Neurodiversity and being technology-agnostic

A few years ago, I wanted an Audi TT (225bhp for those that care) it is a beautiful car, fast, agile and the envy of my mates. Being six feet 1 inch tall with long legs means that I ended up sitting virtually in the back seat. Turning a four-seater car into a two-seater car was less than ideal.

This story has resonated with me a lot especially as I look at the area of solving difficulties related to neurodiversity (find out what neurodiversity is here) with technological solutions.

Technology-agnosticism is about saying there is ‘no one size fits all for a particular problem. That is not to say that a particular solution cannot solve a problem for many different people it just will not solve it in the same way.

Think about it

It is the difference between an adjustable spanner and a standard spanner. One of them adapts to lots of assorted sizes of bolts with a greater margin for error and the other one fits one size of bolt perfectly but lacks flexibility. The question you always need to be asking yourself is do you even need that flexibility or is it okay to just do one thing perfectly well.

Many technologies, platforms and software products try and do everything for us meaning they can end up not doing anything particularly well, so we need to make bigger compromises. It is easy to be bamboozled with a multitude of tools and promises that these tools can deliver but if we lose sight of the problem that we are trying to solve the danger is we end up with a solution to a problem that does not even exist.

Or to put it another way, a screwdriver to fix your nails in the wall.

This becomes clear when you speak to individuals about the processes they perform and instead of describing what they do they reference the tools they use and how those tools perform the task. On its own, this is not an issue but where it becomes a problem is when the limitations of those tools start defining the process and its boundaries.

Here are some things to think about.

When things stop working

Take a pause and reflect on what it is that the thing that has stopped working is supposed to do. Do not just switch to another app or another piece of technology before you have asked this question as you may well find that something more fundamental has changed either with the environment or the processes you are using.

For example, I like to-do lists and I use a product called Todoist.com it has worked very well for me. Unfortunately, when I started blogging, this platform just did not work for me anymore, so I had to go back and look at what the problem was, and it was to do with the amount of information I wanted to collect within my to-do list. So, I went back to the drawing board to map out what I wanted to achieve and then I was able to select a new software solution that help me solve the problem in this case Trello.

Invisible inefficiencies

Adapting a process that we use to fit the software tools with which we are lumbered. Are we keeping process components that really should be obsolete because the software demands them? I believe that if you look at your processes through a set of technology-agnostic glasses, you will find improvements and make changes that will simplify things!

Collaborating with a client who had used MS outlook successfully to manage their diary, and who was now finding it did not give them the flexibility they needed to annotate it. This caused a huge amount of anxiety about appointments. The other issue was the client felt they were not in control of their diary. In this instance, the client moved back to a paper-based solution. Now I realise for many reasons this is suboptimal in lots of organisations but for this client, they were able to increase their effectiveness by not being stressed about their diary.

Revolutionising your processes

When evaluating what you are doing or why you are doing it being technology-agnostic allows you to look beyond the constraints of the platforms and software that you are using. It allows you to imagine all the possibilities you might like to carry out, giving you scope to dream big and not have them thwarted by inappropriate tools.

Creating opportunity

When the shackles of “it’s always been done this way” are broken all sorts of possibilities appear. This is also likely to enable you to move forward and to recognise your potential in terms of what you can achieve and how you are going to achieve it. Inappropriate tools that cause us to carry out actions and use time inefficiently reduce our effectiveness at work. Re-evaluating the tools, we use creates an incredible opportunity to do things differently and to be more effective in our workplaces.

If you would like to explore how to be more technology-agnostic in making decisions around assistive technology, then please get in contact.

neurodiversity and networking

Neurodiversity and networking

Walking into a room full of strangers that you are supposed to be interacting with can be incredibly daunting. Add on top of this anxiety around who you are and how you communicate and suddenly there is a bit of a recipe for potential problems. Welcome to neurodiversity and networking.

As a neurodivergent person, I have always found networking a little bit challenging as it seems everyone else knows exactly what they are doing. So here are some things that I feel can help make what is a tricky area into something far more manageable and something you can achieve at.

Being ready to talk

The best spontaneous conversations are well practised!

