Any meeting you attend may have neurodivergent participants. Please be mindful of neurodivergent needs by adopting the following recommendations.
The role of the chair is paramount. The chair should:
- Debrief every attendee of the recommended rules of the meeting at the start of the meeting.
- Give audible cues to manage speakers during the meeting, to avoid people talking over each other
- Send an agenda in advance of the meeting where possible
- Explain what the meeting is for and make sure everyone has the agenda
- Use the chat function to give instructions of who speaks next or notify people to follow rules
- Consider assigning a co-chair to manage the meeting, verbalise who is co-chairing and explain their role
- Add a break of at least 10 minutes for long meetings. One break for every hour.
Recommended rules for all attendees, including the chair
- Ideally no video, unless a meeting member indicates the need, and then only whilst speaking.
- No chat use unless necessary. Avoid having parallel conversations in the chat as it is distracting and makes it very difficult to follow what the speaker is saying. Use chat only to share documents or links or ask turn to speak if you cannot verbalize it.
- Mute your microphone when not speaking.
- Remember that you can share your screen in Microsoft Teams to show documents to attendees.
- Turn the sound OFF from your Microsoft Teams notifications when in a meeting and specially when taking a turn to speak.
- Speak slowly and clearly, repeating as needed.
- Give people time to respond when asking a question.
- Verbalise when you have finished talking.
- Verbalise when the call is finished.
- Verbalise when you cannot hear others.
- When the chair is neurodivergent, please be mindful that switching tasks may take time. Be patient and respectful.
- Some neurodivergent attendees might be direct and honest. Please do not take things personally.
- Some neurodivergent attendees might have high empathy and find difficult to hide emotions. Please allow time to process information.
Additional considerations for attendees with hearing impairments
- First ask if anybody needs to see the speaker in video. If yes, then only turn on video when speaking. Chair of meeting to follow this same rule.
- Second, if captions are enabled in Microsoft Teams, then ask if that substitutes for video or if video is still needed.
- When video is necessary, make sure to test your camera in advance and make sure that attendees will be able to see your lips when you are speaking.
- Blur the background while having the video ON, to minimize distractions due in the background (decoration, pets, other people).
Why do we need these accommodations?
- An overload of information (video, chat and audio) makes it difficult to understand what people are saying, leading to overwhelm and fatigue
- Lack of an agenda or a chair not enforcing rules means that we do not know when to talk
- We need time to process information
- Any attempt by neurodivergent people to hide information overload, uncertainty, or insufficient processing time can lead to mental health problems (e.g. anxiety, depression, harmful stimming).