Great Minds Don’t Think Alike
This month we asked members of our Hack Squad with experience of Neurodivergence to share their stories- from those with Autism, ADHD and Dyspraxia, to a mum of a boy with Tourettes, to SEN teachers in the US and UK. We are honoured to share their experiences, frustrations and hopes around neurodivergence, and listen to their advice on what brands and businesses can do better.
Many told us of the difficult and complex journey towards being officially diagnosed and receiving support:
“He’s fine in school”, they’d always say to me. “It’s an ‘at home problem’, Mrs. Lucas”. However, my husband and I knew they were wrong. He was extremely shy and very uncommunicative outside of the four walls of our home. He would have frequent meltdowns at things that we considered easy. He had periods of selective mutism, he didn’t like loud noises or voices, large or busy places, certain textures and tastes of foods and clothes amongst other things. Life was hard.
School was the major problem though. He hated it. He didn’t want to go but they were adamant he was ‘fine’ whilst he was there. He wasn’t though, he was masking his issues and anxieties. His violence after school became unbearable.
We put a first referral into CAHMS in June 2017. It wouldn’t be until over 3 years later that his assessments would start and he was eventually diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in January 2022 – four and a half years after our initial calls for help!” – Heather, mum of Ethan, 10YO, UK [Tourettes]
Neurodivergent people are also more susceptible to mental health problems due to lack of understanding and underdiagnosis, especially in girls, trans and non-binary people. It’s not new news that there’s a global pandemic of poor mental health among young people, and neurodivergent people are among the most vulnerable:
“Growing up undiagnosed neurodivergent wasn’t easy. You know you’re different intuitively but you don’t have the language to understand why. It can become easy to internalise it. For example, you might think that you’re stupid or must not be trying hard enough. Being undiagnosed can lead people to incorporate those things into their self esteem. I know that I spent a lot of my life thinking I was lazy, slow and stupid in some ways” – Annie, 22YO, UK [ADHD]
This difficulty with getting diagnosed, long wait times and enforced self-reflection brought on by the isolation from COVID-19 has caused many young people to take matters into their own hands.
At TPL, we’ve been watching the rise of the Neurodivergent TikTok community, where creators like Chloe Hayden are sharing stories of their diagnosis, spreading awareness of the multitude of symptoms and creating resource banks for people embarking on their neurodivergent journey.
In true Gen Z fashion, young people are disrupting outdated norms to change the narrative about neurodivergence. From once being considered a “weakness”, to a unique way of perceiving and interpreting the world, as well as fostering greater empathy:
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BRAND?
Gen Z Neurodivergents are calling for brands and businesses to step up to make their products and workplaces more inclusive and accessible. We’re confident their Gen Alpha successors will go one step further to expect this as a bare minimum.
So, want to know how your brand can be more inclusive to those with neurodivergence? Here’s some advice from our Hack Squad:
1. Seek and act on the opinion of Neurodivergents in the workplace
“I think businesses and brands should always seek out neurodivergent and disabled voices, let them be heard and normalised in public/workplaces. A good place to start is gathering a community, involve disabled and neurodivergent people in the discussions and decision making, allow us to connect and find like minded people. This will result in a safe space for others to join and add their experiences to the mix, resulting in a broad spectrum of options and support for people new and already within the workplace” – Mo, 24YO, UK [Autism]
2. Consider your type of business in every detail and adapt accordingly
“I think that to be inclusive, brands and businesses should first look within the workplace. Is your workplace accessible to ND people? Are there quiet spaces? Is flexible working possible? Are you fostering a culture that celebrates differences? Then, if providing a service you should consider is this accessible? If you are in a restaurant, are you aware of how loud your music is? If you are a cinema, do you provide quiet screenings, or subtitles only screenings?” – Annie, 22YO, UK [ADHD]
3. Sign up to Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023 to find out how your business can help those with neurodiversity!
BRANDS LEADING THE WAY IN NEURODIVERGENCE:
Seeking inspiration for how your business can better serve kids with neurodivergence? Here’s TPL’s curated list of favourites:
The current school and University systems can be particularly challenging for those with neurodivergence. Enter tech tools like Tiimo and Goally – visual daily planner apps offering a highly creative and playful way of organising daily life.
Sensory overloads in some environments are common for people with people with Autism and ADHD. It’s clear that each experience of this will be different but we’re loving brands like Loop for their specially designed earplugs that filter noise so neurodivergent individuals can take control over what they hear and can focus on the things that really matter to them.
People with sensory sensitivity may find certain clothes itchy, heavy or tight. Apparel brands like Kozie have created special ranges of compression clothes for kids with sensory issues. Honourable mention to Primary who take a gender neutral and comfort-as-key approach to kid’s fashion.