Bird flying off roof

Pigeons, neurodiversity and flawsomeness

One Sunday morning, I woke up with a sore head after an eventful night at my friend Nick’s wedding.

Later that day, I went to a church in north London and met up with my friend Simon. He told me that our mutual friend Emma was having a pigeon problem. The issue was that the pigeons were walking around in her loft, causing her sleepless nights for the past 10 nights. She was utterly exhausted and had no energy to deal with the problem.

Simon asked me if I could help Emma with her pigeon problem, and I agreed. We crawled into a small loft space and spent almost four hours carefully bringing down the birds. However, during the process, Simon’s trousers got covered in pigeon poo and ruined, and I started to feel quite unwell. Despite our efforts, we failed to realise that the pigeons kept flying back through the hole in the roof they had been using all along. Our plan was flawed, and we were feeling disheartened. I had a sore head, and we were both covered in poo and feathers.

Often, we tend to focus on our flaws rather than our strengths. People with neurodivergent traits, in particular, may be very aware of their difficulties and less aware of their strengths. However, the issues we consider flaws can sometimes be our greatest strengths. For example, if I say yes on an impulse due to my ADHD traits, but it helps someone in need, I would consider this is a strength. The challenge is to recognise them and leverage them to move from a state of less than to more than. Perhaps this means finding ways to get pigeons out of lofts or saying yes to helping someone else out in need on an impulse.

How to Embrace Your Flawsomeness

“Flawsome” is a word coined by Tyra Banks and describes something that is awesome because of….not despite of its flaws.

The concept thrives on the idea that it’s perfectly possible for flaws and awesomeness to coexist and amplifies this idea that your imperfections are perfect.

Embracing your flawsomeness is not difficult, but it does require a shift in perspective.

Here are some steps to help you become flawsome:

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a crucial first step in developing your “flawsome” self. Recognising your perceived flaws is how you can build your unique strengths and traits. By acknowledging your areas of difficulty, you can work on them and turn them into strengths. The key is approaching yourself with kindness and compassion, recognising that everyone has flaws and imperfections.

Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is another critical step in developing a “flawsome” self. It’s essential to acknowledge and accept yourself as you are right now, recognising that everyone has strengths and areas of difficulty. Although it’s natural to want to improve, it’s equally important to appreciate and embrace your present self. For instance, if you struggle with managing your energy levels, acknowledging this is the first step towards finding a solution.

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s an opportunity to see yourself as you are and determine what to do next. Being vulnerable means acknowledging your flaws and being willing to show your true self to others. It’s not always easy, but it can lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth. By embracing vulnerability and recognising your strengths and weaknesses, you can work towards becoming your best self.

Self-improvement

Self-improvement is an essential element of the “flawsome” journey. Life is a continuous learning process, and there are always opportunities for growth and development. Experimenting with the tools available to enhance your strengths and manage your challenges effectively can help you achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself. Whether it’s learning a new skill, practicing mindfulness, or seeking professional help, many resources are available to help you on your journey of self-improvement.

Unlocking Your Flawsomeness and Embracing Neurodiversity

Embracing your “flawsomeness” is a transformative journey that can lead you from a place of shame and unhappiness to a state of contentment. By recognising what makes you unique and acknowledging areas that might be more challenging, you can move forward and become the best version of yourself. If you’re unsure about where to start on your journey to embrace your “flawsomeness” and explore your neurodiversity, the first step is often having a conversation with someone who knows you well. They can provide valuable insights into what they see in you, even in the aspects you perceive as flaws.

By opening up and having honest conversations with those around you, you can better understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. Consider seeking professional help, joining support groups, or engaging in self-reflection exercises to help you. Remember, embracing your “flawsomeness” is unique to you, and it’s essential to approach it with kindness, compassion, and an open mind. With time and effort, you can transform your life and become the best version of yourself.

At The Neurodivergent Coach, we understand the power of embracing your “flawsomeness” and unlocking your potential. We aim to create an inclusive environment that nurtures personal growth and celebrates your unique qualities.

If you believe a conversation about this could be useful, we invite you to contact us.

We believe in helping individuals embrace their neurodiversity and achieve their goals. So, join us in the journey of embracing your “flawsomeness” and unlocking your potential.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can support you on your journey.

Contact us today.

Picture of a clipboard

Getting interview ready: empowering neurodivergent job seekers

By Sophie Whitbread, Managing Associate, Employment, Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

A BBC News article caught my attention recently. It highlights the difficulties faced by an autistic man who is trying to return to the workplace but struggling to do so. He has encountered stumbling blocks when seeking changes to arrangements for making applications for jobs to accommodate his autism. For him, some simple changes to the application process, including having tick-box options on application forms instead of free-form text boxes, and the ability to see interview questions in advance, are adjustments that would help him to succeed when applying for roles. His story shows that many employers are unwilling to make adjustments to application and interview arrangements, which is holding back potential candidates from work.

This is backed up by the findings of the Buckland Review of Autism Employment, published in February 2024. This review found that around one third of autistic employees felt unable to discuss their adjustment needs at all. Of those who did request adjustments, over a quarter were refused.

Whilst the BBC article and the Buckland Review relate to those with autism, these difficulties are faced by neurodivergent applicants across the board.

The law

Disabled applicants are protected by the Equality Act 2010, which requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for them where an aspect of the application process puts them at a substantial disadvantage. However, it is clear that this is far from what happens in practice in every case.

Getting the adjustments you need

As highlighted by the Buckland Review, many disabled people will not mention their need for adjustments. This may be because they feel they can – or ought to be able to – manage without. Sadly, it may also be because they fear, rightly or wrongly, that the employer will react negatively if asked to make adjustments.

