Neurodiversity: An Introduction
September 19, 2017 - Daniel Aherne
What is neurodiversity?
You may have recently heard of the term ‘neurodiversity’ but be unsure of what it means. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for a set of hidden disabilities such as autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
Neurodiversity means that a person has a diversity or difference in the level of ability they have for different tasks. For instance, some employees with dyspraxia may have exceptional verbal communication skills (in the top 10% of the population), but may have difficulty with processing information quickly. Many employees with dyslexia have outstanding problem-solving skills (in the top 10% of the population), but may have difficulty with short term memory.
Neurodiverse staff bring a different perspective and a different set of skills to your workplace. Neurodiversity is valuable to employers because neurodiverse employees have unique skill sets and strengths over and above other employees.
This blog will highlight four different neurodiverse conditions through the achievements of some very successful people (who you may not have known were neurodiverse).
Gary Numan: Autism
Autism is a spectrum condition that can affect the way in which a person perceives their environment and interacts with others. Approximately 1% of the UK population is autistic.
Gary Numan is an autistic person who is an extremely successful musician. He had his first no.1 solo hit “Cars” in 1979 and continues to release music to the present day.
He doesn’t view autism as a disability. “I see it as an advantage” he explains. “There’s just a small price to pay for the advantages it brings.”
He describes that autism has positively impacted him and says “it gives you very useful gifts that other people don’t have, such as concentration and obsession. When I first got into electronic music I threw myself into it deeply and I knew everything about every bit of equipment in studios I worked in.”
Michael Phelps: ADHD
ADHD is a hidden disability that can affect an individual’s ability to concentrate on a task in the expected way or means that someone is physically or mentally restless. Approximately 5% of the UK population have a diagnosis of ADHD.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning a total of 28 medals in swimming. ADHD can also come with the ability to hyper focus and many people with ADHD say that they are extremely outcome focused.
Phelps describes that once he started swimming he was in his own world and very focused. He explains that he is “a very goal-oriented person. Once I started falling in love with sports, it was easy. I could put my mind to something and go for it. That’s how I am with everything, it doesn’t matter what it is that I do. If I want to do something, nothing will stand in my way.”
Daniel Radcliffe: Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia is a hidden disability that can affect orientation, organisation and fine motor coordination – many people with dyspraxia would describe themselves as clumsy. Approximately 5% of the population UK population have dyspraxia.
Harry Potter actor, Daniel Radcliffe was diagnosed as dyspraxic at a young age. Radcliffe wanted to be an actor from the age of 5 and at school excelled at acting. He says that acting boosted his confidence, as he found other subjects difficult at school.
Many people with dyspraxia have excellent verbal communication skills, brilliant interpersonal skills and are extremely good at presenting.
Daniel described how as a child he found it difficult to tie his shoelaces and asks “why, oh why hasn’t Velcro taken off!”
A global star, Radcliffe is now worth over £100 million and probably never has to tie his own shoelaces!
Steven Spielberg: Dyslexia
Dyslexia is a hidden disability that can affect people’s ability to process information quickly and remember short term verbal instructions. However, people with dyslexia have many accompanying strengths, such as creativity. Approximately 10% of the UK population have a diagnosis of dyslexia.
Steven Spielberg is an American director, producer and screenwriter, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 60. A co-founder of Dreamworks Studios, Spielberg is considered one of the founding fathers of the New Hollywood era, and is the highest grossing director in history. Spielberg describes his diagnosis of dyslexia as “the last puzzle part in a tremendous mystery.”
Spielberg explains that although it takes him longer than other people to read a book or script, this extra time gives him the ability to appreciate detail and spot aspects of a script that others do not.
These four individuals all have a hidden disability but by focussing on the positive skills associated with their neurodiverse condition they have all been extremely successful.
By focussing on the unique skills that neurodiverse employees can bring to a workplace, organisations can enhance their productivity, capitalise on untapped talent, solve skill set shortages and improve attrition rates.
We have delivered several Neurodiversity Understood training courses to employers who have recognised an increase in the numbers of neurodiverse graduates, applicants and employees. We have recently developed a new course called Neurodiversity Works. This half day session is based on feedback from employers over the last 2 years.