This may sound like a completely bizarre statement, but the truth is if you want to be spontaneous and have something to say you need to practice. This could be as simple as practising engaging with strangers in conversation or just being ready to start more conversations with your friends about topics that you think they may be interested in.

Asking questions that make connections

With networking the key thing is finding out what the other person wants, not telling them what you want. I would encourage you to start conversations by asking questions about how you can help. For example, you might want to ask:

  • why someone is there?
  • or what challenges they are experiencing, that you could help with?

Telling real punchy stories

Think about your own stories, the things you have done, the people you have met and how they can be relevant to the people you are talking to now. No one can resist a story, especially when they help them solve problems. When telling stories it’s important that they are punchy and to the point and that while you’re telling them you are seeking feedback to make sure they are relevant to the person you’re talking to. (if their eyes glaze over or their face changes make sure you ask them if this is useful – if in doubt ask!)

For example, you might have a story about a recent client (you do not have to use the client’s name) or a problem that you solved as part of your work.

I would always recommend using stories as they illustrate not only the benefits and strengths that you can bring, but they also bring you alive as a person.

Being ok with who you are

Believe it or not, you are the very best person at being you, and there is no one else quite like you. Do not try and be someone else, be yourself that’s why people want to get to know you. It is important to celebrate who you are as well in terms of your attitude towards yourself. I can assure you that you have value, things to offer, you do things other people cannot do and you are the very best at being you. – Be yourself!

It takes a village to successfully network

What I mean by this is that contacts you already have will provide you with information that allows you to connect with others. This will help you engage in conversations and communicate better with new connections. No person is an island, utilise people you know, learn from them, and ask for feedback.

Drive, the Partnership Network has been this place for me.

What can hold you back

Mindset is key, when getting involved in networking start with what you want to achieve then ask others what they want and see if there is space to build something. People never stop talking about what they need. If you can tap into that you will network effectively because you will be able to help them find solutions for their problems.

Do not be the limit to your network

Research shows that we love to talk to people like us but unfortunately there is only a subset of the human population that are anything like us. If you are looking to network the chances are your skills and experience are going to be more useful to people that are nothing like you. Don’t be afraid because people are different they still breathe and have a pulse just like you.

Having a Goal

Having a goal is key. We network because we want to achieve something, so be clear about what you want to achieve. You then need to think about what, why, how, and when you are going to network and make sure that this fits with your other commitments.

Make time to network

Unfortunately, networking does not happen by magic, you need to make time for it and be consistent. Think about how much time you would like to spend networking and set that time aside and then see if it works for you.

Be proactive

You are not an impostor you have every right to share what you are doing and mix with others to find common ground. You need to accept no one knows what you know the way you know it, and no one will ever know it unless you interact and have real conversations with them. Also do not be afraid to ask for help there are a lot of people out there in a similar position who want to help and see you succeed.

Find allies and champions

Allies and champions are vital especially if you have got questions about things like, what is the value you bring?

These people will often know you best and can help you cement this value. They will also be the people that open doors for you and invite you to new places, and you will be able to support them. This is not an awkward thing to do, it just starts with a conversation

So do not be afraid to ask!

If you would like some help with networking skills, please get in contact

aesthetics

Why aesthetics matter to neurodivergent people

How does your workplace feel?

I remember walking into a large London charity for my first day at work after being interviewed in a beautiful glass-fronted office. My actual office was a complete mess of papers, out of date banners, marathon running kits, damaged chairs and what felt like total chaos. This destroyed how I felt about that place and as a result put me in a completely negative position about that workplace, breaking the mystique of what I had been expecting.

This was my first job out of corporate life where everything was pristine, and I had certain expectations about what the aesthetics of the workplace would be like. Reflecting on this I recognise that when I saw the office, I was going to be working in that I felt my personal value and been reduced and so had myself esteem.

When we talk about aesthetics in the workplace, we mean how our five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch (plus our gut feeling) are influenced by our environment.

Here are some things that I think are important to consider that can help make workplaces more aesthetically pleasing:

Organised spaces

Though the very nature of work dictates there can be some untidiness from time to time it can be incredibly distracting and sometimes tormenting if workspaces are not kept tidy periodically. For example, some individuals with dyslexic traits find having things in a mess often causes them stress and anxiety and takes the focus away from what they want to be doing.