Here are some tips on how to put yourself in the best position when making job applications:

1. Be really clear about your disability and your need for adjustments

The duty to make reasonable adjustments only kicks in when the employer knows or ought to have known about an applicant’s disability. It is therefore vital that applicants are upfront about the fact that they are disabled. This is particularly important with neurodivergent conditions where the impact of the disability may not be immediately obvious.

2. Be clear and specific about the impact of your disability and the adjustments that would help you

If an employer is to make a meaningful adjustment, they need to understand what the impact of your disability is, what the proposed adjustment is and how it will alleviate that impact. Again, if they do not know this, and they ought not reasonably to have worked it out for themselves, there is no obligation to make an adjustment.

Compare two unsuccessful disabled applicants whose cases recently went to the employment tribunal.  Mr Mallon was required to complete a short online application form to apply for a role. He asked instead that, because of his dyspraxia, he be allowed to make an oral application and provided some information to the employer about how dyspraxia affects people generally. The employer refused to do this and Mr Mallon brought a claim in the employment tribunal. The tribunal found that it would have been reasonable for the employer to pick up the phone to try to help Mr Mallon in progressing his application. What Mr Mallon particularly struggled with was being able to set up a username and password to access the form. The tribunal found that the employer could have talked this through with him if they had agreed to speak to him by phone.

Mr Glasson, on the other hand, did not go far enough in explaining to a potential employer what the impact of his disability was. Mr Glasson has a stammer and, prior to an oral interview for a job, he told the employer that he needed more time to complete his answers. However, what he did not tell them was that, in addition to this, his stammer meant that he would go into what he described as ‘restrictive mode’ when answering questions, giving shorter answers to some questions than he otherwise might, as a way of avoiding stammering. Although Mr Glasson performed well at his interview, he scored one point behind the second most successful candidate. He brought a disability discrimination claim in the tribunal but was unsuccessful. This was because he could not show that the employer knew of the impact of his stammer on the length of his answers, only that he might need more time to complete them. We do not know what would have happened if the employer had been aware of this. It may have made no difference at all, but Mr Glasson did not put himself in the best position he could have done in advance of that interview.

3. Plan ahead

We can all find it hard to think on our feet, and those with neurodivergent conditions may find it more difficult to respond in the moment to a question about the need for reasonable adjustments. Do therefore spend time thinking about what it is that you find difficult and what helps to alleviate that. Look carefully at application interview information and ask questions about the format so that you know what to expect. Before you even apply for jobs, sit down and – ask for help if you need it – try to think of the different scenarios you might find yourself in and the effect they may have on you.

Whilst employers may be expected to have some general knowledge about a particular condition, disabilities affect everyone differently. For example, the autistic applicant highlighted in the BBC News report above says that he finds tick boxes easier to complete rather than free-form questions on an application form. By contrast, another autistic job applicant succeeded in an employment tribunal case because they had not been allowed to provide short written answers as an alternative to a multiple choice question. Everyone’s disability and the impact it has on them is therefore different and it is really important that you spend time thinking about your own personal situation.

Some people find the Health Adjustment Passport (HAP)  helpful as a way of thinking about their disability and how it affects them, both at the application stage and more generally in the workplace.

If you have not had an Access to Work assessment, you could apply for one to see what support you could get in applying for jobs.

4. Set out your needs in writing

Try to draw up a clear written record (using a HAP or not, to suit you) of the adjustments you need and why you need them. Get some help putting this together if you need to. It will act as a useful reminder for you of what you need as well as being something you could send to a potential employer. If all goes wrong and you find yourself in an employment tribunal, it is something you can rely on as evidence that you have communicated clearly about your disability to the prospective employer.

Note to employers

It can be daunting as an employer faced with prospective employees with a whole range of different disabilities, including neurodivergent conditions. The easiest approach can be simply to apply your normal procedures and hope everyone can get on with them. By doing this, you put yourself at risk of employment tribunal claims from disabled employees where you have failed to make reasonable adjustments. Arguably more importantly, however, you not only deprive those individuals of the possibility of working for you, but you deprive your business of the potential that they may bring to it.

There is no substitute for open and honest communication when it comes to talking about reasonable adjustments. You do not have to be an expert on every disability. The most important thing you can do is to listen and take seriously the concerns of disabled applicants. Keep an open mind as to the changes you can make to your application process to facilitate a wider pool of applicants. You then may be surprised by the positive impact this has on your business going forward.

broken window to illustrate Capacity

Capacity and neurodiversity

Our capacity to manage and thrive with neurodivergent traits is vital, and this is often the difference between being able to lean into our strengths and being overwhelmed by what we find difficult.

I’ve noticed lately the impact that capacity can have on our ability to move forward, especially when dealing with particular stressors or situations that challenge change.

Picture of a window with arrows to show how this window is opened and closed based on the amount of dysregulation we are experiencing

The Stress window

Looking at this from an ADHD perspective, if your emotions are high, your capacity can be removed or decreased significantly, meaning you can’t move forward. Similarly, this can have the same impact if you’re sad or uninspired. Getting the systems and processes in place to support good capacity is essential. These might look like some of the examples below:

Controlling negative thoughts

This sounds much easier than it is and is about your self-talk; for example, if you tell yourself, “I’m going to fail, I can never do much of anything, or I’m useless”. This attitude and the language that you use can impact your stress. Switching from “I’m going to fail” to “I’m going to give this my best shot” can shift your focus and allow you to move forward effectively.

