What is Neurodiversity?

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the idea that not everyone experiences and interacts with the world around them in the same manner. It combats the approach that there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to how we function in a working environment, and that those who do not fit into ‘normal’ standards may be perceived as being less-than to their peers.

The term Neurodiversity alludes to the diversity amongst each person, but it is often used in the same regard as neurological and developmental conditions such as ASD, ADHD or learning disabilities. Although neurodiversity began as a social justice movement, to promote the inclusion of all people, it has become synonymous in conversations about how to approach neurological conditions and differences, essential for clinicians and employers alike.

 

What does Neurodivergent Mean?

The ADHD Foundation states that around one in five people are neurodivergent. The term “neurodivergent” refers to people whose differences in the brain affects how they function in everyday life. These differences lead to both strengths and challenges when compared to those who do not have these differences. Such challenges may include medical disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions, whilst strengths may include a better memory, visual thinking, logical thinking ability and problem solving.

Neurodivergent is not a medical term, rather it describes those who do not have a “normal” approach to how their brain functions, without using the term “normal” or “abnormal” as there is no typical way our brains operate. Instead, the term for people whose brains are not affected in this way are “neurotypical”.

 

Am I Neurodivergent?

The term neurodivergent encompasses a variety of conditions, which result in those affected to interpret and interact with their environment in a different way. Such conditions include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Mental health conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Bipolar Disorder
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Dyslexia (difficulty with reading)
  • Dysgraphia (difficulty with writing)
  • Dyspraxia (difficulty with coordination)
  • Dyscalculia (difficulty with math)
  • Other Learning Disabilities

You are certainly neurodivergent if you have been diagnosed with any of the above conditions, however you may also consider yourself to be neurodivergent if you think, interact, and behave in a way which may not be typical, without a prior diagnosis. It’s important to remember though that these conditions may bring their own strengths, such as autism where those affected have a continuing theme of excelling in math and similar fields and having a higher attention to detail.

 

Why Use the Term Neurodivergent to Describe People?

There are those who do not like the idea of neurodiversity as being about differences in the brain rather than deficits. One stance is that there are people who have genuine medical conditions that need treatment, and neurodiversity doesn’t highlight this. Studies have shown however that those who consider themselves as neurodivergent do not ignore or deny the struggles they may be going through. Instead, the research shows that neurodivergent individuals use this knowledge to help them succeed. As well as this, using terms such as neurodiversity rather than deficient or flawed, has led to those involved feeling happier and performing better.

 

Neurodiversity in The Workplace

Neurodivergent people may be very different from one another. As such, there is no one way where employers can accommodate for any of their staff who may be neurodiverse.  It’s important to speak to the employee and work with them to find specific accommodations that would benefit them the most. There are however general accommodations which may support employees with or without specific neurodivergent diagnoses:

  • Awareness of neurodiversity and an ability to be flexible when specific requests are made. This may include accommodating a preference to work from home or communicate via emails only.
  • Accommodating to sensory issues which can cause discomfort to or distress the individual. This might include providing noise-cancelling headphones to reduce ambient noise.
  • Technological support can be provided to employees depending on what they need. This can range from alarms to calendars.
  • Awareness of social differences can be key for neurotypical employees to take certain situations in their stride, rather than reacting negatively. Examples may include when someone has tics, stammers, or finds it difficult to socialise in a typical way.
  • Employers can also allow greater freedom of movement. This can be done by allowing fidget toys for example but also allowing extra movement breaks and more flexible seating.
  • Avoiding the use of implied language such as sarcasm and euphemisms.
  • Give notice if plenty of notice if plans are changing and provide a reason of why.
  • Break down tasks into smaller steps, providing concise written instruction.

Employers may also alter the infrastructure of the workplace to better suit the neurodiverse individual’s needs. This could include tailoring a job role which would take advantage of the employee’s strengths and preferences, whilst avoiding challenging their weaknesses.

 

Supporting Neurodiverse Individuals

Neurodiversity is very common and it’s important that we work with those around us. The needs of those who are neurodiverse alter and change from person to person, as not every individual is the same, so their individual needs may vary. There is general support though that we can offer to support the people around us in the best way possible.

Communicate on Their Terms

Try talking in an environment which has few distractions and little ambient noise. Avoid using implied communication such as jargon, euphemisms, or sarcasm, even if it’s meant well. Make sure to follow their lead in the conversation and listen to them. The conversation should run at a speed which is comfortable for them, so try talking slowly and take the time to make sure you understand what they’re saying.

Empathy

Everyone has their own challenges; the most important thing is that we are there to support those who need it. When someone expresses how they’re feeling or about any problems they may be facing that day, listen to them and emphasise with them. Validate their feelings and ensure they know you hear them. Rather than feeling alone, we want to boost people’s confidence levels in themselves and help them be their best.

Support Them

Not everyone is the same and we all have our own wants and needs in life. It’s important to ask the right questions in understanding how you can best support someone who is neurodiverse and use that information to help them. Ask open, non-structured questions and listen to what they have to say, checking your understanding throughout. That way, you can provide the support that will help thrive at work, or even at home.

 

Contact Us

For more information on how Life & Progress can help, contact us at 0808 164 3941 or email us at service@lifeandprogress.co.uk

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