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.

Man Skipping on green background with black rope.

Skipping and neurodiversity

I love skipping…a lot. Skipping kept me going through lockdown and has continued to form a stimulating part of my life. I’ve noticed that it helps me and others that I’ve worked with manage their mood and energy levels effectively. My thoughts on skipping are purely based on my own experience and the people that I’ve worked with. I hear you ask why would a 50-year-old bloke enjoy jumping rope. Well, here are some of the reasons why skipping has formed part of my daily exercise habit:

  • It boosts my mood: it makes me feel bloody brilliant, as like many other forms of exercise it gets everything moving and as a result, I just feel better.
  • It challenges me: with skipping there are loads of different moves, you can do the double under, single under, hopping, bell, mic release, to mention just a few and all of these are doable, you just need to break them down and practice.
  • It gets my heart working: sometimes everyone’s heart needs a bit of an extra pump. I found it particularly helpful that skipping is aerobic, and I’ve noticed skipping improves how well I can breathe. There is a lot of evidence that shows skipping improves circulation and option delivery around the body…what’s not to like!
  • It burns calories: in a relatively short amount of time, I can burn a lot of calories, which for someone who spent a lot of time sitting at a desk job is brilliant.
  • It promotes brain function: skipping requires me to focus and to use my mental coordination to get my hands and feet in the right place.
  • It improves balance: I have noticed an improvement in my balance, which has aided me in gaining a better sense of limb placement within my surroundings. It’s fascinating to see how skipping has greatly benefited my daughter, who has been diagnosed with dyspraxia, by improving her coordination and building her strength, which she can now apply to other activities such as cycling.
  • It’s portable (it can be done anywhere): I love the fact that I can skip wherever I like within reason. I say within reason as I’ve not skipped on a train yet, but there may come a time when I do. I have skipped at a conference, in a hotel room, in a car park, in a normal park, on the road and outside a client’s office.

There are loads of resources on the internet, but I would recommend Coach Chris from The Jump Rope Company who’s put together 20 brilliant skipping variation exercises to try out over your first 20 days of skipping. Click here to watch the videos.

If you want to explore this as one of your strategies for managing your neurodivergent traits, such as to help calm a busy mind with repetitive moves, or reduce your restlessness and burn off extra energy, I can’t recommend it enough. As with everything you have to try it out to see if it works for you. All you need is your trainers and a skipping rope, anyone can do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re 55 or 105.

If you’ve taken the leap of faith and decided to embark on an adventure with your skipping rope, I’d be absolutely thrilled to hear all about it! Don’t hesitate to reach out and share your skipping adventures here.

RS200 Group B rally car in white with rally lights

Busy Brain and neurodiversity

My busy brain! (The crazy brain that never stops working and sometimes drives me up the wall!)

One of my favourite cars is the Ford RS200, based very loosely on the Ford Sierra. It is an insane Group B rally version of the Sierra, but I think the only things that were original Ford were the doors and possibly the bonnet. The engine in this car revs incredibly high, and its power-to-weight ratio means it has the type of acceleration you would typically see in a Formula One car. And this is how my brain feels sometimes, overpowered without enough traction to stay in a straight line. It looks like a standard car but nothing like an ordinary one under the bonnet.

Keeping my busy brain on the road

My brain often operates like an ideas machine, firing out many wonderful, interesting, far-out-there ways of thinking about a problem or situation.

It sometimes behaves in a way that feels like my mouth can’t keep up, nor can my memory, meaning that ideas are flowing, and I can’t always capture them. It’s incredibly frustrating. I find I get loads of ideas and get inspired, which can take me off on all sorts of tangents. This can be both useful and incredibly tricky to manage. I’m particularly aware that when I’m communicating with others, if my brain starts to rev up, I can lose them and, as a result, have frustrating communications.

Driving in the suitable environments

When I feel safe and listened to, I can operate far better than when I feel threatened or unsure about what is happening. Also, how well I’m operating for the rest of my life and how well I’ve been looking after myself make a massive difference in how my brain works. For example, this busy brain can go into busy catastrophising if I’m having a tough time! So rather like the RS200, I risk blowing it up if I don’t look after it properly.

