As part of our Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we asked our neurodiverse colleagues to share their experiences and stories with us. The article below was written by Carys Pegrum, Recruitment Support Officer for Omega (part of the Staffline Group).
The phrase Neurodiverse was coined in 1998 by a sociologist called Judy Singer and was originally used to refer to people, like herself, who were on the autistic spectrum. Subsequently, the phrase has since been applied to other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette's Syndrome and so on. Despite the phrase being around for over two decades, it has only been within the past few years that awareness has grown.
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurobiological condition in which the brain's neurotransmitter chemicals such as noradrenalin and dopamine aren't received correctly. It is genetic condition which affects learning and behaviour and can have serious, long-lasting complications for an individual.
My Experience with ADHD
For as long as I can remember I have always felt different to everyone around me, but I could never put my finger on why. I had been receiving counselling from around the age of 13 years old due to anxiety and depression, which was not something that any of my peers were experiencing and that alone made me feel alien to everyone around me because I couldn’t understand why my brain was so chaotic in comparison to everyone I knew.
Outside of anxiety and depression I had also dealt with:
• Imposter Syndrome
• Chronic Stress
• Difficulty focusing / forgetfulness
• Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
• Difficulty organising or prioritising tasks
• Low self-esteem
• Task Paralysis
• Auditory Delay
Most of which followed me into adulthood! It wasn’t until I was 23 that I was officially diagnosed with ADHD, which amongst girls/women with this condition, is actually very common. Because I didn’t always outwardly display the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD, it was something that was never considered as an option when I was a child. This resulted in a vicious cycle during my teenage years, where I saw myself as less than everyone else and developed a very low self-esteem.
How does ADHD impact men and women differently?
There is a common misconception that ADHD is just the ‘naughty child’, the ‘angry teenager’ or the ‘lazy adult’ which couldn’t be further from the truth - it is actually far more likely that these individuals will develop perfectionist or OCD traits as they grow older because they work much harder to hide their struggles or to fit into a Neurotypical box.
Just as ADHD looks different in children and adults, it looks different between men and women. Whilst ADHD is equally common between the two genders, women are significantly underdiagnosed for a number of reasons such as, women are much more likely to have the inattentive presentation which goes far more unnoticed. Men are more likely to have the hyperactive presentation and there is far more research on this, than there is for the inattentive presentation of ADHD.
This means that women are far more likely to experience these symptoms for a much longer period of time before it is diagnosed, which often leads to ‘Masking’ making it increasingly more difficult to diagnose because many women see the symptoms as ‘negative character traits’ over symptoms that can be treated with the correct professional help. This then results in other disorders such as anxiety and depression, which commonly come hand in hand with ADHD, as a result of experiencing the symptoms over a prolonged period of time.
Why we should celebrate neurodiversity and how can we help to accommodate it?
There are many reasons why we should celebrate Neurodiversity and many ways that we can work to best accommodate those who are neurodiverse, within the workplace. All of the people that I have met with ADHD including myself, have undiscovered strengths that they have been either ignoring or taking for granted such as:
- Intuitive thinking
- Quick learning
- Boundless enthusiasm and positivity
- Excellent problem-solving skills
All of which make someone a valuable employee! This can also mean we have a different perspective to think from and can bring new and creative ideas to the table.
The difficulty is, sometimes these ideas get lost within the thousands of thoughts that are constantly buzzing in our brains. There are also external factors that can contribute to a neurodiverse individual becoming very overwhelmed or overstimulated such as:
- Lighting that is too bright
- Too much noise in their surroundings
- Clothing that doesn’t ‘feel right’
- Too many instructions given at one time
- Activities that require focus for a long period of time e.g., training sessions / meetings
- Interruption of their daily routine
All of which are things that might seem mildly irritating to some people but can be extremely disruptive for a neurodiverse individual.
I have not always felt comfortable discussing these things with my managers out of fear that I would be perceived as incapable or weird. Since joining Omega in 2016, I have been incredibly lucky to work with managers and colleagues who have accepted my quirks and without judgement, offered up solutions that have enabled me to perform the best I can. I am now achieving and creating goals within my career, that I didn’t always see as possible. Being able to have these open conversations has also given me a valuable insight into the Neurotypical brain! This insight has enabled me to gain a greater understanding of my own thought processes and how they can differ, to allow me to better communicate moving forward.
It’s that simple! Most of the time when a neurodiverse individual is struggling in their day to day or feels overstimulated, a simple, unbiased conversation is all they need to help them come back to reality. A non-judgemental conversation to gain some perspective on how they feel and what has caused them to feel that way, will often lead to them feeling reassured and ready to continue their day with their best foot forward.
An Overview of Staffline
Founded in 1986, Staffline is the UK’s leading provider of flexible blue-collar workers, supplying approximately 50,000 staff per day on average to around 450 client sites, across a wide range of industries including agriculture, supermarkets, drinks, driving, food processing, logistics and manufacturing.
Find out more at: https://www.staffline.co.uk/