Lighting

Studies have shown the amount of natural light in an office has a direct impact on employee productivity attention and alertness. This is also true for many neurodivergent individuals as natural light helps the brain work better.

Variability in lighting

In addition to natural light, it is also important to be able to vary the amount of light in your working space. For example, task lighting is essential when working on detailed pieces of work. What is also useful is the ability to change the intensity of the lighting based on your mood and the type of activity you are undertaking. What can often be difficult to deal with though is intense lighting that cannot be changed, think back to those classic 1970s offices with intense strip lighting – not great!

Seating

Materials are key here in terms of things that don’t make you sweat or squeak when you move the seat. It is also important that seats work for the individual in terms of providing them support and avoidance of pain and long-term injuries. Changing seating position is also critical as studies have shown being able to stand up for example when performing certain tasks really enhances the quality of thinking in addition to movement.

Add stuff that grows

Plants add life to the office, though they may not be everybody’s first choice they do also have some important health benefits including giving a focus on something to look after the outside of your immediate work tasks. This can often create a much healthier and calmer work environment.

Colour

For some individuals, colour is incredibly important in terms of the impact it has on their social and mental well-being. For example, some extremely bright vibrant colours can cause migraines and other neurological responses in the workplace. When this becomes particularly tricky is when brand colours are very strong and the organisations that we are working in use these brand colours in particular areas. An example is a cafeteria in a large bread manufacturer that has strong brand colours used in this space, and as a result, an area designed for relaxation and recovery is now for some a high-stress environment.

Allowing personalisation

It is important individuals are allowed to make their workplaces their own, this can be achieved by having things that help motivate them and stay on task during their workday. This will often include things like family photos if appropriate or other reminders and tools like whiteboards that they can use to help plan and deliver their day. For some individuals, this can also involve the use of fiddle toys that allow them to do other activities that do not inhibit their processing to stay focused on what they are doing. For example, some individuals with ADHD traits find it incredibly helpful to be able to doodle or fiddle with a piece of blue tack during conference calls and conversations as it helps them to stay focused on what is happening and not get distracted.

To open plan or not to open plan – that is a very big question

Many of us are not currently back in the office when we do return this question is not going to go away.

When it comes to aesthetics, there is a lot to be said for open plan working in the benefits that it can give in terms of collaboration, but unfortunately for some neurodivergent individuals, it can often be incredibly distracting and debilitating. I would argue that this far outweighs any benefit that is potentially gained by the organisation by having a continuous open collaborative space. What I believe is a far better approach is to have zones within the work environment where it is possible to have collaboration when needed but then an individual can retire to a quieter more personal space, and they do not need to collaborate in such an open way.

With aesthetics, choice matters

With all the senses constantly in play updating us on the environment and giving us feedback on what is going on. For some individuals with neurodivergent conditions, this feedback can be heightened to the point of being uncomfortable for example a chair fabric may make your skin feel spiky or a particular colour scheme give you a headache or disorientate you. The position of your desk may expose you to excessive noise and distractions or make you feel that everyone is looking over your shoulder. I believe with simple changes and common sense thinking many of these issues can be avoided.

There is a perception that when you need to change the aesthetics of an office environment that there would need to be a huge financial investment, and this can rather put organisations off looking at it. I would argue that the biggest investment is talking to your people to understand their needs and preferences. I’m not suggesting for a minute you will be able to meet everyone’s individual unique preferences but as with all these things, there is a compromise to be had, as with sensible planning and thinking we can all make office environments better for everyone.

Here is to a neuroinclusive workplace!

If you would like to know more about how to make your workplace more neuroinclusive and how to implement these aesthetics changes effectively. If this is something that is of interest to you, please get in contact.

Perfection vs excellence

Perfection vs excellence mixed with neurodiversity

I recently worked with Peter who is responsible for managing union activists within a teacher’s union. Peter had been a successful teacher who had left the classroom due to frustration with government policy that got in the way of his passion for teaching. He then moved into the union supporting teachers to be the absolute best they can be in their job. Peter has a dyslexic diagnosis, and this impacts his ability to process along with his short-term memory. I should emphasise that he is extremely competent at his job and exercises a high level of emotional intelligence especially when dealing with union members but he has struggled with perfection vs excellence in his role.