Keeping things ticking over

Keeping fit and healthy has become essential to managing my mental health, particularly my brain activity. I’ve noticed that when I exercise regularly, my brain operates far more effectively. This means I don’t tend to get overstressed and can also compartmentalise life more effectively. It’s almost like I need to go and burn some fuel to help support a healthy outlook.

Garage time matters

Sleep is essential for all of us, but more important for some. I’ve noticed that my mind is a complete mess when I don’t get enough sleep. I find it difficult to concentrate, can become easily distracted and ultimately waste a lot of time, so having a good sleep pattern means that my busy brain tends to cope more effectively and think more concisely about what I’m doing.

Knowing when you’ve hit the red line with the busy brain

Overwhelm is a reality we all experience, but particularly for me, I’m not always conscious when it’s happening. It will sometimes creep up on me and debilitate me to the point where I’m no longer racing; I’m barely crawling and unable to think or move forwards effectively. Simply put, the best solution is to pause and take a significant break. This means typically putting on my running shoes, contacting a friend and going for a long run. Once I’ve done this, I can generally return and effectively continue moving forward.

Capturing the magic

As I mentioned, my brain often throws out many ideas rapidly, and my biggest frustration is that my short-term memory can’t hold on to many ideas. This means that I get very, very frustrated in missing ideas and rethinking them at a later stage. I then recognised that I already had the thought but had forgotten it. I use Evernote to help me manage this effectively, as it allows me to dictate ideas straight into my phone and file them away. There are many tools you can use, and this is only one of them, but I like Evernote for the following reasons:

  • It’s platform-independent – it doesn’t matter if I change my phone or use my computer; it works everywhere.
  • It allows me to dictate –I can get my ideas out of my head quickly and efficiently.
  • It’s organised – Evernote will enable me to collect and reorganise my notes rapidly, meaning I don’t lose ideas, and I can formulate them in the right place quickly.
  • I can add images – I often think in pictures and get inspired by things I see, so photographing objects or situations and organising them with my thoughts enables me to capture this effectively.

When I am most busy

I find my brain working most effectively in the morning, in the shower, when I’m out on a run or exercising. I’ve noticed that to get the most out of what I’m doing; I need to remove all other distractions and be somewhere different.

How do I get my brain to tick over

Quietening my brain down can be tricky. As I’ve mentioned, exercise can be helpful, but sometimes not even that does the job. Verbalising my thoughts is effective, as when they are stuck in my head, they often whirl around continuously. I do not understand their importance or priority so I can be completely overwhelmed by something unimportant. I also find it helpful to have a structured routine to go to sleep and have time to wind down.

My wind-down routine looks like the following:

  • Screens off (no screens in the bedroom).
  • Get a drink of water.
  • Shower and go to the toilet.
  • Practice crow pose, crane pose, double arm lever and squat (I can give more details on this if you’re interested).
  • Turn the lights down.
  • Make sure the blackout blind is down.
  • Get into bed.
  • Read for 15 minutes.
  • Lights off.

If you would like to discuss managing your busy brain and some of the challenges and ideas I’ve written in this blog, please get in contact.

Warning: These processes have worked for me, and that doesn’t mean they will work for you. It would be best if you approached how you manage your neurodiverse traits like a project. You must try ideas out, keep the solutions that work and get rid of the ideas that don’t. There’s no harm in testing, but don’t throw away a process until you have something better to replace it with.

 

Virtual Assistant

Relationship building with your Virtual Assistant

Neurodiversity and your virtual assistant relationship

I was very sceptical about the value of working with a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help me with aspects of my business. I found it tricky, but I’ve done it now, and six months on, I thought reflecting on some of the things I’ve learnt would be helpful. The biggest lesson is that working with anybody is constantly a negotiation, which involves working out what’s going to work and what’s not, like any new relationship. So here goes, this is what I have learnt so far.

