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The following tools, tips and resources have been suggested by neurodivergent researchers, for the benefit of other neurodivergent researchers. All neurodivergent individuals with experience conducting research should feel free to contribute to this list by using this form. Please share this list widely!MORE ABOUT THIS LIST (see also README tab): This list is being compiled by the eLife Sparks of Change team. As part of an initiative aiming to amplify the stories of neurodivergent scientists, eLife is inviting neurodivergent people to share resources, tools and tips that they use or have designed to improve their experience as a neurodivergent researcher. These submissions are collated in this publically available list, for the benefit of other researchers in the community. eLife may at some point compile this information into a short blogpost which will be freely accessible and under a CC-BY licence.
Submissions may include (but are not limited to): online resources you’ve found helpful; supportive communities you belong to; apps, software or objects you use regularly; strategies you've adopted or created for yourself to tackle certain tasks.
These tips may be useful for work (e.g. writing, reading/reviewing the literature, experiments, fieldwork etc.), but also for day-to-day life, advocacy, well-being, or finding a community.
We encourage submissions which may be primarily relevant for neurodivergent researchers from underrepresented and/or under-diagnosed communities.
We welcome contributions from all neurodivergent individuals with research experience, regardless of diagnosis status or form of neurodivergence.
Contributions can be submitted via this form.
Submissions are fully anonymous. Please note that all contributions will be reviewed before being listed (for example, we cannot accept self-promotion of paid services), and some may be lightly edited (for instance to remove identifying information).
Important: We acknowledge that the resources listed here do not represent an appropriate response to the structural issues that neurodivergent scientists may be facing in and outside of academia. This initiative should not detract from the need for institutional and policy changes, or suggest that the focus should be solely on individuals trying to ‘manage themselves’. Still, we hope that a few of these crowd-sourced strategies may be helpful and valuable to some in the short-term. By providing a place for neurodivergent scientists to safely share these snippets of their lives, we hope that others will feel less isolated in their experiences, and that they will be encouraged to design or embrace the strategies they find useful for themselves.
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Suggested Tips, Tools and ResourcesLinksNotes & CommentsUseful for what life domain?If useful for work, what type of workType of resourcesMost relevant for...Additional information
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Body doubling software: it matches you with someone else somewhere in the world to work together on camera for 25, 55 or 75min. You share goals at the start of the session, and debrief for a few minutes at the end. This is a great tool for body doubling, especially if you work from home or outside of core working hours. There are groups specifically for academics, which means you're paired with someone who may also be writing their thesis, reading papers or reviewing their manuscript. There also groups specifically for those with ADHDhttps://www.focusmate.com/dashboardWork & StudyGeneral/ProductivityApp/SoftwareADHD
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My psychiatrist recommended ADDitude Magazine https://www.additudemag.com/Life (General)Online content/BookEverybody
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Stress (late nights or rushing around the lab processing samples so you can get to that mandatory journal club, anyone?) exacerbates symptoms. We can't always control the unexpected problems and challenges that the lab and world throw at us, but take the time to set yourself up for success when possible.Work & StudyOtherStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Lab Work: With dyscalculia, sometimes I visually process numbers incorrectly in the moment without realizing it. I found that stepping away and returning was really useful to catching mistakes that I quite literally could not see in the moment. When possible, I do calculations for my experiments the day before, always double-checking with a calculator several times the day-of to ensure I'm no misreading numbers. Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyscalculia
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Lab Work: I set my sample tubes up in the order that I need to add them to my plates and use my phone to take pictures of the the tubes before and after loading them into the plate. This helps me make sure that I haven't mixed samples up without realizing. Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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When appropriate, I've found it helpful to mention my disability as a mechanism to normalize it for both myself and my peers: "I'm dyslexic, give me a moment to orient myself to the data" or "I apologize, I'm dyslexic, when I said 'look to the left-hand side of the slide' when I meant was 'look to the right-hand side'! As we can see here... " This goes for inside the lab and outside the lab. I am more than my disability, but I'm also tired of getting judgmental looks when I struggle with symptoms. Well-Being
