faculties the place youngsters have a tendency to evolve to requests from adults.

Importantly, the selection of analysis strategies was restricted to what had been thought of by researchers and had obtained moral approval, thus it lacked involvement from neurodivergent younger individuals within the research design stage.

Lewis et al. 2023 effectively engaged neurodivergent children and centred their voices throughout the research, but its findings are not intended to apply to the wider neurodivergent population.

Lewis et al. 2023 successfully engaged neurodivergent youngsters and centred their voices all through the analysis, however its findings usually are not supposed to use to the broader neurodivergent inhabitants.


The implications of this methodological paper are related for future analysis involving neurodivergent youngsters and will additionally encourage methods of adapting medical follow for this inhabitants. It explored much-needed options to conventional qualitative strategies and reported their potential to disrupt the standard dynamic within the analysis house and prioritise the viewpoints of neurodivergent youngsters, thereby displaying promise of richer knowledge and better rigour. It seems to be a time-consuming strategy that will not at all times be possible relying on time and monetary assets. Nonetheless, aiming for higher high quality and inclusive analysis with neurodivergent youngsters is essential in direction of a larger understanding of their experiences, unmet wants, and methods to make help extra appropriate and efficient.

Additional exploring the acceptability and effectiveness of such participatory strategies compared to conventional qualitative strategies with a various group of neurodivergent youngsters throughout completely different settings could be worthwhile in direction of making certain significant illustration of a variety of neurodivergent views. Extra efforts are wanted to handle the continuing and chronic problem of under-representation of non-male and non-white neurodivergent voices, in addition to voices of these with co-occurring mental incapacity, in analysis.

The authors reported a number of vital concerns for future analysis. Making certain that analysis with neurodivergent youngsters takes place in a bodily setting the place they really feel comfortable is essential for research aiming to embrace neurodiversity. Moreover, analysis may gain advantage from offering a excessive degree of company to collaborating youngsters by acquiring knowledgeable assent and repeatedly observing the contributors’ behaviour and engagement within the analysis (for e.g., contributors can use visible instruments to point modifications in assent through the analysis course of). Lastly, future analysis may gain advantage from involving an advisory panel of neurodivergent younger individuals earlier than gathering any knowledge to affect the selection and suppleness of analysis strategies used within the research, thus enhancing engagement and accessibility.

a magnifying glass over a blue background

Co-producing analysis with younger individuals with lived expertise and involving them from the beginning is essential for enhancing curiosity and accessibility in analysis involving neurodivergent youth.

Assertion of pursuits

Tamara Pemovska doesn’t have any affiliation with the authors of this research.


Major paper

Lewis Ok, Hamilton LG, and Vincent J (2023) Exploring the experiences of autistic pupils by inventive analysis strategies: Reflections on a participatory strategy. Toddler and Baby Improvement 2023 e2467.

Different references

Chapman R, Botha M (2023) Neurodivergence‐knowledgeable remedy. Developmental Drugs & Baby Neurology 2023 65(3) 310-7.

Lai MC, Lombardo MV, and Baron-Cohen S (2014) Autism. The Lancet 2014 383(9920) 896–910.

Roman-Urrestarazu A, van Kessel R, Allison C, Matthews FE, Brayne C, and Baron-Cohen S (2021). Affiliation of race/ethnicity and social drawback with autism prevalence in 7 million college youngsters in England. JAMA Pediatrics 2021 175(6) e210054.

NHSE (2023) A nationwide framework to ship improved outcomes in all-age autism evaluation pathways: steering for built-in care boards. Retrieved from

Russell G, Mandy W, Elliott D, White R, Pittwood T, and Ford T (2019) Choice bias on mental capacity in autism analysis: a cross-sectional overview and meta-analysis. Molecular Autism 2019 10(1).

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