First impressions count

As with any new relationship, figuring out how it will work is essential. I talked about their skill set, experience, availability and how likely my new VA could work with my style and vice versa. This was useful as it laid the foundation for the relationship’s operation. The key was that my VA was responsive and sent me her portfolio, which showed design work, testimonials and she communicated really well.

Setting the Virtual Assistant ground rules

Being clear from the beginning of the relationship on what’s okay and what’s not has been incredibly useful. I often have ideas at strange times, (neurodivergent brain) and want to communicate them, so it is essential to know the best way to do so, so it doesn’t overwhelm my VA. We agreed from the start that email was the preferred platform. This allows my VA to keep track of the tasks that need completing and file away the email once the work is finished. We also use WhatsApp as prompts or reminders of more critical tasks or priority changes. This has been helpful for me, but it’s not a fixed deal and is something that we still work on and renegotiate regularly.

Getting in the flow

Working together was about building trust and confidence in how the relationship worked. That was about trusting my VA to do what she said she would regarding deadlines and quality of work. Once the first few tasks were delivered to a high standard and on time, I didn’t need to double-check everything as I knew what to expect and was only required to check in periodically to ensure everything was okay. As we got more into the flow, I expanded the depth and types of work we did together. This has been a significant development for me, allowing me to push into the tasks I do best, like idea generation and creating new ways of working or marketing my business.

Introducing my work family to my Virtual Assistant

As a freelancer, I work with many other freelancers, so introducing my VA to my contacts has been super helpful. Again, this takes trust and understanding and has allowed me to remove myself from their conversations so they can deliver the work. For example, I’ve worked with Richard from Slade Design for several years. Richard put together the plan for my website and helped me get it off the ground initially. What’s been helpful as I work with my VA in building a social media presence and getting my communications right is that they can connect about delivering work together; for example, take a look at my free e-book on Applying for Government Funding (Access to Work) and Reasonable Adjustments guide.

Making it a partnership

Spending time working with someone on your business means they’ll get insights into how to do things differently and more effectively. This has been a massive bonus for me in terms of having another individual deeply ingrained in my business. My VA has been able to provide insight and support to help mould the business and take opportunities that may have been overlooked. I think this is the next stage of development of this relationship, and I’ve already seen fabulous ideas come to fruition.

Letting the rest of the value come in

As our relationship has progressed, my VA has pointed me to other knowledgeable individuals so I can learn from them, for example as I started to experiment with video and other mediums of communication, my VA has been beneficial in connecting me with people who can support me to learn video or LinkedIn better. She has suggested tools and other resources that I might find helpful, and she’s always been there to discuss the most sensible way to approach new ideas. This isn’t a replacement for a business mentor, but it has created another powerful partnership that can help me with my neurodivergent traits. I believe business is built on teamwork, and having a great relationship with a super VA has changed everything.

Keep the partnership flourishing!

All this is only possible if you take the time to find the right person and ensure that individuals can work with you and you can work with them. If you’re thinking about how to select a Virtual Assistant, here are some things to think about:

  • Experience and qualifications – can they do what you need?
  • Can they provide references, and do those references seem credible?
  • Availability – will the VA be available when you need them?
  • Are they someone you feel comfortable working with, and are they different enough from you to help you with the tasks you find tricky?
  • Can they communicate with you in a way that you understand?
  • Are you able to communicate with them in a way that they understand? And can you agree on how to work together effectively?
  • Reliability – are they dependable, turn up, and keep going? Especially when the going gets tough and things get tricky.
  • Flexibility – are they able to adapt as your business grows?
  • Are they empathetic towards you?
  • Are they problem solvers or problem makers? Can your VA solve problems for you? We live in a world of issues; what defines us is how well we move forward and solve them.
  • Trustworthiness – fundamentally, this relationship will live and die based on how trustworthy the individual is. Can you trust them to do what they say they will do?
  • The wonga – finally, are they affordable? Do they fit within your budget? We need to be realistic about what we are prepared to pay, as I firmly believe quality does cost, but can we afford that quality, and will the value it adds to our business ultimately be what we need?