Recently Peter has undergone some changes at work as his union has been taken over by a larger union which has meant a complete change in infrastructure and IT with many new systems being introduced along with additional processes. I should mention at this point Peter has a well-rounded education including a master’s degree in organisational management, He is a well thought of and highly trained individual working in a frontline role because he wants to make a direct difference to teachers. The other thing to point out about Peter is that he always wants to do the absolute best job he can, often at the expense of personal time and well-being.

Working with Peter through a series of coaching sessions we were able to explore the difference between excellence and perfection and why it is vital to understand it. I must emphasise here I’m not suggesting Peter should be doing shoddy work that is unfit for purpose, the issue was that the work he was producing was so far above and beyond what was required it meant other clients were not getting what they needed (nor was he).

Excellence vs perfection

Excellence is about doing the right things, in the best way possible and doing them well enough to meet what is required. It also means accepting that there is always room for improvement and ironically that perfection should be your goal. You also need to have a reality check that you are highly unlikely to get there but if you keep aiming in that direction your current working processes will just get better and better. This is a growth mindset it’s about building on yesterday recognising what could have been done better and doing it. In addition to that, it is also about being kind to yourself.

It is a journey of wonder and surprise

Perfection is the definitive 100% right way to do something and is completely unobtainable and if you do try and obtain it you will use a disproportionate amount of energy and gain a diminishing return for what you are doing often causing anxiety stress and disappointment. This can further manifest in depression, procrastination and ultimately poor performance within individuals and teams.

It is a destination with no seats

For Peter, much of this was to do with the changes that were taking place in his role and responsibilities and how he felt he needed to be able to continue to deliver one hundred per cent even though all these changes were happening. A breakthrough moment happened when we talked about the concepts of working in your job and working on your job as for excellence to take place your processes and working practices need to be a well-oiled machine. This means taking time to understand them and innovate them to meet the needs of your organisation but more importantly to meet your own needs to achieve your objectives. For Peter, this was a breakthrough moment that enabled him to look at his job completely differently. He recognised although he wasn’t the most senior person in the organisation he was the most senior person who had control over what he did because he was able to manage himself. Once Peter started to take this point of view excellence became the only option because you can’t have perfection in a changing innovating workplace because by its very nature improvement involves failure and learning from it and that just doesn’t work with perfection.

This was a life-changing moment for Peter and something he has been able to use as he has moved to a role with more responsibility since completing his coaching. If this is something that is of interest to you, please get in contact.

dyslexia

How well does your workplace fit you if you have dyslexia?

Let me introduce you to Sarah, she has recently finished university and started working for a large retail bank in the UK as an account manager. She is responsible for developing clients for the bank by introducing them to the bank’s products and helping them understand how these products can make their businesses work better. Sarah’s role involves a large quantity of proposal writing in addition to producing other written materials.

Sarah was diagnosed with dyslexia at school and as a result, had some help so that she could study effectively and pass her qualifications. This help continued through university but since leaving university she has been able to cope without any help.

Unfortunately, in Sarah’s current role things started to get a little bit difficult as she is struggling with spelling and punctuation in addition to remembering all the tasks and actions that she is given by her boss and team daily. Fortunately, when these issues were flagged to Sarah’s HR department, they immediately recognised it would be appropriate to ask Sarah what was going on. As a result, Sarah shared some of the things that she was finding difficult so the company initiated a workplace needs assessment.

A workplace needs assessment

An assessment that should be carried out by a qualified workplace needs assessor who looks at an individual’s workplace, role, job description and tasks. Then working with the individual makes suggestions for what is called reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments

These are adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help people who have difficulties completing their everyday tasks. As an employer there is an obligation to provide these if you know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability.

For Sarah to have this assessment she did not need to have a formal diagnosis she just needed to recognise that something was not working for her in her workplace. This assessment helped Sarah understand some of the difficulties she was facing. It also helped her understand some of the strengths that she offered to her workplace.

A vital part of the workplace needs assessment is to amplify strengths and manage the difficulties of the individual.

