A research project supporting the personal and professional development of neurodiverse young people wins Collaboration Labs Project Excellence Award 2021. 

A team of Postgraduate researchers have created a first of a kind, neurodiverse-friendly tool, in partnership with SENDCode, a social enterprise that supports young neurodiverse (ND) people to build digital skills and experience in the workplace. 

With a focus on neurotypical priorities, existing tools to measure and support professional development fail to appreciate the diverse starting points, barriers and pathways of these learners, often posing significant literacy or processing challenges for ND people. As such, the new tool will offer invaluable support to socially isolated young neurodiverse people, most of whom have been out of education for a long time but have an interest in careers and training in the digital economy.  

Working together as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, Karen Leneh Buckle (The University of Manchester), and Maria Liashenko (Lancaster University), took an original approach based on their research into the values of neurodiverse young people on areas of life beyond education and employment.  

“The team showed amazing empathy and skill in handling the social interactions and gaining the opinions of young people who often feel as though nobody listens. The tool will demonstrate the journeys they make with us and the fact that the process was ‘done with’ rather ‘done to’ the young people is a credit to the research team.” – Seamus Mannion, SENDCode Director. 

The project contributes to current research gaps on the wellbeing and progress of neurodiverse people, offering new insights for future service provision and the inclusion of marginalised communities.  

“It is really satisfying to see a useful, practical project output that may be used in practice to enhance individuals’ lives”- Karen Leneh Buckle, Research Lead.  

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, praised the research in his address to the winners: 

“We are really proud to see work like this happen, especially as there’s no equivalent such tool or approach currently available. So I hope to see the learning from this have an even wider impact across the months and years ahead”.

The Project Excellence Award celebrates the outstanding achievements of just one of the ten teams of postgraduate and early career researchers that have been creating positive change towards cultural engagement, better health, environmental sustainability and inclusion, as part of the Collaboration Labs programme.  

The other two finalists were:   

Find out more about the winning team and finalists, here.