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Like many human characteristics, such as height, weight or shoe size, there is a natural variation in the anatomy of people’s brains. Many authorities now use the term neurodiversity to describe dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum/Asperger syndrome and other differences due to this variation in the ‘wiring’ of the brain.
Neurodiverse people have a range of characteristics and many are highly able, leading successful careers and holding positions of authority
– for example, scientist Albert Einstein, inventor Thomas Edison, Sky at Night presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock, ballet dancer Darcey Bussell, crime writer Agatha Christie, architect Richard Rogers, inventor James Dyson, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Many managers, professionals and specialists represented by Prospect are neurodiverse and they too are often very successful. However, they also face many challenges, frequently because their organisations fail to fully understand their strengths and weaknesses and do not provide the working environment they need to succeed and flourish.
A complicating factor is that because neurodiverse people have often needed to be of high ability to get as far as they have in their careers, they have frequently learned to compensate for many of the difficulties they experienced when they were younger and in full-time education. For instance, many high-ability people with dyslexia have above-average reading and writing skills. However, they still have the underlying traits associated with the way their brains are ‘wired’, such as an inefficiency in short-term / working memory and difficulties with processing word-sounds.
This can mean that a lot of the information people find when they look for guidance relating to workplace issues affecting neurodiverse, able, Prospect members can be confusing or unhelpful, particularly when it is written with young people in education in mind, or those more severely challenged.
It is likely that many of these able people have not been formally assessed as dyslexic, or on the autistic spectrum, and if they have been, they may not have disclosed it to their employers. However work colleagues, managers and union reps who know something about neurodiversity could consider it when they recognise some of the presenting characteristics.
Although many neurodiverse people may not regard themselves as having a hidden disability, it can be to their considerable advantage that the Equalities Act 2010 (and previous legislation) recognises differences such as these as disabilities where they have a substantial and long-term effect.
There are many examples of neurodiverse people who have become successful and highly regarded in one job only to run into difficulties when their responsibilities change, before they have had time to develop new compensating strategies. Sometimes it can be seemingly simple things that lead to significant problems, such as remembering everyone’s name after moving to a new team.
Humans have a natural variation in the anatomy of their brains – they have a different neurological make up, or ‘brain wiring’. While most people can be described as neurologically typical, or neurotypical, a minority who show differences such as dyslexia are now characterised as neurologically diverse, or neurodiverse / neurodivergent.
Neurodiverse difference includes autism – which includes Asperger syndrome – dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Link to Neurodiversity section of Propect's main website: https://www.prospect.org.uk/at-work/neurodiversity/
Other Links and resources: https://www.prospect.org.uk/at-work/neurodiversity/links
Dyslexia Assessment & Consultancy: http://www.workingwithdyslexia.com/
Genius Within: http://www.geniuswithin.co.uk/
Independent Dyslexia Consultants: http://www.dyslexia-idc.org/
Fitzgibbon Associates: http://www.fitzgibbonassociates.co.uk/
Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association: http://www.wfda.org.uk/
Dyscovery - Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Aspergers in the workplace: http://dyscovery.southwales.ac.uk/news/
Dyslexia Scotland: http://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/
Dyslexia Adult Network: http://dan-uk.co.uk/
Disability Cooperative Network: https://www.musedcn.org.uk/