Mental health and Neurodevelopmental diversity
Neurodevelopmental diversity (NDD) covers a large spectrum of conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Attention Disorder and Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) or Intellectual disabilities (ID), and is often associated with genetic predispositions or events happening during the brain development phase, like preterm birth (see “Risk and Resilience factors box” below). In Europe, 10-15% of children and adults have some form of atypical developmental trajectory. Interestingly, even in the presence of risk factors, it has been shown that the way individuals positively adapt to adversity varies greatly, suggesting that other factors are involved in wellbeing and functioning.
Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and non-verbal communication or repetitive behaviors. Usually detected in early childhood, it is however not rare that individuals are detected much later in adulthood. Associated with the development of the brain, it becomes more and more clear that environmental and societal factors also influence how individuals adapt and function throughout their life.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD)
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) are the most common neurodevelopmental conditions of childhood and are associated with being overly active or having difficulties to paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior. Although the exact factors underlying ADHD remain unknown, genetics is thought to play an important role, associated with environmental factors as preterm birth or low birth weight.
Intellectual disability (ID)
Intellectual disability (ID) is characterized by limitations to a person’s ability to learn and function in everyday social and practical life. Reasoning, learning, problem solving in children with ID could be slower than children of the same age. ID can be related to genetic factors or events hapenning before birth (preterm) or anytime before the age of 18. However, the causes are often unknown, and the resilience factors underlying different outcomes haven’t been characterized.
Risk and resilience factors
NDDs are associated with genetic factors, as mutations in particular genes, or events occurring during the nervous system development (as preterm birth), leading to modifications of the nervous system. However, it appears that wellbeing and functioning varies greatly among individuals living with NDDs, even in the presence of the same genetic or birth-related risk factors. This has lead researchers to investigate the role of so called resilience factors.
The R2D2-MH approach
R2D2-MH aims to integrate in its research strategy not only risk factors, as genetic mutations or preterm birth, but also resilience factors to better understand trajectories in individuals with NDDs and deliver new tools tailored to the end-users. Through co-creation, R2D2-MH will promote uptake of the results and outcomes by end-users and also, by giving individuals living with NDDs a voice, contribute to reducing stigma around NDDs and mental health.