Sarah’s employer had a legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 as Sarah is a neurodivergent individual who has a substantial and long-term condition that is covered under the act because of the following wording:

You are disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

This is important as Sarah’s workplace needs assessment suggested a large range of different technologies along with some workplace coaching. In Sarah’s case however several of the pieces of technology that were suggested did not work with the systems used by her employer. This resulted in a large amount of stress and anxiety for Sarah as she felt it was her responsibility to make IT work. Sarah’s manager tried to support her in this implementation but unfortunately was unable to make any headway in a reasonable time. In Sarah’s situation, the stress and anxiety got to a point where she was unable to continue working and had a prolonged period signed off sick from work.

I would like to make it clear Sarah’s is not an isolated case, implementation of help can cause even more stress and anxiety sometimes making the issues an individual faces far worse.

This unfortunate situation illustrates the need for a joined-up approach to reasonable adjustments within the workplace. It is vital when technology solutions are suggested to help individuals with some of the difficulties, they experience that they work with the existing organisation IT infrastructure and policies. In Sarah’s particular case this situation could have been remedied very easily by having an IT representative involved in the process to ensure the technology suggested would work with the existing infrastructure. This is unfortunately overlooked in many situations causing a large amount of stress and anxiety for the individuals involved who are asking for help.

The final component here is awareness within the organisation of the impact change has on individuals with neurodivergent conditions. What is often not recognised is that any change can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. To help alleviate some of this it’s really important that everyone within the organisation has an appreciation of what neurodiversity is and how it can impact their colleagues.

Some ways to help avoid this situation include:

  1. Creating a list of approved applications that IT are happy with will work within the organisation’s infrastructure and fit within the organisation’s policies.
  2. Making sure supervisors/managers are spoken to as part of the assessment process.
  3. Having a dedicated IT contact who can support the implementation of assistive technology.
  4. Ensuring that all members of the organisation have attended neurodiversity awareness training and are aware of who to speak for support.

If you would like to know more about workplace needs assessments and how to implement them effectively within your organisation, please get in contact.

Neurodiversity

What in neurodiversity awareness training?

This 45 minute neurodiversity awareness training is one of the services that I offer as part of my skills and here is some detail about how it works.

Neurodiversity explained – what it is?

We will explore the language of neurodiversity and how this helps to frame what it is. We will then go onto look briefly at each of the underlying diagnoses that come under this umbrella including what they look like along with their associated strengths and challenges.

Why neurodiversity awareness matters – how it makes organisations better

Neurodiverse individuals are likely to account for 15% of the average organisation’s workforce with specific industries having far more. Many of these individuals will be undiagnosed though this landscape is rapidly changing with more active screening and diagnosis taking place. The negative components of neurodiversity are often well understood; what can be less well understood is the huge positive impact that neurodiverse individuals can and do have on organisations.

We will also briefly explore neurodiversity and decision making and why this is important with case studies to demonstrate the benefits.

Building an inclusive, neurodiverse workplace – What you need to consider and be aware of

We will look at some of the lessons learnt from increasing the inclusivity of other diverse groups including sponsorship and programmes. We will then look at how awareness training and coaching can help specific roles and responsibilities within the business. Then we will look at organisational structure and communication, and how this can be adapted and reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of the business. Finally, we will look at environmental factors that often need to be considered when making a workplace an effective environment for all employees, as well as assistive technology options.

Neurodiversity awareness  – what next, where to get further support and assistance

During this session, we will explore specific issues and give some guidance on what to consider and what to do next. We will also include some advice on what support is available and the types of actions you should be looking to take. I would encourage you that many changes have little, or no cost and we often find that making a workplace more neuroinclusive is better for everyone.

neurodiverse

Being neurodiverse in the workplace

Have you ever been faced with a problem that you just can’t solve? You don’t know where to start, and have no idea what to do next?

I’d like to introduce you to Paul who has been working in advertising for 5 years. He has been struggling with managing his diary and tasks for most of this time with many near misses and close shaves. Paul was diagnosed with dyslexia at school but since starting work hasn’t felt that he needed to talk about it and to be fair has done pretty well for himself in winning some key clients as well as building some key relationships that have helped his employer increase their revenue. Unfortunately for Paul as his responsibilities have grown so have the number of things he needs to do, and he can’t hold them all in his head anymore. In addition, because he is now more senior within the organisation and these errors are getting noticed by others, his capability is being brought into question.

