Understanding Neuroinclusivity: A Missing Piece of MH Conversations

Session Recording


At least 1 in 5 people thinks, learns, and/or communicates differently than the so-called “typical” brain. Neurodivergent people experience higher rates of untreated health problems, substance use, social isolation, and unemployment. Autistic and ADHD adults have higher rates of suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for autistic adults, who have an average life expectancy of 36-54 years. 72% of autistic adults experience suicidal ideation. Autistic adults have a 4-9 times increased risk of completed suicide.

This presentation will describe the research on neurodivergent patients and suicide, including specific risk factors, outcomes, and barriers to accessing support. Research shows that suicide risk is highest in autistic adults with lower support needs and that masking/camouflaging is an independent risk factor for suicide.

We will then further discuss neurodivergent patients’ barriers to accessing healthcare (medical and mental health) and data on the current health inequity experienced by this population. Approximately 80% of autistic adults experience difficulty accessing healthcare, and 70% have untreated physical and mental health problems. Barriers to access include environmental, communication, provider knowledge gaps, and systemic aspects.

We will then describe what healthcare professionals, employers, and the community need to know about the brain science of mental health: nervous system regulation, sensory processing, executive functioning, communication, and practical aspects of promoting inclusion for neurodivergent people.

Neurodiversity and access are generally missing from the community conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion. As these topics become more commonly discussed, we have every reason to be optimistic that we in Vermont can do better at expanding access to neurodivergent people and intentionally address ongoing access to support for this particularly at-risk group.

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Founder and Executive Director of All Brains Belong VT

Dr. Mel Houser (she/they) is a Board-certified family physician and an expert in neuro-inclusive healthcare and employment, as well as the brain science of mental health.

She has a clinical focus on providing medical care for neurodivergent patients across the lifespan. She is the Founder and Executive Director of All Brains Belong VT, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in Montpelier, Vermont, that uses universal design principles to provide neurodiversity-affirming medical care, social connection opportunities for all ages and neurodiversity-related educational training.

At age 37, Dr. Houser was diagnosed as autistic, ADHD, dyspraxic, dyslexic, and dyscalculic. She is also the parent of a multiply neurodivergent child.

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