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Lab Work: Dyslexia often manifests in switching things, so I label samples with simple names. I know certain combinations will be easy for me to mistakenly switch so I avoid using them in the same experiment (eg 36/39/63 BD DB).Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Lab Work: I keep thing in the same order throughout an experiment (eg when putting into a microfuge I put sample 1 in slot 1 and when I remove the samples I start with slot 1).Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Lab Work: For chemicals commonly used together, I use visual cues like different colored tape and sized bottles so I have redundant systems to help me identify if I am about to use the wrong one (eg Tris pH9 versus Tris pH6). I also keep chemicals in a standard location (eg Tris pH9 is always in this spot, with red tape in a 500ml bottle and Tris pH6 in that spot, with yellow tape in a 250 ml bottle). This also helps if I've just done something and realize I didn't pay enough attention, I can almost always remember the color and bottle size I just used, the writing on the label just doesn't stick in my head.Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Lab Work: With with dyslexia, I tend to misremember numbers even for very common procedures. To avoid having to print out a protocol for something I do routinely, like make a DNA gel, I write the recipe directly on the bottle or have it taped to the wall near the appropriate workstation.Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Writing: I use Grammarly in day-to-day documents and, if one of my co-authors does not have an eagle eye for typos, I pay out of pocket for a copy editor for papers and grants.https://www.grammarly.com/
I have dyslexia. I have a very hard time seeing misspelled words and garbled sentences. Early on people who gave feedback on papers and grants would say I had lots of typos but not actually point them out, I'd catch some on my own but would get comments on my papers and grants that they were riddled with grammatical errors (often followed by a conclusion drawn about the type of scientist I was based on those errors).
Work & StudyWritingApp/SoftwareDyslexia
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Lab Work: I've converted the majority of my lab notebook to dated excel spreadsheet templates. There are tabs for observations and notes, protocols, calculations, and other relevant sections. I have to do the calculation and protocol parts to conduct the experiment so it helps keeping my notebook updated. Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack
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Executive Dysfunction: Excellent 1hr workshop by Rua M. Williams on hacking executive function for neurodivergent burnouts and abolishing shame. Includes thorough description of multiple strategies, positive vision of disability, liberation across syndromes/disorders, and a Q+A.https://diode.zone/w/wHDBUbB1LQx4PLeXQPe4q8Everything/OtherGeneral/ProductivityOnline content/Book
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Lab Work: When shadowing a faster pace experiment, I use a GoPro (with permission). This way I can rewatch it, slow it down, look at the techniques and still get the dialogue.
I found that incredibly useful for when I learned 10X’s scRNAseq cell and library preparation protocol from shadowing someone once. It’s a hefty protocol all written out; due to my neurodivergences, I learn best by seeing it be done so I can visualize it rather than reading the steps. I had hardly any other wet lab experience when I was trained, so this was my introduction to that space. It was a lot to stay focused on at once since it was all new and I didn’t know what was more important and what wasn’t. There were also lots of little tips scattered throughout but it’s a long and timed protocol with quick steps, and I can’t always write fast enough. I wanted to keep my eyes on the hands/technique and asking questions and being more intellectually present in the protocol and filming the procedure enabled that.
Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack
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Reading: I found the Speechify app [Note: app that reads text aloud] very useful to listen to journal articles. I would edit the text a bit first, and I'd have certain sentences or key point repeated (by copying and pasting them) as well to drill them into my brain. https://speechify.com/Work & StudyLiterature (reading, review)App/Software
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Open ear bone conduction headphones: it hurts my ears to have in ear headphones, and I dislike the feeling of things on or around my head, so these allow me to listen to music in the lab [Note: to help with focus] for the entirety of the work day if needed. Plus, I am still aware of my surroundings since the ears are open. Work & StudyGeneral/ProductivityGadget/ObjectEverybody
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Lab Work: I've tried to create environments that kinda set the mood for what I’m going to do. For lab work, I have a specific playlist for one of my main techniques and it really helps to listen to it. I’ve noticed I’m now conditioned to remain more hyper focused when listening to this playlist, likely due to adrenaline, so I try to only listen to these songs during important moments where I need to kick into gear. Work & StudyGeneral/ProductivityStrategy/Tip/Hack Everybody
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The book Brianlock (listened to as an audio book) helped a lot with the start of my OCD therapy. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/44096Well-BeingOnline content/BookOther neurodifferences
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Look into therapy so you can learn about yourself.
