This week is neurodiversity celebration week, a time when neurodiverse people show that we’re proud of who we are. It’s estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK has a neurodiverse condition.
The idea of the week in essence is a great thing, but like most awareness weeks, without action it amounts to nothing.
I fully believe neurodiversity is a thing to be celebrated, without mine I wouldn’t be half as creative, straight-talking or able to chat to anyone about anything – all great skills for a freelance writer.
However being neurodiverse in the workplace comes with challenges that neurotypical people (who don’t have a neurodiverse condition) don’t even have to think about.
For example, I have auditory processing issues, meaning my brain takes a minute to catch up to the information I’ve just been told and I often wont take in information first time. So if I’m being told something important I need it in writing and meetings or phone calls will often need to be recorded or summarised after.
I also struggle with timekeeping and I’m nearly always late to every single thing I’m supposed to be at. I’ve tried not being late but inevitably it doesn’t work so instead I set alarms and manage people’s expectations. I’ve found for the most part people are understanding, but we need to change the narrative around lateness and the idea that it means not caring.
MP Emma Lewel-Buck previously told The Mirror that when she was running for office she found it difficult to access vital data because the membership list spreadsheet format was inaccessible to her “Campaigning was taking me twice as long because the format just didn’t function in the way that I do”
There are simple fixes to all of these things that employers can do to make life easier for neurodivergent people, but the fact they are still seen as “special adjustments” are holding disabled and neurodiverse people back.
The problem here is that it falls to the individual neurodivergent person to inform and educate their employer or educator and many don’t have the confidence or feel like they can safely do that.
There’s also the mental load this takes that many of us just don’t have the capacity for. If these actions are already in place for everyone, those of us who feel we can’t speak up can still be supported .
There’s also the issue with how neurodivergent people are still treated in society, autism is a punchline or synonym for unfeeling, and ADHD is constantly treated like it’s not real. Lesser known conditions like dyspraxia are still given the outdated label of clumsiness, which is then made fun of and often not associated with neurological issues such as problems with planning or processing.
While many employers and education settings now almost boast and how inclusive they are, the fact so many disabled and neurodivergent people are out of work speaks for itself
If we truly want neurodiversity to be celebrated, as it should be, we need to give neurodivergent people something to celebrate and the chance to thrive at work.