“ADHD? But he’s 43?”

You may recall reading the news in January regarding Ant McPartlin receiving a diagnosis of ADHD, following some very public personal struggles. The day this story was in the news, I overheard a conversation between two individuals on the tube discussing this, and one of them asked this very question.

And it's actually not an uncommon one…

“Surely if he’s got ADHD, he would know before now?”

“She’s a senior manager – how has she got this far not knowing she’s dyslexic?”

“Isn’t it just children who have dyspraxia?”

I have been working in the field of neurodiversity for over four years, meeting with hundreds of individuals and their line managers, and it still surprises me how often I am asked these kinds of questions. For many people, there persists a misunderstanding about the nature of neurodiverse conditions.

Many individuals don’t realise that:

1.      Neurodiverse conditions persist throughout the lifespan; they don’t go away (although individuals often learn to focus on their strengths, and develop coping strategies that serve to mask some of their difficulties);

2.      Therefore, neurodiverse conditions can be diagnosed at any age (and support can be sought for any associated challenges at any age too).

The truth is that it is never too late for an individual to pursue a diagnosis or screening, and to seek support that could help them to better understand who they are, why they find some things challenging, and provide them with knowledge to better harness their strengths.

Following his own diagnosis, Ant said: “I found stuff out about me I hadn’t addressed for years” and that it “made sense”: It gave him knowledge and awareness about himself.

For an employee, the results of a screening or diagnostic assessment provide the individual, and the organisation, with knowledge. With knowledge, applied in the right way, comes power.

A client once told me that, upon receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia in his late 30s, he finally “got it”; that it was like he finally had access to the “instruction manual for his brain.” Another client described feeling like she had “found her wings” when she was finally able to access support in the form of assistive technology.

As employers and line managers, you can increase your awareness of the signs of different neurodiverse conditions, and be alert to when an employee’s seemingly minor struggles might be pointing to the fact that there is something deeper going on.

Look out for opportunities to help your employees find their wings. 

Abigail Hayward