It is estimated that 1 in 20 people 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 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 excluded, or at the worst, 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 members has shared the strengths they bring to our workplace. 

I have been struggling with what to contribute during Neurodiversity Celebration Week. I asked myself whether I should share a personal story, discuss the facts and statistics of neurodiversity in the workplace, explain the meaning of different terms, talk about the reasonable adjustments and support I’ve received, or write about the challenges.

As a neurodivergent person, I feel pressure to create something perfect that represents the importance of neurodiversity awareness, particularly the experiences of neurodivergent people. However, tackling such a huge topic with so many different experiences and opinions was challenging.

I have seen many people this week so far talk about their own neurodivergence and one in particular posted “At the moment, I’m not here to be an outspoken neurodiversity champion, mostly because I’m still working out what it means for me (both professionally and personally). But I do recognise that raising awareness of autistic people in senior leadership roles could be helpful.”

I never wanted to be the neurodiversity champion; I was too worried about using the correct terms and wanting to be perfect. My ADHD does not define me; some days are hard, but if we want change, understanding and acceptance, we must advocate, we must be visible and speak out. Maybe this will encourage others to speak up, and change will happen.

It is the best of times and the worst of times for neurodivergent people today. Never before have neurodevelopmental conditions been spoken about more. We have created communities of found families, and more people understand who they are and how their brains work. Alongside this, with more awareness, there has been an increase in discrimination, more ignorance and an increase in op-eds discussing how neurodevelopmental conditions are fake. But this is Neurodiversity Celebration Week, so we will focus on celebrating. We have a high percentage of women in a male-dominated industry alongside a high number of neurodivergent people. Many of us are the lost or missed generation who have been late-diagnosed and spent our lives struggling to fit into society’s expectations. We have masked and it has cost us. It costs us time, opportunities in the workplace, experiences, money in the form of ADHD tax and, in some cases, relationships, friendship. This has left us exhausted and confused. We spend so much time worrying about other people’s expectations of us and society’s expectations; we can spend all our lives trying to meet these expectations.

However, learning you have ADHD, spending time with your found family and community and learning more about how your brain works and why is the permission to stand proud of who you are. It has transformed my life, and every day reminds me of what I have come through and the gift it can be.

We are entering a world where self-advocating can create conversations about emphasising the importance of not just recognising the strengths of neurodivergent people but actively working to maximise these strengths. It is my opinion that the narrative of superpowers can be detrimental to the ND community, regardless of how their brain works, every individual has unique strengths and weaknesses. We advocate for fostering allyship within workplaces, and understanding, training, and awareness of intersectionality. 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 hyperfocus or, as I call it, “getting into the flow”.

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 with psychological safety, 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.

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.

So, I don’t despair today, feeling like my ADHD disables me, it can, but today I celebrate it with my found family and communities. It makes me and others of the missed or lost generation resilient; we will be different forever, and I celebrate that. Remember, 1 in 5 people are neurodivergent; we are everywhere and supporting us to create better environments helps everyone.