To freeze, flee or fight?

It’s the old amygdala hijacking when our essential primitive brain kicks in and takes over how our bodies respond. Now, this part of our brain is brilliant. When we’re in an emergency, we must decide rapidly, but sometimes, this can kick in at the wrong time. When we feel overwhelmed, we have choices about what we can do. This can also be a call to procrastinate because our amygdala overrides our willpower, which decides how we will respond next. Relaxing and moving away from this can be helpful.

Stop the stress

Noticing when you’re getting stressed can be helpful. By removing or moving away from stress, you can make decisions that effectively override your amygdala; for example, tapping and affirmative statements can be helpful. Also, removing yourself from the situation for a short period can be hugely beneficial, as it will allow you to take a step back to gain perspective and work out what to do next.

Keeping it simple

Often, when approaching tasks and activities, you can overcomplicate what you need to do; for example, you might have a ton of tasks to complete on your to-do list, which is overwhelming. There’s a good argument for recording what needs to be done, but is it helpful to keep looking at your to-do list, which can make you feel stressed? Reducing your list’s visibility once compiled may be more effective. Focus on one thing at a time, keeping it simple and moving forward. As a side note, simple is often not easy, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve decided simple is best.  It’s probably been a long journey to get there!

Make a manageable plan

It’s easy to overcomplicate planning because we can all overthink. This can be debilitating. What is often better is to create a plan for the short term and then work out what to do next. For example, I will do this for thirty minutes and then review my progress. What went well, and what would improve the next thirty minutes? It’s also helpful to do short tasks to get yourself moving forward. It’s like a workout at the gym; start with something easy to warm up before you move on to heavier weights or chunkier tasks. In the same way, it’s a good idea to do some more manageable functions at the end of the day when you’re winding down. Keep your plan simple and treat your body with respect.

Create time to think

For example, if you’re caught in a conversation pressuring you to make a decision you are not confident about, it’s pushing you into a place where you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can often be helpful to acknowledge the importance of what’s going on and then say, “I need to take a moment to think about that”. That way, you create time to make high-quality decisions and help yourself manage any anxiety.

Get some accountability

There are loads of ways to do this. It might be talking to someone you know or a work colleague. Being accountable for what you’re doing, maybe even doing some work together can be helpful when managing stress. It enables you to partner with someone, which is essential because you can manage your stress together. Sometimes, this is called body doubling, but that term sounds strange to me.

Recognise it’s okay not to finish a task in one go

Allowing yourself not to finish a task is OK. I’d go as far as to say it’s a good habit to break tasks into smaller chunks. Then, you can make a start, reflect on your progress and complete the next section, often making the finished product far better. You’ll finish the beginning, the middle, and the end and reap the benefits of three finishes for the price of one.

Make a plan in the diary

If things need to be done and they need to be done at a particular time, why try to hold that information in your short-term memory? Often, this can be a real challenge, so having a diary can help, especially if it’s a recurring event. Then you don’t need to think about it anymore. You need to turn up and follow your diary. When you’re looking at diary management, I would also recommend that you factor in times for reflection and downtime. If you don’t, you can fill every moment without considering your energy levels.

As you can see, there are several steps to manage your capacity. What’s important is to recognise what’s good enough for now. Then, you can determine which step you want to tackle next. You don’t need to do it all in one go, and if you’re working or supporting someone struggling with some of these areas, I’d always encourage you to take it gently and progress one step at a time.

When you’re ready, here are three ways we can connect:

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Picture of a forest – No masks are needed in the forest

No masks are needed in the forest – except when using a chainsaw!!

In a world where neurodivergent people are all too often told that they are too much or not enough, no masks are needed in the forest.

As an eight-year-old succinctly said, “In a forest, I can be myself. Trees don’t care.”

Sensory regulation, so vital to us, somehow seems more effortless in the forest. Nobody minds if you want to run, jump, spin, or hang. The path underfoot is rarely harsh or regular, instead providing our feet with a gentle cushion that is constantly changing and providing our bodies with proprioceptive input as we walk. We are away from the glare of artificial light, the hum of air conditioning and the drone of traffic. Instead, our eyes can relax in the dappled light under the trees, and our skin can soak in the vitamin D found in the natural sunlight of a forest clearing. The harsh, mechanical white noise of urban spaces is replaced by the forest’s gentle but constantly changing backdrop as we hear the leaves rustle in the breeze or enjoy the sound of birdsong high above us. And somehow, despite the quiet calm, it’s also ok to shout, sing or hum. We’re not being a problem to anyone if we want to make a noise.

You can find space to be alone in even the most popular of forests on a sunny bank holiday weekend. Take a short walk away from the entrance or visitor attraction, and there is always a space that isn’t peopley, where you can breathe out and explore the forest in the way that suits you. Want to lie flat out under a tree? Want to run your fingers over the rough bark? Nobody minds as long as you aren’t disturbing what is already there.

As a career, forestry might not be the first thought of many people, but it is a superb opportunity for people to build a job where they can be valued for what they can do. So many of the young people we support tell us that mainstream education was challenging for them. They struggled with showing their potential while sitting down on a hard chair in a room with 30 other people for five days a week. It is relatively rare to be with 30 other people in a forestry team and certainly not in a workplace with 1,000 other people, all bustling about in the same space. You’re generally in a small team or sometimes alone, working in remote areas. The desire to be active becomes an asset, not a liability, when you have hundreds of trees to plant across an area of land where a new forest is being created to tackle the effects of climate change. A brain that seeks constant variation can thrive when your workplace covers hundreds of square miles, and each day brings a new site with new challenges and things to discover. Verbal communication is not essential if you’re in a position where you work alone for significant portions of time. When you do need to communicate, it’s generally within your small team and in person, not with an endless flow of customers or members of the public.