This situation came to a head in a recent performance review with Paul’s manager and Paul was alerted to the fact that disciplinary steps may need to be taken if he was unable to sort the situation out. At this point, Paul opened up about his dyslexia and as a result, he was offered a workplace needs assessment. As a recommendation of this assessment, Paul was offered some workplace strategy coaching to help him with his task management.

Strategy coaching is a form of coaching that works with individuals on a one-to-one basis to help them solve problems using skills that they have learnt before. What is different from traditional coaching is that there is also a mentoring component to help them understand how their condition affects them.

Understand the condition then build the strategy

The coach worked with Paul to understand how his workplace and job role worked along with the responsibilities and tasks that he was frequently dealing with. Paul was able to talk through the many solutions that he tried over the years along with some of the frustrations that he had with sticking to a solution consistently. The coach was then able to present a couple of different strategies to Paul and they work together to work out which one would be most suitable for him. This is where coaching crosses over with mentoring and this is entirely appropriate in this situation.

The goal is to help an individual, build strategies that work for them. In addition to giving them the skills to adapt those strategies when situations change. A key part is building a process of learning, playing with and then stress testing strategies while reviewing and reflecting on progress.

Paul ended up selecting a To-Do List app that enabled him to focus on his tasks separately from other items like meetings and calendar events. This was important for Paul as he had often struggled to differentiate between items that were time-bound and items that he had scope to do when he was ready. The other key part of using the app was that his To-Do List was available on several different platforms meaning he could access it when he wanted to. The other big bonus was Paul was able to also manage his social and home life within the same app reducing his stress and arguably saving his relationship, as he had forgotten birthdays, anniversaries and many other key events.

NB: his partner regularly talked about Paul’s memory as a ‘forgettory’.

Part of this coaching also looked at how Paul could adapt what he’d learn in the future as his role developed and things changed because self-sustainability is essential, and it is vital that individuals like Paul are able to know where to get help and how to adapt the help they already have to meet future demands.

Improving mental health and performance

There is a pool of evidence that suggests strategy coaching improves employee mental health along with retention and career progression within a business. Strategy coaching is not a sticking plaster it is a toolkit that equips individuals to become the absolute best they can within the workplace. Clients like Paul who have undergone strategy coaching report a positive impact on their confidence at work along with an up lift in their perceived personal effectiveness. This positive feedback is also supported by their immediate line managers as they reflect on the impact of strategy coaching on their team members. You will be pleased to know this was also the case for Paul’s line manager.

“The coaching I received around task management has helped me keep my job and improved work to the point where I was able to go for promotion to the next level. This has been a complete lifesaver for me, it’s helped me to do the thing I love without fear of making mistakes.”

Paul – Key Account Manager – Advertising Agency

The story doesn’t end there Paul is likely to need additional support and help at different times throughout his career. This is why The Neurodivergent Coach clients can get in contact at any time to follow up after the first coaching session has finished. This is really important as it gives an independent sounding board for advice and support as they progress on through their career and a place to talk through their successes and any potential help they might need in the future.

Ten years on

I experienced strategy coaching first-hand over 10 years ago and although the sessions were quite different to what we deliver now the impact they have had on my career and personal development are incredible. They have enabled me to do things that I found exceedingly difficult to the point that I would avoid them. In fact, without strategy coaching, I certainly would not be running my business today and I certainly would not be able to write this blog post.

If you would like to know more about how strategy coaching could support, you or someone within your organisation please get in touch.

dyslexic

How does a dyslexic person fit in at work?

Have you ever stopped to think about who you are and what you are doing? It’s a big question!

I now identify as being neurodivergent and dyslexic (along with a few other things) but this wasn’t always the case.

I have worked across several different professions including sales, marketing, business development, technology, and fundraising. What I have recognised over this time is that you are not the job you do, but instead the skills, experience, and attitude that you bring to that job. This can mean you can perform well in many different roles, bringing new and more effective approaches to age-old problems.

