It is estimated that 2 million adults in the UK have ADHD.

Still, the combination of poor understanding and stigma of ADHD, and delays in diagnosis means that just 20% of adults are formally diagnosed.

Diagnosis can take up to 7 years in the UK and even in some places such as York people are being denied ADHD referrals altogether – unless a person is in crisis.

As an organisation with a high percentage of women in a male-dominated industry, it is interesting to think that in the UK, men are more likely to be diagnosed, with the male-to-female ratio sitting at approximately 3:1. Women typically aren’t diagnosed until their 30s and are far less likely than men to be offered professional help. NHS Digital data suggests in 2019-20, 33,000 women were diagnosed compared with more than 100,000 men.

82% of people with ADHD don’t ask for workplace accommodations.

This can be because we often aren’t sure what our options are or what exactly will help us. Mainly, we are terrified that if we tell our employers it will be used against us and we will be fired.

50% of employers admit they won’t hire neurodivergent talent.

(according to a 2020 study by the Institute of Leadership & Management).

It has also been reported that approximately 50% of people would not suggest someone they knew with ADHD for a job in their company.

Despite all of this, there is a strong business case for neuro-inclusion:

  • Innovation through different ways of thinking.
  • Reflecting the people you are serving.
  • Greater productivity by playing to people’s strengths.
  • Increased engagement by normalising disclosure and reasonable adjustments.

In addition to these points, one of our neurodivergent staff has shared the strengths they bring to our workplace. 

My ADHD strengths include hyperfocus.

ADHD is not a “deficit” in the way people often perceive that word. Rather, it is a challenge to regulate our attention; we often have the potential to do a great amount of work in a short amount of time and have the ability to execute long-lasting highly focused attention – this is hyper focus or, as I call it, “getting into the flow”.

While I can achieve a lot when I am hyperfocused, I have regular days where I can work for 12 hours or more without eating, using the bathroom, or even standing up — parts of my body go numb and it can take a while to get the feeling back. I have also experienced times where someone has been in the same room, talking to me without me hearing them. I have entered such a period of hyperfocus that they can often leave thinking that I’m not interested in listening to them… while I haven’t even realised they’re gone.

Another strength of ADHD is using this hyperfocus to do things that we would otherwise not enjoy or want to do. Hyperfocus is caused by the reward of dopamine for doing something we enjoy, so if we can create novelty, interest and, in some cases –adrenaline – then we can hack ourselves into hyperfocus. We can also use “location location location” – by changing our location and giving ourselves a deadline, we can force ourselves into doing the thing we didn’t want to do. However, task paralysis can be another barrier to these hacks.

They also include resilience, authenticity and compassion.

Researchers have found that people with ADHD are resilient as we’ve survived despite adverse conditions; this makes us great in a crisis or under pressure.

We are found to be more authentic because we often act and speak before thinking – when we are in a comfortable environment where we can be ourselves, it is easier to show that we are living our values. This requires a level of “unmasking”, but this can only happen in an environment accepting of difference, and where that difference is celebrated and praised.

It has been found we have a higher level of compassion as we have grown up often in a world that doesn’t understand us, constantly feeling not enough.

Psychiatrist and author William W. Dodson estimates that by age 12, children who have ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages from parents, teachers, and other adults than their friends and siblings who do not have ADHD. We can all remember phrases like “sit still”, “try harder”, “listen to me”, “be quiet”, “stop daydreaming”, “I am speaking to you”, “careless mistake”, and my favourite – “you are a bright person if you apply yourself and work harder”… what they didn’t know is that I was working harder and longer than anyone else.

Because we feel not enough, we don’t fit in sometimes and, in many cases, are more likely to experience trauma, we are more likely to be empathetic and compassionate toward others. This is linked to another study suggesting that people with ADHD have a strong sense of social justice – so no surprise we work in the sector we do. 82% of Adults with ADHD have experienced trauma, and more than 70% also have anxiety and/or depression.

 

It is widely believed that Thomas Edison had ADHD. Edison tried 3,000 times to make a functioning lightbulb, putting all his hyperfocus and energy into his project. When he finally succeeded, it meant so much more as he was risking so much. Why does this spark a chord with me? Well, we are also the last of the old romantics. People with ADHD are known for showering the people around them with love — even when relationships hit a bump, we will keep trying, whether it’s personal or professional. So this ADHD Awareness month, we’re just asking for a little of that love to be reciprocated. Learn what you can, appreciate the energy and focus we can bring, and show those around you that you value neurodivergent talent.