I read an interesting article by Daniel Lane from Baringa on his experiences with ADHD.
Members of my family have been diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia (including myself) and I’m positive many others have Neurodiversity traits that have never been tested and fully diagnosed. All these diagnosed family members struggled at school before finding ways to work through their difficulties and flourishing at university and in work, developing into international CEO and MD roles etc and it got me thinking about Neurodiversity as a whole.
One of the roles I champion at Bramwith, alongside my Recruitment Director role, is to be Bramwith’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion, which means internally and externally I champion diversity. This means I work closely with diversity bodies such as Business in the Community, MSDUK and WeConnect International to better understand and drive positive change around D&I. I also work with all Bramwith’s clients (when they’ll let me!), giving advice on how they can be more proactive in widening and attracting candidates from more diverse pools, ultimately allowing them to have more diverse workforces, which in turn allows those businesses to be more successful.
Reading Dan’s article though, it struck me that very little is discussed about Neurodiversity when talking about D&I, as 95% of the conversation is about gender and ethnicity.
Did you know that 1 in 7 people has a neurodivergent condition? It’s estimated that in the global adult population that 10% are dyslexic, 5% are dyspraxic, 4% have ADHD, and 1-2% are autistic.
For those who are new to this, Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one "right" way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences should not be viewed as deficits. Classic Neurodiversity approaches include:
Ø Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) people may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active
Ø Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) people may show differences in communication, learning, and behaviour, though it can look different from person to person
Ø Dyslexia affects how a person processes language, and it can make reading and writing difficult. It can also cause problems with grammar and reading comprehension
Ø Dyspraxia affects a person's motor skills. Motor skills help us with movement and coordination
Ø Dysgraphia affects a person's writing abilities
Ø Dyscalculia affects a person's ability to do maths
Ø Auditory Processing Disorder is a problem with the way the brain processes the sounds a person takes in. It is not caused by hearing impairment
The more I have researched and started to understand Neurodiversity, the more it strikes me that in some way we are all a little Neurodivergent, we’re all presupposed to be a bit Autistic, ADHD, Dyspraxic, Dyslexic etc, partially at least. Everyone is different, we all have our little idiosyncrasies (whether they’re good or bad!) and that’s what makes us different. It should also be pretty obvious as well that we all have different drivers, ways of learning, things we like and dislike and ways that we all approach problems. We know all this already, so the idea that there is a “normal” person is pretty laughable really, who is this normal person? If you know them, I bet they’re pretty boring as well! So why does our education system, our hiring processes and people management largely be so restricted to a “one size fits all approach”?
I do not proclaim to be an expert in everything Neurodiversity related at all, so this blog is more about me raising this thought and question for those who read it about how as employers, work colleagues, parents, friends etc we are considerate that our friends, colleagues, sons and daughters etc may need us to take a different approach to get the most out of them and help them to achieve their potential. As a parent myself, I am definitely thinking about my kids who are both very different but wonderful in their own unique ways.
I think there is still a big stigma, a lack of awareness, and lack of appropriate infrastructure (such as office setup or staffing structures) and these can cause exclusion of people with neurodevelopmental differences. Understanding and embracing neurodiversity in communities, schools and workplaces can improve inclusivity for all people. It is important for all of us to foster an environment that is conducive to neurodiversity, and to recognize and emphasize each person’s individual strengths and talents while also providing support for their differences and needs. I think there’s also a need to see specialists to assess if we have Autism, ADHD etc, so we can learn about ourselves and start to play to our strengths and learn to manage our weaknesses.
This brings me nicely onto my next point. Neurodivergent people have some fantastic strengths that others may not have.
1. Neurodivergent people often know what their strengths and weaknesses are, which is built from a lifetime of creating workarounds to allow them to reach their full potential.
2. Many Neurodivergent people struggle for years with activities so have to work harder than others to form ways of “making it work” which can lead to excellent problem solving skills, thinking outside of the box and even better listening skills. So any business will probably find a lot of their most innovative thinkers have ADHD, Autism and other Neurodivergent traits, whether they are diagnosed or not
3. People with ADHD may have trouble with time management, but they often show high levels of passion, drive, and creative thinking.
4. Many neurodivergent people are strongly focused on social justice. What some consider rigid hyperfocus on rules can be better understood as a natural tendency to intensely believe in the import of fairness and justice. This focus on fairness, combined with deep empathy, leads to individuals who will fight passionately to protect the welfare of the disenfranchised and the environment.
5. Two facets of Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD) are a phenomenal long-term memory, and an ability to hyper-focus on individual details. When you combine those two, you get the ability to draw connections between things that seem completely unrelated.
I’m sure I have missed loads of other fantastic traits of Neurodivergent people, but hopefully that gets you thinking about how you could communicate better with your friends and colleagues, as employers how you could utilise people who view the world differently to you, how you can get the most out of them and in turn be more successful.
Please let me know what you think. I’m sure there’s literally millions of people out there who know a lot more about this than me, so would love to hear from them if I have missed the point, if there are other strengths missed etc.
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