Supporting the personal and professional development of neurodiverse young people

Winner of ESRC Collaboration Labs Project Excellence Award 2021 announced.

Working together as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, Karen Leneh Buckle from The University of Manchester, and Maria Liashenko from Lancaster University, have created a first of a kind, neurodiverse-friendly tool in partnership with SENDCode, a social enterprise that supports young neurodiverse people to build digital skills and experience in the workplace.

With a focus on neurotypical priorities, existing tools to measure professional development fail to appreciate the diverse starting points, barriers and pathways of these learners; often posing significant literacy or processing challenges for neurodiverse people.

As such, the tool will offer invaluable support to young neurodiverse people, most of whom have been out of education for a long time but have an interest in careers and training in the digital economy.

The research team centred community voices and took guidance from neurodiverse young people for the creation a more accessible and inclusive tool; strengthening the voices, self-esteem and personal development of those involved in the research.

Seamus Mannion, SENDCode Director, said: “The team showed amazing empathy and skill in handling the social interactions and gaining the opinions of young people who often feel as though nobody listens. The tool will demonstrate the journeys they make with us and the fact that the process was ‘done with’ rather ‘done to’ the young people is a credit to the research team.”

The project contributes to current research gaps on the wellbeing and progress of neurodiverse people, offering new insights for future service provision and the inclusion of marginalised communities.

Karen Leneh Buckle, research lead, said: “It is really satisfying to see a useful, practical project output that may be used in practice to enhance individuals’ lives”

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, praised the research in his address to the winners: We are really proud to see work like this happen, especially as there’s no equivalent such tool or approach currently available. So I hope to see the learning from this have an even wider impact across the months and years ahead”

The Project Excellence Award celebrates the outstanding achievements of just one of the ten teams of post-graduate researchers that have been creating positive change towards cultural engagement, better health, environmental sustainability and inclusion, as part of the Collaboration Labs programme. The two finalists include:

A Collaboration with She Leads for Legacy – Research offering new insights and solutions in regards to the barriers faced by Black professional women in their career progression in the UK.

A Collaboration with the British School at Rome – An interactive, digital exhibition to share a lost Fine Arts archive with the public, for the first time.

Find out more about the winning team and finalists, here.

Collaboration Labs is a Knowledge Exchange programme at The University of Manchester, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

If you are a postgraduate or early career researcher hoping to drive real-world impact, register your interest for the Collaboration Labs Spring/Summer 2022 series here.

If you are a business partner with an idea for a collaborative project, you can submit an expression of interest here.