5 Easy Ways to Make Social Events Inclusive
Social events are often a source of considerable anxiety and fatigue for both children and adults with neurodevelopmental conditions. This can often lead to those of us with dyspraxia, autism or ADHD, missing out on social events or struggling unnecessarily. Did you know there are some easy things you can do to make it easier when planning a meet-up? Here’s my five top tips for making social events inclusive for all...
The first one has to be: patience and flexibility! Just acknowledging that you know that they may find things more tricky is a great place to start. It opens up the conversation about what they might need to make things more manageable. Ask what would help. Try to accommodate small adjustments that will make an event accessible for your friend or loved one. Maybe they can come along for a short time, but leave before they start to feel overwhelmed.
Try to keep as many things the same as possible. For those of us without a good sense of time, difficulties with route finding and organising ourselves, making our way to lots of different places can cause a lot of additional stress. Meeting in the same place or at the same time reduces the amount of organising and planning it takes to get there.
Try to stick to plans. Obviously this isn’t always possible, sometimes life just happens! But it takes a lot of extra mental and physical resources for us to plan to get somewhere. If the time, size of group or place change at the last-minute then we are back to square one in preparation. This can be absolutely overwhelming for those of us with poor planning skills, and explains why sometimes we might have to cancel because we simply can’t work out how to make the new arrangements work.
Keep sensory sensitivities in mind. Some people really struggle with the busyness of environments. Things like lots of distracting sounds, smells, sights and crowded places. I struggle to filter out other conversations and keep up with the speed of conversations, particularly when it’s busy.
Remember co-ordination difficulties. It can be difficult for those of us with dyspraxia to maintain our posture whilst talking or focusing on other things, which can mean we get tired or sore more quickly. Walking around busy environments without crashing into others or tripping over things is hard. We may have to turn down drinks or food because we can’t work out how to not spill things whilst standing, or might struggle to eat things whilst others are watching.
Dr Emma Tremaine trained as a medical doctor and psychiatrist before starting up a social enterprise specialising in comprehensively supporting adults and young people with Dyspraxia (The Dyspraxic Doctor). She also provides regular emotional and social skills therapy for children and young people who have a neurodevelopmental diagnosis (including Autism/Aspergers and ADHD). Dr Emma has Dyspraxia herself and is a passionate writer and speaker about neurodiversity, mental health and her own experience becoming a doctor with a hidden disability. She also enjoys horse riding, yoga, amateur sewing and making people laugh.