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Mental health
Sleep issue
Eating issues

Spotting neurodivergence in a health appointment

You may see girls in a health appointment for the issues below. These issues can be caused by unidentified neurodivergence, although they can have other causes too. Dig deeper to discover what unmet needs might be under the surface.   


1. Appointment is for: mental health concerns

  • Self-harm, suicidal thoughts

  • Anxiety and depression​

  • Low self-esteem

  • Feels that she has no value

  • Feels as if she's a burden

  • Feels as if she doesn't fit in, that she's 'on the outside' of peer groups

  • Avoids school

  • ‘Explosive’ moods

  • Social anxiety, feels isolated, being bullied

  • Separation anxiety

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Sensory overwhelm 

  • Unpredictability of life, transitions and sudden changes of routine 

  • Burnout from masking autistic traits and mimicking neurotypical behaviour

  • Perfectionism and processing differences leading to feelings of failure

  • Being bullied or isolated from peer group

  • Anxiety when separated from trusted adults

2. Appointment is for: OCD-like tendencies

  • Repeated behaviours (eg finger picking, nailbiting, repeated speech patterns)

Could be caused by unmet ND needs like...

  • Healthy stims to soothe and regulate 

  • Or OCD triggered by unmet needs

3. Appointment is for: sleep issues
  • Difficulties falling and staying asleep, or sleeping alone

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Anxiety

  • Circadian rhythm differences affect sleep patterns

  • Distress caused by separation from trusted adult

4. Appointment is for: eating issues

  • Restricted diet, tolerates only certain foods 

  • Under eating, anorexia, bulimia

  • Over-eating

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Sensory differences relating to texture

  • Sensory differences mean she may not feel full or hungry

  • Hyper-focus means that she finds it difficult to interrupt what she is doing to eat or drink

  • Coping mechanism for anxiety

  • Passionate interest in fitness and nutrition

5. Appointment is for: digestion issues

  • Constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting 

  • Abdominal pain

  • Reflux

  • Bowel inflammation

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Anxiety

  • Autistic children may be more likely to have food intolerances 

6. Appointment is for: joints / physical issues

  • Hypermobility

  • Painful joints 

  • Leg pain, especially at night

  • Seemingly ‘under’ or ‘over’ sensitive to pain and/or temperature

  • Walking on toes

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Differences in muscle tone or motor skills.

  • Differences in interoception affecting how pain is experienced

  • Seeking more proprioceptive input through the feet

Appointment is for: toileting

  • Incontinence 

  • Withholding 

  • Bladder issues 

  • Frequent urine infections or vulvovaginitis

Could be caused by unmet ND needs, like...

  • Differences in interoception make it harder to know when her bladder or bowel needs emptying

  • Hyperfocus might make it hard to interrupt what she's doing to go to the toilet

  • Poor coordination can make effective wiping difficult

What next?

​-> Read, print and share with other professionals:

Content developed with the support of the Specialist Autism Assessment Service from Sirona care & health.

-> Share the NeonDaisy families site here with parents and carers

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