If you don’t feel that you fit in the space you currently find yourself in or are looking for a space you can unmask, try visiting a local forest and see.

So, no masks are needed in the forest – except when using a chainsaw!!

Becky Wilkinson is part of a neurodivergent family, and Learning and Outreach Manager for the Royal Forestry Society. A former secondary school teacher, she now talks to people of all ages about forestry careers as well as supporting young people on taking their first steps into the sector.

Connect and find out more here.

Tools for distraction - picture shows a Rubik's cube in a mixed upstate

Tools for distraction that could help you to stay focused?

Staying focused is essential for many of us in our work lives. Tools for distraction can provide a helpful menu of ideas to refocus or have something to look forward to when we need it the most.

Ironically, sometimes, we need a short-term distraction to keep ourselves on task or to help us get back on track when unsure where to go next. In the same way, noise can be a distraction, but getting the right amount and type of background noise can help us stay in the present.

Here are examples of what I’ve found helpful to regroup and refocus. They are simple tools or toys that enable me to stretch and move my thinking in ways that can support me to move forward with the task.

They are the gifts that keep on giving time and time again, I can go back to them when I need to.  These are my gifts to you!

Note of caution

Suppose you use these devices at work, in a meeting, or in a social setting, where people might not know how essential tools for distraction actually help you to stay focused. It’s important to let them know what you’re doing and why; otherwise, they might wrongly assume you’re bored or just being rude.

Transparency notice

Some affiliate links are included in this article for the items listed on Amazon for which I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. This does not affect the price you pay; I intend to do something good with the funds generated.

IQ Fit Smart Games

IQ Fit make a series of puzzles that can be reused differently. These are often mentally challenging and offer a way to reset my thinking before I move back to the task I was losing focus on.

I’ve particularly enjoyed games that include IQ Fit, IQ Focus, IQ Link, IQ Six Pro, IQ Stars and IQ Twins.

If you would like to find out more about these games, check them out here www.smartgames.eu/uk/collection/pocket-games.

IQ Fit Smart Games for distraction control

Perplexus

Perplexus offers a spherical game that is effectively a ball race and a great tool for distraction control. This demands concentration and a great deal of hand and eye coordination. I found this game particularly challenging but fun over the Christmas period. It’s one I can pick up and put down as it promotes a tremendous amount of interest and conversation in my household – so it serves in different ways! Many other options are available from Perplexus, including themed games such as Star Wars and the Death Star. I’d encourage you to start with this simple option.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cardinal-Games-6053147-Perplexus-Multicoloured/dp/B07MKCZJNJ/ref=sr_1_2?crid=KYY9YPHGYLJ6&keywords=Perplexus&qid=1704457785&sprefix=perplexus%2Caps%2C102&sr=8-2

Perplexus

Rubik’s Cube

The Rubik’s Cube offers many options in different shapes and sizes. Although the puzzle itself is tricky, it can be solved. There are also great ways to learn how to solve the Rubik’s Cube, like this tutorial from J Perm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ron6MN45LY

He talks you through a series of moves step-by-step so you can solve the puzzle. This makes what has felt impossible possible! It’s an ideal distraction and a valuable tool for resetting and working out what you will do next. It’s a familiar game, and within a short period, I can return to the task I was working on.

If you don’t already have a Rubik’s cube, I recommend getting a speed cube as it has a smoother movement and feels good in your hands. I discovered that the one below works well. It’s smooth, fast, and adaptable as you improve, unlike the original Rubik’s cubes, which are typically stiff and difficult to solve quickly.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roxenda-Stickerless-Gan356-System-Speedcube/dp/B07PKMLM7S/ref=sr_1_21_sspa?crid=2ZHP9JQOJGUW0&keywords=Tunic%2Bcube&qid=1704457813&sprefix=tunic%2Bcube%2Caps%2C81&sr=8-21-spons&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9tdGY&th=1

Rubik’s Cube

Desk-based timer

These days, we have many ways of recording time on our computer or phone or looking at a wall clock, but often, it’s hard to set these up frictionlessly when we need to capture a moment in time or record a specific amount of time.

The Pomodoro timer is one such device that I place on a surface with the corresponding amount of minutes I’d like to measure. It means I can quickly take 15 minutes, for example, to think about my next task. This means my time does not drift. This is particularly important for individuals who find time awareness challenging. It can also help you to assess how long it’s taken to complete a task, which can be helpful when trying to estimate how long tasks take. This device sits outside of all the other technology – it’s not dependent on another device being opened or activated, so you don’t get distracted. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the device here.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kitchen-Digital-Magnetic-Countdown-Function/dp/B08KJJXQS4/ref=sr_1_3_sspa?crid=1E3IU2N8KTRS6&keywords=pomodoro%2Btimer&qid=1704458269&sprefix=pomo%2Caps%2C70&sr=8-3-spons&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGY&th=1

Desk-based timer

Seconds app

Sometimes, we need something more than a simple timer; for example, if we have routines or methodologies we want to build and repeat. An excellent example of this is exercise routines.  I’ve been working on a static exercise routine to help my youngest son sleep. What I mean by this is instead of exercises that increase his heart rate, these are exercises that use his strength to make him tired. This seems to be working, but we’ve had to experiment with lots of different exercises to find the ones he likes and make it fun.

