Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Bupa debunks neurodiversity myths for Neurodiversity Celebration Week

For this year’s Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Bupa UK is debunking five common myths about neurodiverse individuals. 

Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa, addresses the misconceptions following new research which shows Google searches related to neurodiversity in the workplace have sky rocketed in the past year.

For example, there has been a 120% increase in searches for ‘neurodiversity at work’, a 91% increase for ‘ADHD workplace’ and an 86% increase for ‘autism workplace’.

Ms Humber says the fact that so many more of us are turning to Google for support and information demonstrates the need for greater neurodiversity awareness.

Many workplaces and working practices are not inclusive of neurodiverse ways of thinking

Neurodiversity is a term that explains the different ways we think, process information and relate to others. 

While most people think and act in a way that is ‘neurotypical’, one in seven people are neurodivergent, meaning they behave, think and process information in ways that are different to most people.

Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Tourette’s syndrome are all examples of neurodiverse ways of thinking and behaving.

“However, many workplaces and working practices are not inclusive of neurodiverse ways of thinking, which can create barriers for neurodiverse employees. It may lead to discrimination, pressure, and underperformance,” Ms Butler explains.

For this reason, it is important to highlight common misconceptions and myths about neurodiversity in order to break down stigmas and support neurodivergent people to have the same opportunities as everybody else.

Below are five myths about neurodiversity which Bupa break down.

1. Neurodiversity only includes autism

Neurodiversity encompasses many neurological conditions, including ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and Tourette’s syndrome. The term therefore does not solely focus on autism.

As an employer, recognising and understanding different neurodivergent conditions is an important stepping stone to providing the best support for your neurodiverse employees.

2. Neurodiverse individuals are similar

We all sit on different places on the cognitive spectrum and so neurodiverse people will face different barriers which are unique to them. 

While neurodiverse people often have though process which are more unique than most people, a neurodiverse diagnosis does not mean all neurodiverse individuals experience the same challenges or have the same talents as each other.

3. Neurodiverse employees are unable to succeed in the workplace

Whilst neurodiverse individuals may face challenges at work ( such as difficulty concentrating or adapting to change) many will think outside the box and be more creative and innovative. This can lead to higher productivity levels than neurotypical employees.

4. Neurodiversity is a mental health condition

Conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD are not mental health conditions, they are neurological differences in the way individuals think and process information.

However, neurodivergent people are still are risk of experiencing mental health condition and it is therefore important they are provided with appropriate support with any mental health concerns. 

5. Only men are affected by Neurodiversity

Thousands of women are diagnosed with neurodiversity in the UK each year, yet due to old stereotypes, it is a common misconception that neurological conditions are rarer in women than in men. 

Employers must be aware of this and ensure that gender is not a factor in accepting a request for adjustments or diagnostic support.

Ensuring your employees needs are being met 

Ultimately, Bupa say that employers must encourage awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace and get to know their team member’s on a personal level, in order to best support their needs and requirements. 

Many aspects of a typical working environment can cause challenges for neurodiverse people, so it is important to be aware of these and provide extra support to those who ask for it. 

If you’re a manager, there are lots of resources available to help you to support neurodiverse employees, breakdown any stigmas and create an inclusive workplace – including Bupa’s manager’s guide to neurodiversity and toolkits.

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