Adult Diagnoses

I went to a secondary school that had the motto “know thyself”. It never struck me as odd – as a teenager I interpreted it as “be true to yourself”. It was only later in life when I realised how little some of us actually do know ourselves.

Our understanding of neurodivergent conditions is increasing, and as a result many adults are facing earth shattering realisations that they have spent their whole lives being neurodivergent. This isn’t like realising you’ve got a cold; it smashes apart everything you thought you knew about yourself for you to pick up the pieces and put them all back with a different lens. Like starting with a Picasso and refitting the pieces into a Rembrandt.

Why is it important to talk about adult diagnosis?

Well, 2 reasons that I’d like to focus on – though there are many more.

Firstly, inclusion only works when it is top down. Senior leaders across all industries including the public sector need to be aware of diversity issues and promote inclusive practices for their staff and their customers. But there is a remarkable lack of senior leaders who are open about their neurodivergence.

In the UK, Vice Admiral Nick Hines, one of the most senior members of the Royal Navy, recently went public about his Autism diagnosis. Nick had been diagnosed at the age of 45, but waited 10 years before coming out, saying that he did so in order to make the Navy a better place to work.

You can read about Nick’s story here.

Adrian Chiles (yes, him off the One Show) also opened up last year about his recent ADD diagnosis, which he talks about here.

And Eastenders actress Luisa Bradshaw White revealed just last week that she is Bipolar, saying, “ [I] am shocked I didn’t get diagnosed earlier as I see patterns of it throughout my whole life”

But these individuals are in the minority. Every person in a position of influence or responsibility who is open about their neurodivergence is demonstrating that success is not reserved for neurotypicals, and is helping to breakdown the stereotypes and stigma associated with Neurodiversity.

An great example of leadership in practice comes from GCHQ. When they realised they needed staff with a skill set that matched the dyslexia profile, it was their Director of Strategy, Policy and Engagement along with two dyslexic employees who fronted the campaign.

Undiagnosed neurodivergent adults

And the second point I want to touch on is, what about all those adults out there who haven’t yet had their Eureka moment? The adults who might seek a diagnosis (or self diagnose) in 5, 10, 20 years time? At the moment, they are in the workplace, or meeting up with us for coffees, perhaps they are family members, and they aren’t any less neurodivergent than they will be when they get that piece of paper to make it official.

This means that our inclusive practices need to be wider that a strategy just aimed at neurodivergent people who have been diagnosed. We need accessible and inclusive practices that allow everyone to flourish, regardless of how and whether we label ourselves.

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