Fieldwork (living for up to a week in a cabin with lots of people, with no control over food, sleep hours, noise, temperature, etc) was so triggering that lead me to a crisis that left me out of work for a year. Now I have my diagnosis (autism, sensory modulation disorder, disautonomy, neurological functional disorder) but at the time I didn't know about the symptoms nor understand what was going on with me.
Strategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Strictly sticking to my limits. I can work max X hours a day, at the morning, I do not work after 5 pm, never ever work at night, don't even think about contacting me on weekends. If I need to work from home or need to take days off because I'm overwhelmed I do it without question. It is hard because people do no understand this kind of stuff. Strategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Lab Work: To counteract my distracted mind, I arrange reagents in a way that it is impossible for me to mess up which reagent I've put into which tube e.g. I include a gap between the tube I am working with and the tubes around said tube. Strategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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I recommend the book “Neurotribes” for self-acceptance, and to understand the history of autism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeuroTribesWell-BeingOnline content/BookAutism
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I enjoy Patrick Teehan on YouTube and TikTok. https://linktr.ee/patrickteahanWell-BeingOnline content/BookEverybody
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One of the most helpful resources for me has been getting a neuropsychological evaluation and weekly therapy sessions with an LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist). Well-BeingOnline content/BookAutism
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Website with resources on autism
https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/index.html
Well-BeingOnline content/BookAutism
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Article on how social camouflaging is associated with anxiety and depression in autistic adultshttps://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-021-00421-1Well-BeingOnline content/BookAutism
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The best effort I've ever put in to lab was convincing my boss to purchase a super-automatic espresso machine. I only function with an unhealthy level of caffeine and dextroamphetamine so stopping the trips to our campus coffee stand has led to a measurable increase in productivity for myself and the rest of my lab. Well-BeingStrategy/Tip/Hack Everybody
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Lab Work: Don’t be afraid to ask to be taught new techniques in a way that makes it easier for you to understand. Teaching is not one way, the signal needs to be sent, but it also needs to be received.
I’m not too open about my own neurodivergence myself (working up to that, though some are aware of my ADHD), but I often ask to record or if someone can teach me something with a few considerations in mind, and it’s always been well received. I see it as less of me asking for an accommodation, and more as me being in tune with my learning styles and requesting people to consider them when training me on a new technique. People are usually happy with it, and many echo that it’s a great idea and that they wish they had thought of that when learning harder and longer techniques early on.
Work & StudyStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Learn about your needs so you can take care of you. Well-BeingStrategy/Tip/Hack All forms of neurodivergence
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Stand up for yourself. If people expect of you something which you cannot accomplish, make it known that it's their problem, not yours.Everything/OtherOtherAll forms of neurodivergence
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Your 3D mind is a blessing to connect things that seem not related Everything/OtherOtherAll forms of neurodivergence
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Actor Connor Dewolfe's TikTok and Instagram pages -- he's the one who finally convinced me I wasn't malingeringhttps://linktr.ee/connordewolfeCommunityCommunity
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Video describing dyslexiahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH5Ds4_0lO8Everything/OtherOnline content/BookDyslexia
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Youtube channel about dyspraxia/DCDhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pamEV5T0jk8 Everything/OtherOnline content/BookDyspraxia/DCD
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Neurodiverse database useful for adding resources and papers from neurodivergent researchers to syllabihttps://t.co/jR6HjNuyp3Everything/OtherOnline content/BookAll forms of neurodivergence
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Field work: Field scientists who forget to hydrate whilst out in the field and with variable schedules: make a water alarm to remind yourself to hydrate! Work & StudyFieldworkStrategy/Tip/Hack ADHD
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Field work: If you are always losing pens/pencils in the field, attach them to yourself or clip board with a piece of brightly coloured string.Work & StudyFieldworkStrategy/Tip/Hack ADHD
