Neurodiversity - difference is not difficulty

The term neurodiversity describes the different ways brains function and develop a variety of skills, abilities, ways of thinking and also challenges, writes Kath Wood.

It is used as an umbrella term for a variety of conditions including dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Tourette’s and autism. You may be more familiar with the terms special educational needs, learning disability and specific learning difficulty which have been used to describe these conditions. However, these phrases can be perceived negatively as they seem to be emphasising difficulties and needs. Referring to these as neurodiverse conditions and using the broader term neurodiversity highlights that it is about difference rather than deficit and recognises the benefits of ‘thinking differently’.

There are varying estimates of prevalence of neurodiverse conditions in the general population including one in 100 people believed to have autism and 10 per cent of the population affected by dyslexia to some degree.* These figures relate just to disclosed and diagnosed conditions but this could be the tip of the iceberg with many older people never having received a diagnosis. So it is clearly going to be an issue which will affect a considerable number of learners, apprentices and employees across the country.

Often when we consider the adjustments we make for people with conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism we focus on resolving issues or managing difficulties and there is definitely a place for that. It is equally, if not more important to consider how we can make the most of an individual’s strengths and positive characteristics that may be associated with their neurodiverse condition. These could include creativity, visual thinking, alternative approaches to problem solving, the ability to find faults and errors or to spot patterns and themes.

Whether you are a team leader, supervisor, trainer or manager there are significant benefits to developing your knowledge about neurodiverse conditions. There is a responsibility and a requirement under the Equality Act to be able to offer adjustments. Actually there are significant business benefits in being able to support your learners or employees.

Often, this is just making small adjustments to communication, training methods, the working environment; using technology, considering group dynamics. This can prevent individuals from having issues which you will have to take time to address. More importantly, you will be enabling them to work to their full potential, increasing their productivity, improving results and encouraging commitment and loyalty.

Blog written by Kath Wood, Disability Training and Consultancy Specialist, Remploy. This blog first appeared on the Remploy website.