And, if you’re wondering who my super VA is, you can find her here on LinkedIn, Bianca Botten.

Bianca kindly provided the following feedback.

“I absolutely love working with Nathan. He is fast-paced, a very clear communicator and smiles a lot, which makes Zoom meetings fun. He’s an idea-generating machine, which makes my job very easy. I just need to action his ideas and refine them to produce social media content, his newsletter or eBooks. I’m really looking forward to what else we can create together and can’t wait to see his business develop over the years”.

Bianca Botten – Virtual Assistant at Neon B

If you want to know more about this, get in touch here.

Purple ribbon with question marks - awareness training

Why awareness training falls short in achieving real change

Awareness training is essential but falls short because awareness of neurodiversity and neurodivergent traits does not lead to inclusion. Awareness training can help individuals and teams to recognise and understand the existence of different traits and conditions. Still, it infrequently leads to actions that support those individuals to thrive in the workplace.

To create an inclusive environment for neurodivergent people, we need to move beyond awareness. Concrete steps that implement policies and practices that support the strengths and challenges associated with neurodivergent conditions are essential. This may include changes to the physical environment, adjustments to communication and work processes, training and education for managers and colleagues on supporting and accommodating neurodivergent individuals.

We must move beyond simply accommodating neurodivergent individuals and instead welcoming, embracing and celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions they bring to our workplaces. This often means a culture shift that values and prioritises neurodivergent traits as strengths rather than viewing them as weaknesses or problems to be solved.

Therefore, while awareness training is an essential first step in creating an inclusive workplace, it must be followed by concrete actions and changes to support and embrace neurodiversity in the workplace.

Here are nine ways to move beyond awareness training and stop it from falling short:

  • Develop and improve your inclusion policy:

    • Develop an inclusion policy that specifically addresses neurodiversity in the workplace.
    • This policy should outline the organisation’s commitment to inclusion, strategies for recruitment, hiring, and retention of neurodivergent employees, and specific accommodations available to support them.
  • Actively recruit neurodivergent employees:

    • Partner with organisations specialising in neurodiversity recruitment. Ensure your existing recruitment programme embraces neurodivergent traits.
    • This means looking at everything from your workforce planning to how you attract neurodivergent traits in terms of promoting disclosure and support, using concise language within your job spec so that essential and desirable attributes are clearly defined and that your screening process doesn’t screen out unconventional backgrounds. For example, that the interview process is transparent.
    • It’s clear that adaptions will be made, and the onboarding process provides mentoring. Finally, you have a retention and development plan that allows those individuals to stay and thrive within your organisation.
  • Provide flexibility:

    • These need to support neurodivergent employees.
    • This may involve providing assistive technology, creating quiet workspaces, or providing flexible work schedules.
    • Ensure that all employees know the available solutions and how to request them.
    • Better still, make them available on demand and normalise the process of seeking and facilitating accommodations.
  • Foster a culture of acceptance:

    • Enable respect for neurodiversity in the workplace.
    • This can involve creating inclusive policies and procedures and actively promoting diversity and inclusion through communication and activities.
    • This can be as simple as engaging in broader neurodiversity celebration activities.
    • I encourage you to look deeper and celebrate your excellent employees often.
  • Provide training and education:

    • Managers and employees need to understand how to support and work with neurodivergent individuals and teams effectively.
    • This can involve providing specific training on communication, management, and flexible strategies and how to have great conversations that enable everyone to operate at their most effective.
  • Create mentorship programs:

    • Pair neurodivergent employees with experienced colleagues trained to mentor.
    • This will create a supportive environment and provide opportunities for growth and development, especially in the retention and development phase of the career life-cycle.
  • Encourage employee feedback:

    • Ask neurodivergent employees how the organisation can better support them.
    • How we ask for feedback is essential; for example, this may need to be asked one-on-one or in a facilitated action learning set.
    • This could also be supported with broader employee surveys.
    • The key idea is that we take action with the information we gather and that it informs us how we move forwards.
  • Provide mental health support:

    • Access resources and information for employees who need additional help.
    • This could be around mental health, first aid, or just facilitating conversations for individuals to work out what they need.
    • There may then be a requirement for counselling services or mental health support.
    • Again, what’s important is to offer the individual the capability to “not be okay” and options regarding how they move forwards.
  • Celebrate neurodiversity:

    • Celebrating neurodiversity is about amplifying strengths and managing difficulties.
    • This isn’t just one week a year.
    • Neurodiversity must be something we consistently do within our organisations. Noticing where people have gone above and beyond, achieved terrific work, and also how they have overcome problems should be noticed and celebrated often.

Pondering about your next move?

Get in contact if a chat would be helpful.

advancing your career with neurodivergent traits breaking the glass ceiling

Breaking barriers: advancing your career with neurodivergent traits

Neurodivergent traits are natural variations in human cognitive function. We all think differently, but some of us think a whole lot differently — like off the scale!

Thinking differently includes conditions like ASD/ASC autism, ADHD, dyslexia, DCD dyspraxia, dyscalculia, tic disorders and PTSD. Neurodivergent traits can be seen as strengths contributing to innovation and creativity in many industries. However, they can also pose significant challenges for individuals looking to advance their careers.

Let’s explore how neurodivergent traits can slow down and sometimes halt career progression. I’d then like to offer thoughts on how organisations can support individuals with neurodivergent traits to break new ground in their careers.

The problem with advancing your career with neurodivergent traits

Neurodivergent strengths include extraordinary attention to detail, supercharged analytical skills, and the ability to redefine working practices. Tragically, these traits can sometimes clash with workplace demands. For example, neurodivergent individuals may struggle with the following:

  • Social interactions: Some individuals with neurodivergent traits find it a Herculean task to navigate social situations, struggling with nonverbal cues, eye contact and small talk. These difficulties can make building relationships that matter virtually impossible, stalling career progression.
  • Sensory overload: Neurodivergent individuals can be highly sensitive to their surroundings, such as noise, bright lights, or strong smells. This can cause them to experience sensory overload interfering with their ability to stay on task and requiring them to take additional breaks. This can be perceived as them not trying enough, which can harm their career prospects.

“High stimulation is both exciting and confusing for people with ADHD, because they can get overwhelmed and overstimulated easily without realising they are approaching that point.”

Jenara Nerenberg, Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You

  • Executive function: This is part of our cognitive processes. Executive function helps us plan, organise, prioritise, and complete tasks. Individuals with neurodivergent traits can struggle with executive function. This can mean missing deadlines, poor time management and projects needing to be completed.
  • Communication: Neurodivergent individuals often have unique ways of communicating and may struggle to express themselves clearly or understand the communication of others. These difficulties can create misunderstandings and miscommunications, which can cause several problems in the workplace.
  • Bias and stigma: There is still a significant amount of bias and stigma surrounding neurodivergent traits in the workplace. This bias can result in discrimination, harassment, and exclusion from opportunities.

Just these five areas can be a significant disadvantage to individuals with neurodivergent traits, making it hard for them to progress and show how truly brilliant they are. As organisations, we have an obligation and opportunity to support individuals to be their very best.

How can organisations make advancing your career with neurodivergent traits easier?

Despite these challenges, there are many ways in which organisations can support individuals with neurodivergent traits to progress in their careers. Here are five things that could make all the difference:

  • Create a neuroinclusive workplace (neurodiversity-friendly): Employers can create a more welcoming environment for neurodivergent individuals by implementing changes such as noise-cancelling headphones, flexible working hours, and comfortable sensory spaces. Encouraging neurodiversity awareness training for all employees can also help raise awareness and reduce bias, in addition to more specific role-based training where appropriate, for example, in recruitment, management and talent retention.

Find out more about awareness training here.

