Special Interest Group in Neurodiversity

Special Interest Group in Neurodiversity

Representing psychologists' interests in neurodevelopment and neurodivergence within one special interest group.

Introduction and SIG Aims:

This special interest group aims to support psychologist’s clinical, research, supervision, and training practice within an overarching neurodevelopmental framework. This is different to existing SIGs, which generally hold a more specific developmental framework in mind (e.g., an autism framework, an ADHD framework, or an intellectual disability framework).

This group will provide a new, integrated platform for psychologists to conceptualise assessment, psychology support, research, and training in a broader, neurodevelopmental framework.

The group assumes that the term neurodevelopment refers to development in all areas (e.g., cognitive, social, emotional, sensory, adaptive) explored through a neural lens. Neurodivergent or neurodevelopmental differences cover any deviation from average or expected development. Neurodiversity refers to the diverse range of both average and diverged neurodevelopment – it includes everyone.

Neurodevelopmental differences capture a wide range of divergencies in brain structure and functioning. Developmental functions such as cognition, communication, language, learning, behavioural skills, motor skills, emotional regulation and social skills are influenced by these differences, also known as divergencies. Divergencies are generally observed in unexpected behaviour resulting from differences in the processing of information, as evidenced in testimonies (Bolourian, et al., 2018), as well as in functional magnetic resonance imagining (Jack, 2018). Neurodevelopmental differences described in the fifth edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) include autism, ADHD, obsessive compulsives, a range of specific communication differences, as well as intellectual disability and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyscalculia, and finally movement needs such as dyspraxia, tics and Tourette syndrome (Ciccarelli & White, 2014). They are differentiated within the literature by their presence since the earliest stages of neural development, and general persistence throughout an individual's lifespan (Mahone, et al., 2008). Finally, a neurodevelopmental assessment evaluates whether neurodevelopmental differences reach the threshold for neurodivergence.

The SIG in Neurodiversity aims to address the ongoing difficulties psychologists are facing by conceptualising neurodevelopment and neurodivergence singularly, using narrow assessment and therapy pathways (e.g., an autism pathway or an ADHD pathway). This approach is contrary to research findings, which indicate that neurodevelopmental differences are often characterised by their frequent co-occurrence (Francés et al., 2022). As such, it is of great benefit to remain conscious of their combined effect on individuals.

This SIG aims to provide psychologists with a forum for supporting multiple neurodevelopmental differences in tandem. This includes the design and provision of neurodevelopmental services across Ireland.  

SIG in Neurodiversity Values

The SIG aims to adapt and personalise PSI’s existing values:

  • Evidence-based – this SIG aims to further psychological knowledge and its application in the area of neurodiversity in Ireland and around the world.
  • Inclusion and Humanistic – this SIG aims to promote equal access to psychological knowledge, training, and wellbeing, taking a neuroaffirmative, respectful, and inclusive language perspective.
  • Integrity – this SIG aims to always act to the highest professional and ethical standards.
  • Empowerment – this SIG aims to help people, organisations, and communities reach their potential within the area of neurodiversity.
  • Member focus – this SIG aims to grow membership, develop, challenge, and support members of the PSI.