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.

Want to be kept up to date?

Sign up to City & Guilds Foundation email alerts and newsletter

Previous posts

Princess Royal Training Award recipients change lives by investing in mental health training for staff

Did you know more than 1 in 7 people have mental health problems in the workplace?  As part of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022), we’re spotlighting some recent Princess Royal Training Award winners who are seeing huge results from investing in...

48 UK organisations celebrate the Princess Royal Training Awards with HRH Princess Anne

On Thursday 28th April, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, welcomed 48 organisations to Mansion House in London to celebrate them receiving Princess Royal Training Awards for their commitment to training and development in 2021.   Currently in its sixth...

Connecting Communities: new free service to support London residents into full time employment

Connecting Communities: Your Bridge to Success Connecting Communities is a free service that can support eligible individuals* into full time employment. There are lots of jobs in the City of London, and Connecting Communities can help individuals by: Improving basic...

Co-op Levy Share: working together to fund thousands of apprenticeships

On Tuesday 5 April, City & Guilds Foundation held an event in partnership with The Co-op discussing how large organisations with unspent apprenticeship levy can share funds with smaller businesses in need as part of their Levy Share initiative. Aimed at businesses...

[Podcast] Lost Opportunities: The Hidden Cost of Caring

To celebrate Young Carers Action Day, Lauren Roberts, our Foundation Advocacy lead invited Rosario Waterlow, Corporate Partnerships Executive to talk about her lived experience of being a young carer and navigating the education system and employment. Listen to hear...

No Going Back: City & Guilds Foundation supports The Livery Company initiative

There are few occasions since setting up City & Guilds some 144 years ago when the Livery Companies have worked together towards a single objective. And that’s why we’re delighted that through the City & Guilds Foundation we’re able to support the new and...

City & Guilds launch latest research report and campaign: Great Jobs

Recognising the essential jobs that keep the UK working As the economy reopens, Covid-19 restrictions are loosening and we are continuing to grapple with the impact of Brexit and evolving labour market needs brought about by the fourth industrial revolution and...

New Year Honours: celebrating achievements of extraordinary people in our network

City & Guilds Foundation would like to congratulate some of our Fellows, Council Members, customers and PRTA Alumni for being recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours List. Congratulations to Jenny Taylor (MBE), member of the City & Guilds Council and...

Event: Leading Through Values

Let’s talk about values in leadership In October 2021, ILM published Leading through Values, a report researching the importance of values.  The report features case studies from a number of businesses, exploring what values mean for them, how values are being...

[Podcast] Inclusion & Diversity Series: Gender Diversity – a women’s panel

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 event we...

Podcast episodes

Share This