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

City & Guilds Foundation and Gower College Swansea launch innovative £100k project to support at risk young people into secure employment

The City & Guilds Foundation and Gower College Swansea have entered into a new strategic partnership to support learners at risk of dropping out of education, overcome barriers and find positive ways to gain skills and enduring work. The funding will put up to 200...

Creating a diverse and inclusive online experience for our community

To support our diverse range of stakeholders who visit our websites, the City & Guilds Foundation now provides enhanced accessibility support online to create a barrier-free user experience. We pride ourselves by going the extra mile to always improve...

How can you reduce your carbon footprint at work?

This guest post is by Enas Rauf who was an intern in the Foundation team during July and August 2022. A carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a result of economic or human activity. With small changes, we can get big...

Outstanding workplace training programmes recognised in HRH The Princess Royal’s training awards

HRH The Princess Royal, President of City & Guilds, awards employers with outstanding training and skills development programmes which have been proven to have significant positive impact on their business or their staff. More apprenticeship programmes have been...

Widening participation in heritage crafts: training bursary for Black and ethnically diverse makers

The City & Guilds Foundation sponsors the Heritage Crafts training bursary targeted at Black and ethnically diverse makers, which is an under-represented group in heritage crafts. This guest post is by Daniel Carpenter of Heritage Crafts. For more information, see...

Applications for the London Creative Network (LCN) Programme at Cockpit open until 08 August 2022

The London Creative Network (LCN) Programme at Cockpit is a professional development programme designed to provide free creative business support to craftspeople who have talent and aspiration to succeed. They are now inviting applications to join them from September...

How we’re supporting St Giles to change lives by investing in vital training

St Giles is a London-based charity that helps people create a better future for themselves, and they’ve been an active part of our Foundation network for over five years. The charity works with people to overcome poverty, exploitation, abuse, addiction, mental health...

Unlocking refugee talent to access skilled people looking for work

The City & Guilds Foundation recently ran a virtual event with our partners The Launchpad Collective to examine how to unlock refugee talent to access skilled people looking for work. The Launchpad Collective (TLC) connects employers with refugee talent. Steered...

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) Applications for funding opening 11 July 2022

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) awards scholarship and apprenticeship funding of up to £18,000 to talented and aspiring craftspeople working in a broad range of traditional and contemporary skills, from farriery and thatching to jewellery design,...

Pride Month: celebrating LGBTQ+ inclusion in our networks

The history of LGBTQ+ Pride Month LGBTQ+ Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States and its impact was...

Podcast episodes

Share This