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Database of resources on neurodiversity, from the Team Neurodiversity at FORRThttps://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1OnfQB1OqC00OflwTuRPBhG5NfX-_oLxxoTM_F_J5t5c/edit#gid=1439335686Online content/BookEverybody
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Reading: Use drawing and mind maps to summarize papers Your 3D mind is a blessing to connect things that seem not related Work & StudyLiterature (reading, review)Strategy/Tip/Hack Dyspraxia/DCD
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Exercise in the morning helps me release tensionWell-BeingOtherStrategy/Tip/Hack Autism
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I have found that the "Exceptional Individuals" website has good resources. Find resources and learn! Your symptoms can be varied and are not the same as the symptoms of others with the same disability. https://exceptionalindividuals.com/As a person living with dyslexia and dyscalculia, I spent a long time with no actual understanding of my disability--in middle school I was assigned a specialist for one year to help me with reading and that was it. My learning disability manifests in many ways that I was not educated about, far outside of the usual definitions of "dyslexia means your words are jumbled". My parents would say I "had" dyslexia when I was a kid. However, I had no idea that these disabilities are lifelong and can manifest in many different ways. For a long time, I felt stupid and alone for symptoms that I never knew were caused by my disability. It was like a weight (shame) was lifted from my shoulders when I finally learned, mid-way through grad school, about the true scope of dyslexia and dyscalculia. This was liberating, especially in the context of academia where there is a culture of judgement for being different. It also helped me with my work because I could identify why I was struggling. It can still be frustrating. I have a lot of trouble with spatial visualization. I usually have to count on my fingers, I usually need to sing the alphabet to tell you what letter comes after L, etc. I still feel disapproval and shame about this when around other scientists. Just know, if this rings true for you, you are not alone.Well-BeingOnline content/BookDyslexia
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Lab Work: An issue with dyslexia is making errors with simple arithmetic. To avoid this, I have the exact measures I will need pre-written in all protocols (eg rather than saying add 4X sample buffer to 1X I say to 30uls of sample add 10 uls of 4X sample buffer). If I know I'm going to need to do a calculation during an experiment, I build an excel table that will automatically calculate things for me (eg if I count X-cells in a hemacytometer and need to plate 25,000K/ml in 2.5 I just enter those numbers and it tells me the volume of cells and media to get the dilution I need).I have learned to push back when people insist I should be able to do a calculation in my head.Work & StudyLab workStrategy/Tip/Hack Dyslexia
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Slack channel for people with AD(H)D, where they can share memes, reading tips, and other resources as well as support each other when trying to get through difficult tasks/days. The plan is to also start accountability groupshttps://flexyouradhd.com/community/ CommunityGeneral/ProductivityCommunityADHD
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For writing: Writefull is a free program aimed at academic writing. It is similar to Grammarly but it is more intuitive and finds more errors in my writing. It can be integrated with Microsoft Word; has an 'Academizer' which helps turn informal sentences into more academic text; and it also has AI widgets which can help you generate abstracts and titles! https://www.writefull.com/ Work & StudyWritingApp/SoftwareAll forms of neurodivergence
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Productivity: StudyTogether is an online body-doubling study/work platform that lets you join 'rooms' of people in order to body-double with online. There are groups for specific research/study/interest areas, some with and without cameras required. With thousands of people using it I have never struggled to find a group I fit into any time of the day. They also have a discord where you can body-double and or talk to others, which I have found more interactive and there a multiple communities there of neurodivergent accountability-buddies. https://www.studytogether.com/Work & StudyGeneral/ProductivityApp/SoftwareAll forms of neurodivergence
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Writing: When writing, many people focus on the way their article will be received and the interest it may generate, on how to optimize it for a certain publication and on the best way to present the data to enhance their career. How to do so can feel paralyzingly inscrutable and sometimes arbitrary; meanwhile, neurotypical writers are not necessarily inclined or able to explain this process. Instead, I find it helpful to see writing as a sort of moral duty: write what you did, and how you did it, without a specific audience in mind; then ask for help from friends or colleagues, if co-writing is otherwise stressful and daunting.Work & StudyWritingStrategy/Tip/Hack Autism
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