  • Offer mentoring: Mentoring can be highly beneficial for individuals with neurodivergent traits, as it can help them navigate the workplace and build important relationships. Neurodivergent mentees will benefit hugely from mentors with previous experience working with individuals with similar conditions.
  • Provide clear communication: To support individuals with neurodivergent traits, it’s crucial to provide clear, concise, and direct communication. Employers should avoid using ambiguous language, metaphorical expressions, or figurative language that can be difficult to understand.
  • Create Clear Career Pathways: Providing neurodivergent individuals with a clear career pathway can help them stay focused and motivated. Employers should work with these individuals to identify their strengths and interests, set achievable goals, and provide regular feedback.
  • Workplace Needs Assessments: Individuals don’t always know what they need and the type of support that can be helpful. A Workplace Needs Assessment can provide an important opportunity for the individual to assess their strengths and difficulties and then build a plan for what they can do next.

Find out more about Workplace Needs Assessment here.

Some gold bars to show the importance of noticing neurodiversity

Noticing neurodiversity (or noticing anything else for that matter)!

How do I assist someone with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, or any other combination of the above (and sometimes more)? Did I mention PTSD? – well, noticing neurodiversity is key.

We have no medical training in general (unless you’re a medical doctor who transitioned to being a manager or HR leader, in which case I’d love to hear from you). There’s something about diagnosing that takes power away from the individual because we give them a label they haven’t asked for.

What we can do is pay attention to what is going on.

What does noticing neurodiversity look like?

Noticing can be defined as being aware of, whether or not a person is struggling with a specific task or thriving in a specific area. When we observe, we can approach them and say, “I’ve noticed that this appears to be a bit tricky; is there anything I can do to help, or, better yet, is there anything we could do together to support you?” This is much more effective than stating, “I think you look autistic,” or “your penmanship appears dyslexic”. Noticing is about reflecting back the data that you see rather than attempting to decipher what the data signifies.

There is significance in the term “we”

Are we drawing their focus to a problem they want to solve by noticing? The authority is in their hands; we must collaborate and ask them what we can do together. This is also essential because it keeps responsibility in the middle of the conversation, implying that power is shared rather than taken by one side. I’ve observed that this positively affects creating joint ownership and working towards a potential solution.

The power to move from noticing neurodiversity to asking

To notice, you must first ask. Nothing will change if we only observe and do nothing. Sometimes simply asking is all that is required for an individual to determine what is going on and what would be most beneficial for them to be successful at work.

Different places matter

Changing the setting or medium can be extremely beneficial when having open and honest conversations. If you need to talk to someone struggling, you might find it helpful to do so in a different place than you would usually talk to them. This helps in various ways because it allows individuals to think differently and makes them aware that this is a different type of conversation.

This is the ability of observation

Please make this a daily practice and plan how to use your observations to help your team and organisation be their most effective and innovative selves.

If you need a conversation, please get in contact.

Red Camera showing Zooming out on neurodiversity

Zooming out on neurodiversity

Have you ever attended a drawing class? I have, and as someone who is particularly bad at drawing, it surprised me. We visited the Eden Project, where an incredible local artist taught us to draw more effectively. It turns out that it has little to do with how well you hold a pencil and a lot to do with how often you stand back and look at your drawing from a distance. I created artwork that resembled the object I was attempting to draw. It was a huge surprise and impressed the little girl sitting next to me. This got me thinking about zooming out on neurodiversity!

When integrating neurodiversity into organisations, we are often tempted to make many small changes. These can be beneficial, but if we don’t take a step back and look at the big picture of what’s happening in the organisation, we risk a disjointed, ineffective approach.

This is especially true when discussing the subject of awareness. I facilitate a lot of neurodiversity awareness-training sessions, which are always well attended with very engaged interactive audiences. Still, there is a risk that if all you do is raise awareness, nothing changes, and you end up having a very informative meeting accompanied by lovely biscuits.