The Seconds app provides a great way of structuring these exercises, and now that we know the exercises he likes, I can play them back to him. We include time for a warmup, a rest and repeating time, as well as being able to copy and paste exercises.

It also has features that allow you to incorporate music, the option to share the workout and the ability to see it in the foreground or background of your mobile device. The display has clear colour boundaries showing different items, which is simple yet effective.

I can’t recommend this enough, and at £1.50, it’s a giveaway.

See for yourself: https://www.intervaltimer.com

Seconds app

I hope you have enjoyed my gifts and they help you on your journey into neurodiversity.

Which ideas will you try?

When you are ready, here are three ways we can connect:

A blog about services

For employers

Workplace Needs Assessment

This is for individuals who are having difficulties with everyday tasks in the workplace and aims to make recommendations to help improve the effectiveness of the individual.

Neurodiversity Awareness Training

An introduction to neurodiversity that will help people understand the various neurodivergent conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, dyscalculia and ADHD.

Leadership Coaching

This supports leaders in their thinking journey and is especially useful when considering neurodiversity within the workplace. This coaching can be focused on supporting leaders from neurominority groups.

For individuals

One-to-one Coaching

This service helps neurodivergent individuals deal with everyday life more effectively. It is designed to build on existing skills, and introduce new ones focused on improving workplace effectiveness.

Technology Mentoring

Assistive technology mentoring is about helping you understand how technology can solve your workplace difficulties. What’s important is finding solutions that work for you in your workplace.

Workplace Needs Assessment

This is for individuals who are having difficulties with everyday tasks in the workplace and aims to make recommendations to help improve the effectiveness of the individual.

Accredited courses

Dyslexia Champions™

This program equips individuals to be good listeners, approachable, knowledgeable and impartial and will help them become ‘qualified to guide’ colleagues to support neurodivergent conditions.

Neuroinclusive Practice™

This program is designed to equip leaders, line managers, supervisors and HR personnel to ‘spot the signs’ and be able to effectively manage and support neurodiverse staff in the workplace.

Knight defending a castle

Defending boundaries: When RSD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) turns up!

Struggling with boundaries is a reality for many of us, especially as we try to make life better in a world where it’s not always clear how other people perceive us. But with RSD (Retention Sensitivity Dysphoria), it can be even more challenging.

Why our boundaries fall

Our boundaries fall because we don’t put limits in place to defend them and reset when life goes wrong. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) is one of the traits that can be dangerous to our boundaries. This turns up with other neurodivergent conditions like ADHD, but it’s also present for all of us in some ways, unless your behaviour looks psychopathic (sorry, Donald Trump).

I’ve seen rejection sensitivity make individuals highly sensitive to the possibility of rejection, meaning they take on tasks that don’t serve them. They want to accommodate the needs of others. This can be incredibly debilitating, and as a result, individuals make poor decisions that don’t serve them well.

Have you planned your schedule by deciding what’s important to you and then changed your plans as you believe it will affect how others perceive you? For example, you might have agreed to write a book and set aside time for it, but you often end up giving that time to other work as you think it’s important to another person. This happens because of your inaccurate perception of what other people think of you.

Sometimes, you can isolate yourself to prevent RSD, so you stop collaborating with the right people. These people will hold you accountable for what you have agreed with yourself. This can sabotage the structure that helps you thrive. There’s incredible power in ‘us’, collaboration and accountability.

Why partnership is important with RSD

The key is a good partnership, where you consciously ask for constructive feedback. If feedback hasn’t been given helpfully, it can shut off that channel, which breaks down the opportunity to partner and puts boundaries in danger. There can be feelings of misunderstanding and a feeling like you don’t fit in. I worked with someone who explained that they felt like an alien when they were at school. They described knowing the answer but often unable to articulate it, which meant they didn’t fully participate. Understanding these feelings of not fitting in is essential, or you can judge yourself too harshly and have an overly negative and inaccurate view of yourself. This can often be useful to explore during a coaching conversation.

How does this turn up?

For instance, there are times when people feel hesitant to share their thoughts because they fear they might sound foolish. This can lead to missed opportunities and frustration at work. It’s crucial to recognise and address this issue by creating organisations that encourage people to bring their best and most effective selves to work.

Self-esteem can play a crucial role, too. How can you defend your boundaries if you don’t love yourself? This is a powerful idea as it might be a hindrance if you define your significance by other people’s approval. Anything that damages that approval can take you to a difficult place.

Is getting to know new people difficult as you define yourself by others’ thoughts about you? In an ideal world, people’s opinions should be their business, not yours, but this can feel like a wrestling match; worrying about what others think can mean you are less of yourself.

For some individuals, this turns up by playing back every conversation and social interaction, going over what’s been said, analysing what went wrong, what the other person thought, and how your words landed.

Have you ever spent time worrying about your conversations and not allowing the communication to sit? This behaviour can often put a lot of pressure on you and ultimately put you in a position where you cannot move forward.

How to start to move the needle on RSD

Helping change your perspective on this can be helpful, and there are various tools you can put in place to support you or anyone in your team to move forward. For example, when in negotiations or trying to understand how best to work with someone, individuals can give up their boundaries entirely because they are more concerned if they’ll be liked, often sacrificing doing what’s best for both parties.

One of my favourite quotes is by Nelson Mandela: “Do not judge me by my success; judge me by how many times I fell and got back up again.” How will you respond when boundaries fail? Will you run from them, or will you return and rebuild them?

Maintaining boundaries with RSD

You can maintain your boundaries and handle RSD by using strategies and being accountable for your actions. Start by having a conversation with yourself about recent events, identify which boundaries were crossed, and figure out how to adjust them moving forward. Establish accountability structures to stay aware of the situation and take actions that benefit you. Remember, you can’t change the past or others’ actions, but you always have the power to choose your next steps.

