Seven principles for engaging with neurodiversity

Neurodivergent Image Becg

How do we broaden engagement with the planning process? With over 15% of the UK population neurodivergent, BECG has spent the last few months trying to answer this question with a working group of planning professionals to deliver the Neurodiversity in Planning – Engagement Toolkit, which we launched earlier this year.

Neurodiversity reflects the diversity of all human brains. It includes people with Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, and Dyspraxia, amongst other neurological conditions. Being neurodivergent presents particular challenges and opportunities for community engagement activities. Contrary to popular belief, great minds don’t all think alike, and when we plan community engagement events, we need to recognise this. Failure to address this can mean neurodivergent people – and their contribution – being excluded from the already overly complicated and highly technical planning process.

Alongside BECG, the working group included Jenny Offord (Neurodiversity in Planning), Jan Bessell (Strategic Planning Adviser, Pinsent Masons), Rebecca Skinner (Senior Development Manager, Mount Anvil) and Paul Kallee-Grover (Group Planning Director, Leith Planning Group). The group also sought input from an array of neurodivergent voices and neurodiversity experts such as Genius Within, in producing the toolkit.

The starting point for all community planning consultations is to define the ‘community’ or more usually the ‘communities’ to be consulted. Beyond the obvious questions of catchment areas and residents directly affected by an application, come the trickier issues of demography and special interests. It is simply best practice to ensure your communications address the hard-to-reach and open a dialogue with the diverse demographic and sectional groups that make up a ‘community’.

The toolkit provides seven principles:

  1. Involve neurodiverse voices
  2. Big picture first
  3. Show what matters
  4. Keep it clear
  5. User choice
  6. Be considerate
  7. Continue to adapt

These principles help us to make planning consultations accessible to a neurodiverse audience and allow the neurodivergent to influence and contribute to planning in a way that suits them, rather than what is easiest for industry professionals.

The seven principles are designed to be simple, clear, and applicable in a wide range of circumstances. Our toolkit offers practical advice – from small changes which can have a huge impact for individual participation through to ideas to broadening access for all.

Hopefully, our toolkit will be the start of a conversation that will help to inform changes in planning and how we engage with all parts of a community.

Download the toolkit from and let me know what you think.

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