How can Design for Neurodiversity accommodate people with PTSD?

Design for Neurodiversity is an approach that aims to create inclusive and accessible environments, products and services that respect and celebrate the diversity of human brains and minds. Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and PTSD, are natural variations of human experience, not disorders or deficits.

People with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are a neurodiverse group that may face specific challenges and barriers in their daily lives due to trauma-related symptoms. These may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, hypervigilance, avoidance, emotional dysregulation and dissociation. These symptoms can affect their ability to function in various domains, such as work, education, social interactions and self-care.

Design for Neurodiversity can accommodate people with PTSD by applying the following principles:

  • Empathy: Designers should empathize with the lived experiences of people with PTSD and understand their needs, preferences and goals. This can be done by involving them in the design process through co-design, user research and feedback. Designers should also be aware of their own biases and assumptions and avoid stigmatizing or pathologizing people with PTSD.
  • Safety: Designers should create environments, products and services that promote a sense of safety and security for people with PTSD. This can be done by reducing potential triggers, such as loud noises, bright lights, crowds or reminders of trauma. Designers should also provide options for people to control their exposure to stimuli, such as adjustable lighting, sound and temperature. Designers should also respect the boundaries and consent of people with PTSD and avoid forcing them to engage in activities or situations that may cause them distress.
  • Flexibility: Designers should create environments, products and services that accommodate the diversity and variability of people with PTSD. This can be done by providing multiple ways of accessing and using them, such as different modes of interaction, information formats and difficulty levels. Designers should also allow people to customize and personalize their experiences according to their preferences and needs. Designers should also recognize that people with PTSD may have different coping strategies and support systems, enabling them to access them when needed.
  • Empowerment: Designers should create environments, products and services that empower people with PTSD to achieve their goals and aspirations. This can be done by providing opportunities for learning, growth and development, such as feedback, guidance and resources. Designers should also encourage positive emotions and experiences, such as joy, curiosity and creativity. Designers should also celebrate the strengths and achievements of people with PTSD and acknowledge their resilience and agency.
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Design for Neurodiversity is beneficial not only for people with PTSD but also for the wider society. By creating more inclusive and accessible environments, products and services, designers can foster a culture of acceptance, diversity and inclusion that values everyone’s unique contributions and potential.

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