Towards system redesign: An exploratory analysis of neurodivergent traits in a childhood population referred for autism assessment

Understanding the Overlap Between Neurodivergent Traits


This research paper explores a new approach to assessing children for neurodevelopmental conditions. It discusses the concept of neurodiversity, which recognizes the wide range of human neuro-cognitive styles. The study also highlights the importance of considering multiple neurodivergent traits, rather than focusing on single diagnoses.


Key points


  • Children’s health services are moving away from single condition diagnoses and towards a more holistic approach.
  • The concept of neurodiversity emphasizes the natural variation in human neuro-cognitive styles.
  • Many children referred for autism assessments also have traits of other neurodivergent conditions, such as ADHD, learning difficulties, and motor coordination problems.
  • Standardized questionnaires can be helpful in identifying additional neurodivergent traits.
  • A holistic approach to assessment can lead to better understanding and support for children with neurodivergent needs.


Traditional Assessment vs. Holistic Approach


Traditionally, children’s health services have focused on diagnosing single conditions, such as autism or ADHD. This approach can be limiting, as it may not capture the full range of a child’s neurodivergent traits. The new approach, based on the concept of neurodiversity, takes a more holistic view. It considers the child’s individual strengths and weaknesses across different domains, such as attention, learning, and motor skills.


Benefits of the Holistic Approach


The holistic approach has several potential benefits. First, it can help to ensure that children receive the support they need for all of their neurodivergent traits, not just the one that was initially diagnosed. Second, it can help to prevent children from falling through the gaps between services, as they may not meet the criteria for a single diagnosis but still have significant needs. Finally, the holistic approach can help to raise awareness of neurodiversity and promote understanding and acceptance.


Challenges and Future Directions


Implementing a holistic approach to assessment presents some challenges. For example, it requires trained professionals who can assess a wide range of neurodivergent traits. It also requires changes to service provision, so that children can access the support they need for all of their needs.

Despite the challenges, the potential benefits of the holistic approach are significant. As we move forward, it is important to continue to develop and implement new assessment methods that reflect the full spectrum of neurodiversity.




The concept of neurodiversity is changing the way we think about child development and mental health. By taking a holistic approach to assessment, we can better understand and support the needs of all children, regardless of their neurodivergent traits.



What is neurodiversity?


Neurodiversity is the idea that there is a wide range of human neuro-cognitive styles. This includes people with autism, ADHD, learning difficulties, and other neurodivergent conditions.


How common are co-occurring neurodivergent traits in children with autism?


The study found that 71.8% of children referred for autism assessment met criteria for at least one additional neurodivergent trait. This suggests that co-occurring conditions are quite common in this population.


Why is it important to consider co-occurring traits?


Understanding a child’s full range of neurodivergent traits can help to ensure they receive appropriate support and interventions. A single-condition diagnosis may not capture the full picture and could lead to missed opportunities for treatment.


What are the limitations of single-condition diagnoses?


Single-condition diagnoses can be inaccurate, as symptoms of different neurodivergent traits can overlap. They can also lead to under-diagnosis of co-occurring conditions and limit access to appropriate support.



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