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Designing for neurodiversity at home and on the move – and dragonfly day

Comfortable Spaces for Spiky profiles

The ‘Spiky’ profile is often used to describe the wide differences in ability associated with neurodivergence compared to the ‘norm’ – What is Neurodiversity?

But what does that mean for lighting design, especially given that light and sound consistently come top of neurodivergent individuals’ concerns – Exploring the Design Preferences of Neurodivergent Populations for Quiet Spaces.

The PAS Design for the Mind – Design for the mind. Neurodiversity and the built environment. Guideand the RIBA Inclusive Design overlay  Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work offer an excellent framework and process. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when it comes to those principles in practice, design principles for office and schools follow similar lines – Designing a Neurodiverse WorkplaceThe role of architectural and interior design in creating an autism-friendly environment to promote sensory-mitigated design as one of the autistic needs.

Spatial organisation and sequencing

Light, texture, scale and structure including focal points and viewpoints create spaces that are memorable, generate a reassuring sense of order, reduce anxiety from anticipation of unexpected events or behaviours and and support wayfinding.

Compartmentalisation and choice

Zones with distinct sensory profiles and lighting controls support different needs and preferences, especially important for people with ‘spiky’ profiles as they tend to experience wider variation in hyper and hypo-sensivity – Physical workplace adjustments to support neurodivergent workers: A systematic reviewAs some neurodivergent people tend to focus on visual detail over global ‘bigger picture’, lighting that creates a sense of enclosure and avoids confusing shadows is likely to support focus and reduce overload – Global Filter: Augmenting Images to Support Seeing the “Big Picture” for People with Local Interference.

Circadian connection

Dynamic lighting that shifts across the course of the day, critically the presence of windows and outside views, supports mood, sleep and attention. Bright Light Therapy (10,000 lux for 30 minutes every morning for two weeks) with reduced overhead lighting after 4pm shifted DMLO earlier by 30 minutes, significantly correlated with decreased ADHD repetitive behaviours and  total scores and Hyperactive-Impulsive behaviours – Correcting delayed circadian phase with bright light therapy predicts improvement in ADHD symptoms: A pilot study.


Canary Code 

The Canary Code: A Guide to Neurodiversity, Dignity, and Intersectional Belonging at Work.

Built on the premise that those on the edge of any spectrum offer advanced warning of impending threats, this evidence-packed book is the first I have seen that presents a balanced yet impassioned case for actively supporting difference in the workplace, the business case for doing so and practical step by step advice.

This book is structured as a textbook with clear signposting for different types of information, exemplifying the kind of accessible information design that Ludmilla invites us all to embrace. Building on her personal journey, the body of the content is structured in four broad sections:

  • Foundations – definitions and trends, charting the growing number of people who live with ‘spiky’ profiles, the paradox of persistent stigma and the compelling business case for active inclusion
  • Removing barriers to employment access – hiring, onboarding and training
  • Removing barriers to success – work environment and organisation, psychological environment and evaluation.
  • Leadership – the value of culture and leading by example.

The conclusion points out our personal responsibility to take an active role, whether we identify as neurodivergent or not.

Thank you Ludmilla for this generous and timely resource on a topic that is close to my heart.

I have a feeling I will be ordering a number of these as gifts for others too.


Do you dread the stress and sensory overload of a business trip or family break?

The unfamiliar can be overwhelming, and it’s tempting to just say ‘No’.

But I know firsthand, that with a bit of planning, you can get out there to see the world – and even start to enjoy it!

Here are some things I do  that just might help you too!

The first thing is to plan ahead to manage sensory overload: 

Avoid the crush of the breakfast bar, choose quiet times to eat, or just take a snack and eat outside.

Ask your host if you can arrive early to have some quiet space to sit and reset  before the meeting starts. 

You don’t need to explain why: just say you’ve got  some phone calls to make.

Aim to get outside for some sunlight before it gets too bright and before the streets get too busy… 

Whatever time zone your body is on, it will certainly boost your mood and help you to sleep at night.

Those coffee breaks are noisy and overwhelming. and they’re usually held inside.

It’s tempting to keep going – after all you’re there for some networking… But taking 5 minutes outside will rinse your eyes  and your brain and you’ll be ready  to see the wood for the trees when you come back in.

And finally, make sure it’s quiet and dark where you sleep.

I always pack an eye mask and some earplugs just in case…

Neurodivergent profiles tend to be  acutely sensitive to light and to sound  and tend to suffer more  from jet lag too.

So next time you have a chance to travel, I hope you feel you can begin  to say ‘yes’

if you just plan ahead…

A couple of excellent blogs for more information – Neurodivergent Travel Made Easy: Tips from a Neurodivergent GlobetrotterHow to make business trips better for neurodivergent travelers.

Hope that helps!


It’s National Dragonfly Day!

 Anyone who has spent time near a river or lake will have marvelled at these brilliantly-coloured insects hovering above the water. 

The bright blue colours of their wings are generated by layers of pigment, nanoscale spheres and wax crystals.

Recent research suggest they include microscopic breathing channels: unlike other insect wings, they are actually alive – The blue wings of this dragonfly may be surprisingly alive.

The irridescent rainbow colours are generated by microscopic ridges that split the incident light into the infinite variations of the rainbow – Mechanism of the wing colouration in the dragonfly Zenithoptera lanei (Odonata: Libellulidae) and its role in intraspecific communication.

This glorious display evolved to impress the visual system of potential mates: dragonflies boast 14 different light-sensing proteins or opsin, four of them non-visual (compared to our paltry melanopsin system – Extraordinary diversity of visual opsin genes in dragonflies.

Given that dragonflies eat mosquitoes and other small insects – up to 100 per day – creating a habitat where they can thrive could be a win-win as this article points out – Here’s What Attracts Dragonflies and Damselflies to Eat Mosquitos.

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