What is neurodevelopment?

This page explains about neurodevelopment.

Neurodevelopment – What is it?

To begin to explain this term we first must start with the brain and the nervous system. The brain is like our central computer that controls all our body functions. The rest of the nervous system is like a system or network of cables that relays messages back and forth from our brain to different parts of the body.

Neurodevelopment is a term that refers to the brain's development of these systems or networks. It influences an individual’s performance or functioning. Our performance or functioning may include our ability to learn something new, our reading skills, our social skills, our memory skills or our attention or focussing skills. When you learn to do just about anything, you are improving neurodevelopment.

What does Neurodiversity mean?

Neurodiversity is the idea that we all experience and interact with the world around us in different ways. There is no right way of thinking, learning and behaving. Differences are viewed as a part of us all being unique individuals.

What does Neurodivergent mean?

Neurodivergent describes differences in learning from what is considered typical patterns of development. It is often used when describing a child, young person or adult who may have a particular way or learning. Often people with a diagnosis such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or Developmental Language Disorder may describes themselves as neurodivergent.

What is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder?

A neurodevelopmental disorder is a way of describing some of the difficulties or differences a child or young person’s brain may show when processing information. This may affect their behaviour, learning, memory or social skills.

Common Neurodevelopmental Disorders include:

  • Autism
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
  • Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
  • Developmental Language Disorder
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Motor or vocal tics

Sometimes these terms can help us to understand a child’s strengths and needs. They however do not tell us exactly how a child or young person may need help and support. Remember each person is unique with their own strengths and needs. It is therefore more useful to think about the skills a child or young person has as well as what areas they may need help and support with.

For example, it is more useful to use terms such as:

  • Learning skills
  • Social and interaction skills
  • Memory skills
  • Language and communication skills
  • Activity levels or concentration skills
  • Sensory skills

Using these terms helps to really understand what a child or young person needs and what may be the best strategies as well as services we can use to support them.

Which terms are the right ones to use?

People are not the same. What may suit one individual may not be suitable for another. The best option when talking to adults is to ask the person if they have a preference and what term they would like you to use where this is appropriate. When we are thinking about children it is best to describe the areas they need help and support with as described above.  

When might a child or young person need a neurodevelopmental assessment?

Neurodevelopmental needs are common. Figures can vary but it is estimated that around 10% of the population have a neurodevelopmental need. Not all children and young people will however need an assessment. This page is aimed at providing you with guidance on when a request for an assessment may be required.

What differences might first be noticed?

Neurodevelopmental differences or difficulties can affect children and young people in a range of ways as they grow. This might include a need for support with:

  • learning when they are in their setting
  • using their hands for activities like handwriting 
  • paying attention to other people’s focus or not being distracted easily
  • remembering things and being organised
  • understanding other people
  • talking and communicating with family and friends in their day to day lives 
  • how they feel and expressing their emotions
  • controlling impulses and reactions
  • forming friendships and relationships with others
  • finding shared interests with other people
  • managing unpredictability and unexpected things happening
  • completing daily tasks and routines, for example sleeping, eating, washing and dressing, organising your things, travelling to and from school, social activities
  • going to busy places where there may be loud noises

How do neurodevelopmental differences affect people?

Differences are a part of us all, they are what make us our unique and individual selves. We all have our own strengths and areas we may need help with. For some children and young people they may need help and support each day with some of these skills. This can be a typical part of children growing and developing. They do not always have to be a problem.

For other children and young people some of these areas may become more noticeable and have an impact on their day to day lives. The people around us all, as well as the places we go to, can all help us to thrive. We all thrive in different ways depending on who we are with and where we are. Some things that seem small to others can be hard for another person. Simple adaptations can make things easier sometimes.

For some children and young people however, even with these adaptations, they may continue to show they need our help to support their learning, their social skills and their emotions. They need something more and they need people to understand what this may be. 

These children and young people may benefit from a neurodevelopmental assessment which would consider how a child processes, interacts and responds to the world around them. An assessment can also help the adults around a child to understand what things can be put in place to support them now and in the future.

In Salford support for neurodevelopmental differences is not dependent on a child or a young person receiving a diagnosis. Salford’s Neurodevelopmental Offer has support available with or without a specific diagnosis.


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