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Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023

The following article has been written for you all on behalf of Bath Mind by staff member Hannah, Senior Support Worker at our Breathing Space service and Chair of the Bath Mind staff Neurodiversity subgroup. A huge thank you to Hannah for her wonderful insight, we hope you enjoy reading!

Getting the words right

It’s really important to understand what we mean by neurodiversity. Neurodiversity encompasses the wide range of ways that different people’s brains process information. It covers many conditions including things most of us have heard of like Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia, and other conditions that you may not be so familiar with like Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), Visual Processing Disorder or Dyscalculia.

If you have one or more of these specific learning difficulties (SpLD) you might refer to yourself as neurodivergent or neuro-atypical (my personal favourite, neuro-spicy). If you don’t have an SpLD, then it may be that you are Neurotypical. Estimates are that around 15% of people (one in seven) in the UK are neurodivergent and more than half are undiagnosed.

There’s a great glossary of terms here if you’d like to brush up on your understanding of neurodiversity.

If Neurodiverse conditions are “difficulties”, then why are we celebrating them?

Because people with a neurodiverse condition are classified as having a “difficulty” or “disability”, it’s easy to think of this as something to be ‘fixed’. Historically, dangerous treatments methods have been taken to ‘cure’ neurodiversity. We now understand that neurodivergent people’s brains are simply wired differently, not wrongly. 

It’s no surprise then that many creative and successful people are neurodivergent, people like Steven Spielberg, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Simone Biles. Most of us aren’t going to win an Academy Award, Olympic gold or Nobel Prize, but if we are allowed to discover and nurture our unique skills in our own way we can thrive.

If you’d like to listen to famous people chatting about their own unique brains, take a dive into the Neurodivergent Moments podcast.

Asking for adaptations at work if you are neurodivergent.

Neurodiverse conditions, like ADHD and Autism, are often invisible disabilities. Depending on how your neurodivergence affects you, it may have gone undetected throughout significant portions of your life. Often, we expend energy in masking or camouflaging behaviours that society tells us are unacceptable or strange. Shame makes us hide our perceived failures, and we develop strategies to cope with the things we find challenging.

If you had a disability which meant that you couldn’t climb stairs people would understand that you needed certain adaptations to your workplace — a stairlift, perhaps, or an office on the ground floor. We can often see more physical struggles, but nobody can see what’s going on inside your head.

If you need encouragement to ask for what you need, know that under the 2010 Equality Act, the duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace extends to those with neurodevelopmental conditions. The law says that your needs matter too.

Identifying and asking for adaptations for invisible disabilities is often tricky, and might need some thinking about, but remember that you’ll be better able to do your job if your needs are met. You’ll be more productive, less likely to need time off, and you’ll likely stay in the job longer. You can also find stronger job satisfaction if going to work doesn’t leave you emotionally and physically drained.

Why not have a think about your working environment — the lighting and sound levels — and the structure of your day?

  • Would you benefit from a short fresh air break at regular intervals?
  • Do you need a desk shade to reduce overwhelmingly bright overhead lights?
  • Would you focus better with ear defenders to block out extraneous noise?
  • If you process information visually, would a whiteboard let you map processes or track tasks?
  • Think about the structure of your day — if constant interruptions destroy your concentration, consider having designated times to check emails and put this in your email signature to manage the expectations of your colleagues, clients or customer.
  • Could you have a sign on the back of your chair setting guidelines for when you can be interrupted and when you would like to be left alone? Never be embarrassed about setting boundaries and protecting your time and wellbeing.
  • Not everyone finds speaking easy — consider using alternatives to speaking, such as communication cards.
  • If you worry about bothering your manager with small things, why not schedule a weekly catch-up where you can mention anything, no matter how big or small?

Want to find out more?

The internet is full of suggestions of reasonable adjustments that you may like to consider. Here’s some suggestions from ACAS to get your started.

Looking for some practical resources to support neurodivergent staff? Head to the Neurodiversity Celebration Week webpage.

Posted on: 10th March 2023

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