Professor Amanda Kirby highlights the dangers of oversimplification, stereotyping, tokenism, cause blindness, pinup people and becoming a broken record. Neurodiversity is not simple! Neurodiversity is very complicated because each individual will present their neurodivergent traits differently. There is a temptation to simplify neurodiversity to make it more accessible and understandable for everyone. Still, we must treat each person individually and provide a tailored solution to their struggles.

Raising awareness can create new stereotypes of how people behave. For example, I frequently get asked, “what should we be looking out for?” And “how will we know if someone has a neurodivergent trait?” I don’t think this is always helpful because it is more important to ask the individual what is beneficial for them and not put them into a box so we allow them to progress and then flourish.

Tokenism

(We all love a bandwagon and going along with the crowd). It was recently Neurodiversity Week, which is fantastic, but if all it does is make noise, it is ineffective; nothing changes for the people who need it the most, and our organisations suffer from not embracing and engaging with different thinking styles to help with innovation.

Cause blindness

People will become bored if we continue to bang the drum but make no progress. You must act, even if it is only a tiny action, or you risk nothing effective happening.

Poster people

It’s common to hear the same stories about the same people. Richard Branson is an excellent role model but is not the world’s only dyslexic entrepreneur. Love him or hate him, Elon Musk is not the only autistic entrepreneur; there are many brilliant people with neurodivergent traits who have done outstanding work. You need to think more broadly and not just roll out the same old pinups.

Broken records

Whether you like it or not, our world history has some challenging lessons for us to learn. Taking a person’s humanity and labelling them can dehumanise them. You must ensure that you focus on the individual and learn from mistakes in the past.

As we stand back and take a look at what it means to be inclusive within our organisations, I think it’s helpful to consider some of the following areas.

The issue we’re attempting to resolve by zooming out on neurodiversity

Instead of raising awareness and avoiding it, let’s get real and address it. Is it about recruiting, retaining employees, or something else? Let’s be clear about the problem and ensure our efforts are directed towards resolving it. Sometimes more data will be required, while other times, it will simply be a question of what should happen next.

Communicate with others

We frequently make assumptions about what is required. We must have an open and safe conversation about what and how change needs to occur. This conversation must be sensitive to specific cultural backgrounds or thinking styles, but it must happen.

Collaborate with others

It is beneficial to collaborate with other organisations that can assist you in moving forward with solving the problems you’ve identified. They may provide specialised knowledge or simply the ability to step outside the situation. This does not need to be a general label but a specific response to a problem you are attempting to solve.

Think carefully about your goals

SMART Goals aren’t the be-all and end-all, but they can help you figure out what you want to do and ensure it’s realistic and time-bound. This is critical because it allows you to assess your progress and determine whether your actions are effective or if something needs to be changed.

Taking action by zooming out on neurodiversity

This will not occur unless we take the first step forward. Moving forward may entail collaborating with an outside organisation to help you achieve your goals or forming an employee group. What matters is that you do not postpone this until tomorrow. Take the first step and figure out what you need to do next.

Measure what’s going on

You’ll never know if your changes have had any beneficial impact unless you measure their outcomes. Before you measure the outcome, it’s always helpful to take a baseline of where you are before you start otherwise, you will never know if anything you’ve done has made a difference. I would encourage you to consider ways to measure and understand the changes you have made easily.

Keep going by zooming out on neurodiversity

Moving inclusion forward, particularly in neurodiversity, requires a sustained effort. Many leaders will need to be involved in moving your efforts forward, and the organisation must buy into the entire process. If you want long-term change, you must ensure that you have the energy and drive to continue this effort for an extended period.

Would a conversation on zooming out be helpful? – Contact us here.

neurodiverse

Neurodivergent traits – retaining and empowering them in your organisation

Based on statistics from the British Dyslexia Association (@BDAdyslexia), it is estimated that at least 15% of the working population have some neurodivergent traits. Neurodivergent traits are those associated with conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, ASC along with medically diagnosed and acquired conditions like PTSD and migraines. These traits are likely to appear in different combinations in each individual.

Read the full article here in FE News.