Courageous Conversations: Understanding Disability and Neurodiversity #2

Three members of the University’s Neurodiversity Network have collaborated with us on this series of Q&As about stigma, stereotyping, and how you can be a great ally and colleague. Caroline Uncles is the second to tackle these challenging questions.

Is it ok to ask someone if they are neurodivergent, or is that sensitive information?

C: Yes, it is ok though it would depend how you approached the subject. The last thing I would want is someone unconsciously discriminating against me due the stereotypes surrounding dyslexia.

Do all neurodiverse people identify as disabled?

C: No, having dyslexia doesn’t mean I class myself as disabled. Though in some situations I can struggle but eventually I will get there it just takes me a little longer.

Are neurodivergent people discriminated against in Higher Education? If so, how?

C: To some degree, there is an expectation in Higher Education, that everyone should be able to read and write fluently. It can be hard for others to understand that, or just to grasp the concept.

Do we need to do anything differently when working with a neurodiverse colleague?

C: Just be patient, ask questions if you don’t understand. Give us the time and space to work it out in our time.

Clear Instructions can be helpful and using an off-white background can also make reading slightly easier. Also not giving us things last minute to do.

What are the main things we need to consider when delivering information to neurodiverse people?

C: The format the neurodiverse person is receiving the information in. With dyslexia, it is a real struggle with long emails, where the points are just mixed in. This is the same with verbal information. Having a summary of the exact points of what is to be done or the key things to know is hopeful.

What are the common stigma or stereotypes around neurodiverse people that we should steer clear of?

C: With regards to Dyslexia, people think that it I just cannot read and write or that it is just an eyesight issue. It is so much more, and we can learn to read and write but often it will just take us longer to do so and we will do it at a slower pace.

Interestingly, only 3% of people see dyslexia as anything other than a disability. At times I can struggle with the world around me but there are times where I will be ahead of my peers or coming up with creative suggestions my peers have not thought of.

What is the best thing about being neurodiverse?

C: Choosing one thing is hard, as there are some many great aspects with being neurodiverse. My ability to listen and empathise with others helps me connect with people in a different way which is pretty special at times and it all stems from all the challenges you have to overcome with being neurodiverse.

Does neurodiversity help or hinder you to be a good researcher/employee?

C: Both. Being dyslexic helps me though can often hinder me as well. My spelling and reading are not amazing, though I can do both. It can be difficult with deadlines in but at the same time I have learnt strategies that mean I can manage the deadlines but often last minute changes can hinder that.