I’ve been reading Rise by Siya Kolisi (South African Rugby Captain, 2x World Cup winner), and he said, “I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t care what other people think.” This doesn’t make him any less caring; it just means that he focuses on what he can achieve, which is an excellent way of thinking about life.

Think about…

What will you do to maintain and defend your boundaries today?

What are your next steps?

At The Neurodivergent Coach, we specialise in supporting individuals to build effective boundaries and defend them well. If you’d like a conversation, please get in contact.

When you are ready, here are 3 ways we can connect:

Woman with APD

What it’s like having APD for me

By Guest Blogger – Shuna Beckett

Forward

When we first met, I didn’t know a lot about Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). As she has shared her story and her passion for writing, I wanted to give her a platform to tell the world about the reality of living with APD. So here it is APD.

From Shuna

I might not register you talking to me, and I might not register my son crying, and I might not register that alarm going off. My mind is on other things. I can’t focus on anything else. I’m in the middle of a film playing in my head, in the middle of a story. I’m too immersed in the imagery. There’s too much stuff going on in there already. It’s impenetrable.

And yet, at other times, I get distracted if there’s another noise in the room, and I can’t focus. I have to wear earplugs at night. I know it doesn’t make sense. I don’t even understand it myself. I guess it depends exactly where my mind’s at. Sometimes, noises are too quiet (I have a hearing impairment, too), but sometimes everything feels deafeningly loud.

Sometimes, I might interrupt your conversation because I don’t register a conversation is going on.

I’m sorry.

Sometimes, I might take up more air space with my stories or anecdotes because it’s easier than following other people’s and less tiring to talk than to listen. I don’t mean to dominate. I try extra hard to be mindful and aware of the situations where, to others, it might come naturally?

I’m sorry.

Sometimes, the fog sets in, and I forget what I’m saying halfway through.

At other times, I can’t get my words out. I’m searching for a word in the tunnels of my mind, but it’s gone. Names of famous people, names of people I know, names of places, names of songs, as well as day-to-day words. Witty comments come to me hours later. I often plan what I’m going to say ahead of time. I can’t express myself properly in an argument or debate. And if my emotions are triggered, my thinking brain shuts down, I get confused, I am like a small child again. I might implode. I might explode.

I’m sorry.

Even when writing (and I’m a writer), I can’t find the right words – simple, obvious, words. I defy the Writers’ Code and reach for a thesaurus more often that I care to admit.

I can’t always follow instructions or new information or conversations on a subject I know nothing about, or where I don’t understand the context. What am I missing? What am I forgetting? What was I supposed to do again? What was I supposed to say? What did you ask of me? And there’s the fog again.

Sometimes things sink in after about a minute. Often more. I very probably won’t laugh at your joke till way afterwards, if I get it at all. I can’t follow films. And I might recognise a song that’s been playing on the radio or at a gig half a minute after it’s started and everyone else has been singing along. And I never remember the lyrics.

It can take me hours to process a whole conversation; hours before I realise that somebody might have actually insulted me or treated me unfairly. So, quite often, I can’t deal with it in the moment. I sometimes end up writing an email with all the things I should have said, in a far more eloquent way than I could have communicated verbally. And I think people find that quite odd, or perhaps they think I’m scared of confrontation, because I didn’t say it to their faces.

Sometimes, things seem to go in but don’t stick…

I rarely remember facts or information, unless I see them written down. I don’t do audiobooks or podcasts and webinars behind screens aren’t much better if there are no visuals. Even if I manage to listen long enough for it to go in, I won’t remember anything. Not unless I take copious amounts of notes.

I’m sorry I forgot what you said about your sick Aunt. About your holiday. About that thing you told me that happened to you when you were a kid. I know it’s all important stuff. I listened. I really did. But it didn’t stick. It went in, but not quite far enough. It didn’t reach the depths of my understanding. I think that part of my brain that’s supposed to make other people’s words sink in is missing. While other parts of my memory – the bits that remember things that affect or have happened to me – thrive like a warm incubator. Sometimes too much. Don’t ask me why. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad friend or I don’t care. I am trying.

It’s just all very…abstract. That’s how the verbal world feels at times. Abstract.

Let me see it. Show it to me. Let me have a go. Or if not, describe it to me so I can see it in my mind. Really see it. Write it down. Let me write it down. Give me pictures, a story. Something to hold onto. Let it reach my emotions – cos that part of my brain is in overdrive.

Sometimes, everything feels like an uphill struggle. It’s all a muddle in my brain. I need to write it down. Make a list. Make another list. Get it in an order. Make it make sense.

I hear in pictures. Please be patient with me. I need to visualise or imagine what you’re saying: The words, the numbers, the things you’re describing.

I read in pictures. The more I can visualise, the easier it is. A fictional novel full of description is way easier than an abstract academic text, for example. But either way, I still read slowly and can get easily distracted.

I write pictorially. Please understand if I write you a really long message, an email or letter. I’m trying to see the things I’m writing about.

I explain pictorially. I am trying to describe things the way I see them in my mind.

I can’t do two things at once. I can’t have a conversation with you while I’m doing something else or I’ll delete a whole computer file, put the salt in the tea, the sugar in the stew, burn myself, take a wrong turning in the car – or worse. It’s one thing or the other. Or something’s going to suffer.

And it’s usually me.

