There’s no such thing as an average person

by Jun 18, 2021News

The third event in the City & Guilds Foundation I&D series was on Wednesday the 16th of June. This time the focus was on developing neu​ro-inclusive workplaces. The speakers were Prof. Amanda Kirby, founder of website DO IT Solutions and Helen Needham, founder of Me.Decoded.

If anyone missed it, here is a quick summary of some of the points covered in this brilliant session (Note: all of the points made in this post are originally from Amanda and Helen, who are the experts in this field, not myself; I’ve simply tried to capture them here accurately.)​

Neurotypical

There is an (inexact) bell curve which shows people who have difficulties or challenges in some areas; this could be things like numeracy, socialisation or motor function. At the other end of the curve are people who have a particular specialism for something. And the group in the middle are what society deem to be ‘neurotypical’. 

No-one is in one place on this curve. You could have someone who’s a brilliant footballer (excellent control of motor skills) but might find reading difficult. We are all a combination of the range of abilities and challenges within each of the areas that make people neurodiverse. There is no such thing as an average person!

Flipping the narrative

Historically, people with differences in their thinking were seen to have a disability. The language used around these differences always implies something is missing or deficient. But just like in animals, specialisms (the right beak for a certain flower) and behaviours (changing colour when under threat), from an evolutionary point of view, are things that have been retained because they are beneficial.

To think in a more inclusive way about neurodiversity; it’s important to move away from negative framing of things that affect the way people’s minds work. Take ADHD, for example: deficit thinking could lead you to assume that someone diagnosed with ADHD would be impulsive or easily distracted. Whereas, these same effects on the brain may mean that person is highly enthusiastic, creative and copes well with pressure.

Additionally, some or all of the typical characteristics of someone with ADHD might manifest differently or in a more pronounced way for different people. A diagnosis is not a definition, and although there might be shared traits that people with a similar diagnosi​s may share, that’s not an assumption we should make. 

Start a conversation

Challenges and difficulties only exist because of context. People may have impairments, but these only become disabilities based on environmental factors, which often can be adjusted. 15-20% of the population fall into the parts of the bell curve that are not seen as being neurotypical – and 80% of these people feel uncomfortable talking openly about the challenges they face.

Therefore, from an organisational point of view, it’s important to start by fostering a culture of openness. Using targeted recruitment as a first step can be short-sighted, because if you don’t already have the right culture to be inclusive of neurodiversity, then the people you’re targeting will have barriers to success when brought into your organisation.  

Think: at every stage of your own or your colleague’s life-cycle as an employee, have there been opportunities to talk about neurodiversity that don’t feel stigmatised? If not, is there more that could be done to help create these opportunities?

Consider asking people about how you prefer to communicate and if that is working for them. Check for understanding, instead of assuming that what you’ve said has been understood. When presenting, offer ways for colleagues to read the information before or after it’s been talked about.

If you shift focus from the idea of being inclusive for neurodivergent people and instead focus on how you can be inclusive of all ways of thinking, the result will be that, without creating confrontational or difficult pathways to talking about differences, the opportunities to have conversations and make adjustment will happen more naturally.​

Interested in making change? Make a pledge to building equity, claim a digital credential and share with your networks.

Previous posts

Impact Update: The Ripple Effect November 2021 (Foundation Newsletter)

As a Foundation, we’re always looking to have the maximum impact, whether that’s through our grants, investments, or recognising people at the right time. That’s how we hold ourselves accountable; are we genuinely creating that ripple effect?

Leading through Black Lives Matter

This Black History Month, we invited diversity and inclusion experts from our network to discuss the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in our organisations. Listen to the conversation for powerful insights on: Leading in a seismic shiftSustaining the impact of...

Royal visits round-up and new partnerships announced

Two Princess Royal Training Awards recipients receive a royal visit! Over the past few months, HRH The Princess Royal has continued to actively support the work of City & Guilds and paid official visits to Princess Royal Training Awards recipients.  The...

Lasting relationships, lasting impact

Our bursary programme was set up 21 years ago to help people in genuine financial need to access training programmes. The programme was designed to change people's lives by allowing them to develop their skills - and to this day it remains a core programme...

[Podcast] Inclusion & Diversity Series: Marginalised Groups – Prison Leavers

As part of the City & Guilds Foundation Inclusion and diversity events series, offering thought-provoking conversations and actionable steps to promote equal opportunities and improve inclusion and diversity in your organisation. In this episode we explored...

[Podcast] Inclusion & Diversity Series: Race inclusion – supporting black talent

As part of the City & Guilds Foundation Inclusion and diversity events series, offering thought-provoking conversations and actionable steps to promote equal opportunities and improve inclusion and diversity in your organisation. this episode explores the...

City & Guilds announce new accreditation partnership with The Prince’s Foundation

In recognition of their shared commitment to the preservation of heritage craft skills, City & Guilds and The Prince’s Foundation have today announced a new partnership which will see students on a variety of the charity’s training courses receive internationally...

[Podcast] Inclusion & Diversity Series: Empowering LGBTQ+ people to succeed

As part of the City & Guilds Foundation Inclusion and diversity events series, offering thought-provoking conversations and actionable steps to promote equal opportunities and improve inclusion and diversity in your organisation. In this podcast we discussed...

City & Guilds – continuing to forge the skills for today, and tomorrow

Everything we do at City & Guilds is driven by our purpose.  Today we talk about enabling people to develop the skills which will get them into a job, help them develop on the job and be able to progress to the next job.  We also talk about skills being...

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) Applications for funding opening 12 July 2021

We are delighted to announce that our friends at the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust will be accepting new applications for funding between 12 July and 16 August 2021. Talented and aspiring candidates can apply for up to £18,000 to further their education through...

Podcast episodes

Share This