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  • peter5724

Reframing ADHD and Autism

The news and social media have been awash with stories about the rise of neurodiversity. Headlines such as: ‘Education in crisis as autism and ADHD rise’, ‘Is ADHD over-diagnosed?', ‘NHS England to review ADHD services amid concerns in the rise of diagnosis’.

As to the causes of the increase in diagnosis, social media platforms will send you different points of view depending on your search history and the platform's algorithms.

It is all to do with:

  • Increased awareness and improved diagnosis; or its over-diagnosis by medical and mental health professionals.

  • The stigma associated with autism and ADHD has been reduced by celebrities and others speaking about their experiences; or it has become trendy and people are jumping on the bandwagon. 

  • Parents who want to understand and help their children; or it is pushy parents who want to play the system.

As a neurodiverse therapist, with neurodiverse children, and a number of neurodiverse clients, you can probably guess where my algorithms lead me.

Whatever the causes or issues, I keep thinking perhaps we are looking at the whole topic in the wrong way. A neurotypical world looks at it as a crisis, rather than an opportunity.

Many companies, like Microsoft, have actively recruit neurodiverse people. Not out of the goodness of their heart, but because they identified the benefits of neurodiverse people in their workforce.

We might also consider definitions and language, they also differ depending on your experience of your neurodiversity and the impact it has on you.

  • The Autism Society defines autism as 'a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.’

  • Whereas digital consultancy BNode states, ‘By embracing neurodiversity and employing neurodivergent team members, businesses can benefit from increased innovation, problem-solving, reliability, and access to very talented people.’

  • ‘ADHD is a developmental disorder associated with an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. ADHD can interfere with daily activities and relationships’  National Institute of Mental Health.

  • 'For me, ADHD is not a hindrance; it is a differentiator, a superpower. The relentless drive, the spirit of sparks and creativity that characterises ADHD, has proven to be a formidable ally in an arena where the ordinary does not survive. Entrepreneur demands a fire, a propensity to challenge, to question, to innovate – these are the hallmarks of an ADHD mind.'- Entrepreneur Kim Antoniou.

So your neurodiversity can be a developmental disability, a condition, that is debilitating, an advantage, a superpower. Who’s right? I would argue it can be all of those things in different measures.

The point of these quotes is not that one is right or one is wrong, the point is if you are neurodivergent, your personal relationship with your neurodiversity is, well personal.

I often ask my neurodiverse clients how they felt when they received their diagnosis. Though everyone varies, the majority say that it was a mixed bag of emotions, with many describing feelings of relief or clarity.


What I do find with many of my clients, is that can be more difficult for them to see the benefits of their neurodiversity. Perhaps because we live in a neurotypical world, the focus can often be on the disability not the diversity, the struggle not the superpower, the uncomfortable not the unique.

Headlines describing better diagnosis as a ‘crisis’ perhaps reinforce the negative, and discount or disconnect the positives, the uniqueness. 

Often it is easier for people to identify the negative impact that neurodiversity has, seeing positive traits as being there in spite of the neurodiversity, rather than because of it.

I am in no way downplaying the challenges being neurodivergent can bring. However, I would like to think as a society, we could consider the increase in diagnosis as an opportunity for change, rather than a crisis. If our schools are becoming full of neurodiverse children, maybe we can rethink how school works.

Societal change is a big challenge. What I can do as a counsellor is help my clients understand how their neurodiversity impacts them. How it shapes them, both the good and the bad. Accept, even embrace their difference, their uniqueness. 

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