APD affects organisational skills too. Logistics? Forget it. I feel I must come across as stupid at times, bereft of common sense. Sometimes (and particularly before my APD diagnosis, aged 41), I feel stupid. But I’m not stupid. It just takes a while to work things out. Give me a day – some time and some space on my own – and I’ll come back with a perfect plan. Ask me on the spot and I might crumble.

Groups are especially hard. When there is more than one person talking at once, or if the conversation flits from one person to the next, or people change the subject rapidly. It takes time to register each person, really grasp what they say, by which point the next person is speaking! And I’m lost again.

I get easily confused in social settings. More and more, I feel overwhelmed and flustered. I’ve always loved dancing and gigs and music, but now trying to socialise where there is music, or even too many people and too much noise, disorientate me. Sensory overload. I can’t get my words out properly. I can’t join in conversations. I’m sure people think I’m behaving weirdly.

And after one of those rare evenings out with friends or meeting strangers, I lie in bed processing it all night. I can’t sleep. I’m trying to make sense of it. Remember what I said and whether it was the right or the wrong thing. Did I rant? Did I come across as weird or stupid?

I often find myself practising the most basic or mundane of interactions in my head, even to a colleague or a friend. It’s not because I’m particularly nervous – I just know it won’t come out right otherwise. Then I might replay it in my head afterwards. Have I said something wrong? Maybe I’ve upset them? It’s like I don’t have full control over how to manage conversations – or at least my part in them.

And all this can make me feel unsure of myself and doubt myself.

APD makes me feel excluded from the world sometimes, heavily compounded by my hearing impairment. In fact, I don’t know which is worse! It’s like they’re both teaming up on me.

And then…when it’s at its worst, when I’m a bit stressed out in general or nervous (it might just be that I know I have to talk in a big group of people I don’t know), in that moment, nothing goes in. Words dissolve into each other. My head goes mushy and cloudy, like muddy water. There’s too much blood pumping in and out. It starts to throb and swell till it feels twice its size and detached from my body, like it’s about to explode. I feel like I’m trapped inside it. It tingles like it’s made of electricity. I get ringing in my ears. I can’t think straight. And then I miss what people say. Their words are slippery like tea, I can’t hold onto them. They go in my ears, but then get scrambled by my brain. One big tangle. ‘Sorry what?’ I swallow as anxiety fizzes. I nod and smile and fill in the gaps, I read their faces, their bodies, I try to work it out. But it tires me. I have to concentrate so hard that I then zone out. I don’t understand anything anymore. It just becomes noise. Words are words with no meaning, bouncing around an echo chamber in my brain.

All my senses have had enough then. Too much light, too much colour, too many people. Everything’s a blur. Sometimes, when there’s too much happening, I feel like I don’t have a clue what’s going on around me. I’m stressed. My heart rate rises. Sometimes, I say the wrong thing. I make a joke. I try to mask it. Bury it deep down. But that just makes me want to cry. I try really really hard but sometimes, in the end, I just retreat inside myself.

Somehow, I seem to manage. Years of practice and finding strategies around things. But also, I’m massively masking. Faking. I’m cool. Just a bit ‘quirky.’

And that leaves me exhausted. I need a lie down.

Then add to that any problems or stresses in life, plus tiredness (and, as a single, working, studying mum, I am always tired!), which really aggravate it because your concentration levels and understanding are the first things to go.

And the thing is you probably have no idea by looking at me that any of this is happening in my head, apart from a few little quirks or ‘endearing’ – or annoying – habits. It’s such a hidden disorder and we get so good at hiding it. I am still learning about my own brain.

Somebody with APD once described her ability to read body language as a superpower. We rely so heavily on reading every gesture, movement, and facial expression in order to get clues as to what someone is talking about (so online meetings are a nightmare for me but hey, we’re in 2023, I’d better get used to it!). While it is hard to read certain situations and understand verbal clues, my perceptive abilities are often in overdrive. My empathy is in overdrive. And sometimes this is too much. It makes me oversensitive, too atuned to the little things, to the energy in a room, to the signals someone is giving off. And this has its own set of problems…

And I wonder how much APD has played a part in all the broken relationships I have had in my life…

I’m sorry.

  1. APD has a lot of crossovers with dyslexia and autism. They say that all autistic people have APD and a lot of people with APD are autistic, but not all. But there are some shared characteristics. And with regards to dyslexia, I have no problem reading or writing, but my brain might work in a similar way.

To find out more about Shuna check out www.squarecirclearts.co.uk

Resetting with Neurodiversity - Reset button

Resetting with neurodiversity

Have you ever experienced one of those days when everything seems to go wrong, and all your well-laid plans and good intentions fall apart? It can be incredibly frustrating and challenging, leaving you feeling utterly overwhelmed. That’s why I find it crucial to have a strategy in place to get back on track during these moments. I refer to this process as “resetting with neurodiversity” and it holds particular significance when dealing with a neurodivergent trait such as ADHD.

My need for resetting varies throughout the day, depending on my fluctuating energy levels. Designing a flexible plan that can adapt to your current state is crucial. Here are several methods I use to reset and realign myself to get my day back on track:

Resetting with Neurodiversity often involves taking a break:

In most instances, when you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to make progress, the best course of action is to take a break. Taking a break entails stepping away from your current task and engaging in a different activity. It’s essential to have a plan in place during this break to avoid potentially engaging in self-destructive behaviours.

So what to do after you’ve taken a break?

Controlled breathing: I know it’s a bit faddy, and yes, I know we’ve all heard about it, but the reality is, if we focus on our breathing, it takes our mind off other thoughts. We don’t need to do it forever and don’t need to do some cool yoga pose at the same time, but just thinking about breathing and focusing on it is often enough to help our minds reset.

