How can you accommodate event attendees with neurological needs?

Diversity and inclusion are often discussed about people of diverse genders, races and sexual preferences. Organizers and professionals need to be aware of the unique needs of people with neurodivergent disorders (such as ASD and ADHD). A neuro-inclusive conference is accessible, safe and inclusive for all neurological types (neurotypical, neurodivergent). This adds value to both attendees and planners. Before we can plan and host euro-inclusive events, it is important to understand neuro-differences and the meaning of neurodiversity.

Understanding the Why Behind Neuro Inclusive Events

What does it mean to be neurodivergent?

There are two types, neurotypical and neurodivergent, of neuro functioning. Neurotypical brains function predictably in terms of intellect, functioning, development. Neurodivergent brains, on the other hand, respond, interact, develop and function in ways that are not considered “typical.”

Neurodivergent isn’t a mental illness. It is a state of mind that is different from the normal self. Neurodivergent is a neurodevelopmental disorder or condition that is present either before the person is born (in their womb) or in the early years of childhood (when the brain develops). The risk profile increases the chance that a neurodivergent person will develop mental illness. However, they can and do exist independently. A neurodivergent person will always be neurodivergent even if they are healthy and thriving.


Neurodivergent should not be a trendy buzzword. Neurodivergent people can function neurologically in a real and challenging way. Donne Lance is a senior consultant for the Neurodiversity Centre and a clinical psychologist in private practice. She explains that even though they have overcome many of the challenges faced in childhood, neurodivergent people often face other obstacles as they transition into adulthood. These factors include low energy, fluctuating mood, trouble making eye contact, difficulty communicating with others, executive functioning difficulties, and difficulty making eye contact.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a term that was first used and has been popularized by Judy Singer, sociologist and fellow “autistic advocate”, Harvey Blume, in the late 1990s.

Donne Lance, a clinical psychologist, explains that neurodiversity is often understood to mean that neurodivergent does not need to be treated or “cured”. Instead, it should be accommodated, included, and most importantly, understood. Lance says, “This idea, and advocacy for a new understanding of neurological diversity (having different brains in a group), is valued and embraced due to those very differences.”


Planners must design events that are accessible to everyone, not just the organization’s core audience. This will ensure that people keep coming back and connecting with them.

Neuro-Inclusive Events: Characteristics

A key element of any neuro-inclusive event policy includes the creation of “safe zones.” This is where people with sensory over-stimulation have the opportunity to rest their senses in a quiet environment, with dim lighting and ample personal space.

These “safe spaces” are not new to the mental and well-being sectors. However, they are quite novel in the events sector. IMEX has provided these spaces over the years through their “white area” and the Annual ICA Conference and Microsoft Events.


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