Closed Captions and Neurodivergence

by | Dec 29, 2021

It’s widely understood that closed captions help people who are D/deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing to access video content. It’s also generally recognized that translated subtitles help people access content in languages they do not understand or speak fluently. 

There is also broadening awareness of how closed captions help diverse people in multiple ways – with learning to read, learning to speak a new language, and accessing videos in a public and/or crowded environment where sound is not useful or not allowed. 

But how do closed captions help people who are neurodivergent (ND)?

Concept of the diversity of talents and skills, with people profiles associated with different brains. Puzzle head. Symbol of autism.

Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence

Neurodiversity describes the naturally wide spectrum of different ways of thinking and processing across humanity – the various ways the human brain works in diverse individuals. 

Neurodivergence includes all types of people who think and process in ways that have not been considered “typical” or “the norm” in human society and culture. All others would be considered neurotypical (NT).

The concept of neurodivergence began in the Autistic community, and there has been ongoing expansion of the different kinds of people considered neurodivergent, though there is not complete agreement about which conditions or classifications to include. 

The most comprehensive lists are extensive and include dozens of disorders, syndromes, conditions, abilities, disabilities, and differences. 


Who do captions help and how?

What kinds of people with which specific disabilities and differences find captions helpful or necessary?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Someone with attention challenges may be easily distracted and have difficulty concentrating on a video they are viewing, particularly if it is not stimulating enough for the individual at that time. Captions add additional visual stimuli that may help hold a person’s attention to the content at hand.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Many people with ADHD and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also experience APD. People with auditory processing challenges can have difficulty distinguishing between similar sounds and with comprehending speech over background noise, and may need more time for what they have heard to “click,” especially when someone is speaking quickly or there are multiple speakers. Being able to see the captions at the same time as hearing the spoken words or sounds can help someone with APD process what they’ve heard more quickly and keep up with the pace of the audio as it occurs.   

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

SPD is another condition that often overlaps with Autism/ASD. Some people with sensory integration challenges may find it difficult to process both visual and auditory information at the same time. Using captions allows someone with SPD to take everything in through a visual format and can make it easier for them to process and comprehend. For some individuals, certain sounds and tones may be especially unpleasant or even painful, so they need to be able to access that information visually instead.


Someone with hyperlexia learns to read early, quickly, easily, and beyond what is considered “typical” for their age. It often goes along with Autism/ASD and/or Giftedness. A person with hyperlexia may find reading easier and more enjoyable than comprehending language auditorily, so using captions can enhance their experience of video content.


Dyscalculia describes challenges in understanding or applying mathematical or numerical concepts and skills. For someone with dyscalculia, it can be helpful to receive mathematical information in multiple ways at once – to see the numbers or numerals in the captions at the same time as hearing them spoken allows the person to comprehend the concepts more quickly and accurately.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety

For someone who is obsessive, compulsive, and/or anxious, it may be extremely important for them to comprehend every single word that is spoken in a video they are viewing. Not being able to accurately hear something that is mumbled, jumbled, or not loud enough can be frustrating and distressing, and they may not be able to let it go and understand or enjoy anything else in the video. Captions can help someone with these challenges not to miss things that would prevent them from experiencing the content fully.


The above are just a few examples of ways closed captions can help neurodivergent people; there are many other types of neurodivergence that can also be aided by closed captions. Even with the diversity of reasons that make captions helpful, standard closed captioning service is beneficial in all of these contexts. If you want to talk more about how ECS can help your videos reach more diverse people, contact us here.


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