Prioritise:

When you are overwhelmed and when life seems to be weighing you down, it can be beneficial to prioritise the most crucial task at hand. By focusing your efforts on accomplishing one thing at a time, you create an opportunity to experience a sense of achievement. This, in turn, stimulates the release of endorphins, making you feel better and enabling you to select your next undertaking. Prioritising doesn’t require reassessing your entire to-do list; rather, it involves determining the next significant task and progressing accordingly.

Skipping:

I’m a big fan of skipping, it was my lockdown saviour, and it kept me focused, kept me fit and above all it gave me something to do when I was verging on doing all the things that aren’t good for me. I’ve kept this going and it’s part of my everyday life. I’ve found it particularly useful around resetting because it’s tough to think of other thoughts while skipping. It lets you clear your head and look forward to the future. I wouldn’t recommend doing too much to start with; two to three minutes is fine, but it can be enough to reset and work out what to do next.

Reach out:

I’ve discovered great value in reaching out and conversing with others, especially while working from home.

A SIMPLE CONVERSATION CAN PROPEL ME FORWARD whenever I encounter a challenge or feel stuck, offering fresh perspectives and guiding me towards the next steps. To make this approach effective, fostering meaningful relationships with individuals is crucial, enabling mutual support and an open line of communication. I also wonder whether this strategy resonates specifically with me as I’m an external processor. It’s essential to consider your processing style and identify the relationships that best assist you in navigating difficult situations.

Network:

One of the most powerful tools I’ve discovered for resetting is having access to a network of individuals willing to offer assistance when needed. It’s not about receiving continuous support, but rather having the right support available at the right time. This enables you to effectively reset your current situation and progress, potentially benefiting from expert advice. To illustrate, there was a time when I encountered significant difficulties with my accounts, which caused a lot of stress and hindered my progress. However, a brief conversation with someone knowledgeable and experienced in that field provided the necessary guidance to help me reset, determine my next steps, and move forward successfully.

Looking after yourself while resetting with neurodiversity:

While the concept of being kind to yourself may seem overused, it remains crucial and arguably the most essential aspect of showing up well in the workplace. This applies not only to individuals with neurodivergent traits but to everyone else too. By taking care of ourselves, we position our bodies to support our mental well-being at work effectively. Numerous studies have demonstrated that nurturing our physical health directly benefits our mental state. As a result, we experience greater satisfaction and clarity regarding our work and its purpose. Establishing healthy boundaries regarding when we start and stop work and how much we take on becomes possible. Moreover, prioritising self-care equips us with the reserves and resources necessary to go above and beyond when the situation demands it.

As you can see, resetting with neurodiversity can involve various elements. However, the key is to create a personalised plan and document it. Consider this blog the starting block of your resetting toolkit. Having a well-defined plan allows you to navigate challenges and perform at your full potential rather than feeling lost and struggling to find a way to reset.

If you’re interested in further exploring the topic of resetting and discovering more effective strategies, feel free to reach out. I’m available for a conversation to provide guidance and support.

A picture of a megaphone to illustrate external processing

External processing and neurodiversity

External processing is a cognitive style where people learn and process information by interacting with the world. This can include things like talking to people, doing hands-on activities, or using visual aids. People who use external processing often learn best by “doing” and may find it challenging to learn in traditional settings.

External processing is sometimes associated with neurodiversity, which refers to the natural variations in human cognition.

There are many benefits to external processing. External processors are often creative and innovative thinkers. They can also be good at problem-solving, critical thinking, and effectively communicating and working with others.

However, some challenges are associated with external processing and neurodiversity, as sensory input sometimes overwhelms individuals. They may also need help to focus on tasks that require them to sit still for long periods. More challenges can arise if this is combined with difficulty understanding social cues and nonverbal communication.

If you are a manager or leader, there are a few things you can do to help people who are neurodivergent external processors to succeed in your organisation.

First,

Ensure your workplace is sensory-friendly by providing a quiet space for focused work.

It also means providing access to fidget toys or other tools to help them focus.

Second,

Provide opportunities for people to learn and work hands-on. This could involve projects requiring them to use tools or materials or having them work in teams where they can collaborate.

Third,

Be patient and understanding. Work with the individual and ask what is useful.

 

By understanding the benefits and challenges of external processing, you can create a workplace where everyone can thrive.

If you’re a manager or leader, you can help people who process information externally by creating a supportive environment. By understanding the needs of these individuals and providing them with the right tools and resources, you can help them reach their full potential.

Leaders and managers, are you looking for ways to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for your neurodivergent employees? If so, consider contacting me at The Neurodivergent Coach.

We can help you understand the needs of your neurodivergent employees and how to create a welcoming and supportive workplace. We support you in developing strategies for managing employees who process information differently, including externally.

Here are some of the benefits of working with The Neurodivergent Coach:

  • Increased understanding of neurodiversity: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you understand how neurodivergent people think, learn, and process information. This understanding can help create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for your employees.
  • Improved communication: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you improve your communication with your neurodivergent employees and colleagues. This can help you better understand their needs and how to partner with them to support them to succeed.
  • Increased effectiveness: The Neurodivergent Coach can help you partner with your neurodivergent employees to help them increase their effectiveness. This is about providing the right tools and resources and creating a welcoming and supportive workplace.

If you want to learn more about how The Neurodivergent Coach can help you create a more inclusive and supportive workplace, please get in touch with us today.

We’d be happy to discuss what you need and if we are the best partner to help you move forwards.

Contact us here and start the conversation.