There is a flip side. Sometimes it can be hard to fit in, understand alien processes and feel that you are not accepted as part of the organisation you are working for. You may have felt like this at certain points in your life but for some individuals, this is an everyday occurrence and something that stands in the way of them progressing at work. This is something that I experienced first-hand. Not being able to work effectively, struggling with my short-term memory and ability to process information and as a result not being able to perform effectively at work.

What does a dyslexic diagnosis mean?

Getting a dyslexic diagnosis helped me understand some of my points of frustration including how I thought. I recognised that some of the things that were difficult are to do with how my brain works. For example, thinking big, having big ideas and thinking outside the box are strengths of mine but areas of difficulty include getting these ideas down on paper and remembering stuff. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t actually put it down on paper it just means the process is really difficult and as a result is something that I have avoided for a long time.

Workplace needs assessment

After diagnosis, I was assessed by a workplace needs consultant who took the time to understand how my job worked and what help I might need. This resulted in a number of recommendations including strategy coaching and various pieces of assistive technology. With associated training, it enabled me to manage some of the things I found more difficult far more effectively and to amplify my strengths. After being through this experience I recognised that this is something I wanted to help others with, bringing not only the skills I had gained in coaching and training but also adding on top my real-world commercial experience.

So ‘The Neurodivergent Coach’ was born, an organisation designed to help individuals and organisations amplify strengths and manage difficulties so that neurodivergent people can be the assets that they were always meant to be. We offer support around coaching, technology training and workplace assessment. What is important in all this though is that it is focused on the individual and their needs so that they can develop and be effective at work.

If this is something that has impacted you or one of your team, you might like to know that there are several different ways that you can get help.  Please drop me a line and it would be great to talk further.

Neurodiversity

What is Neurodiversity?

Have you ever helped someone and seen their eyes light up as they realise that they can solve a problem for themselves and keep solving problems? I call this “Making Neurodiversity Heroes.”

In my mid-30s I faced a stark choice, whether to try and complete a qualification that I needed to write essays in a closed room with no other help or whether to bail out and do something different.

As I had been diagnosed with dyslexia I was able to get some help through the government access to work scheme and as a result, I now have a diploma in marketing. This wasn’t a magic wand but instead the start of the process of discovery in recognising I had some real strengths I needed to amplify along with several difficulties I needed to manage to be successful.

Neurotypical and neurodiverse

Neurodiversity is about the fact that we all think differently. What I am specifically interested in though are the people that don’t fit what we call Neurotypical which is what the average person is like in terms of their thinking styles. Neurodivergent on the other hand describes those people that think differently. This can be in small ways or sometimes quite large ways.

Where did the term neurodiversity come from?

The term Neurodiversity has been used since the 1990s and was originally brought into use through a collaboration between sociologist Judy singer and journalist Harvey Blume concerning their work around autism. What the term means has expanded since then to the point now where it encompasses all types of thinking. What is important within this though is recognising that some people are neurotypical and others are neurodivergent.

Why I became a neurodivergent coach

1 in 8 people are Neurodivergent within the workplace and many experience challenges conducting their everyday work. These challenges are often related to efficiency and communication along with being able to carry out tasks in the same way as neurotypical colleagues. This often means that neurodivergent individuals ignore their strengths and instead focus on their perceived difficulties, not bringing the full value they could to their workplace.

I’ve seen what happens to both individuals and organisations when people are helped to do things differently. This is how heroes are made!

Amplify strengths and manage difficulties of Neurodiversity

Neurodivergent individuals can be helped to amplify their strengths and manage perceived difficulties. For example, if they are dyslexic a strength could be around communication skills and emotional intelligence whereas difficulties in processing and short-term memory would be to learn coping strategies and assistive technology.

At this point, it’s important to remember that if you have met one neurodivergent individual you have met only one. Just as each neurotypical person is an individual, each neurodivergent person is an individual too so they need to be treated as one.

When strategies and potential solutions to help amplify strengths and manage difficulties are being looked at it is vital that the individual can make choices about the best way to implement solutions in their situation. I have seen with first-hand experience how neurodivergent individuals can become as efficient, if not more so than their neurotypical colleagues.

I started The Neurodivergent Coach, to help neurodivergent individuals to flourish and help organisations to enable them to flourish.

If you would like to discuss any of the strategies or ideas mentioned here, please get in touch.