What is Neurodivergence?
According to Very Well Mind, neurodivergence can be described as: “When someone's brain processes, learns, and/or behaves differently from what is considered "typical.”
In sessions with clients, I like to describe variations of neurodivergence. What possibly works well for you can be difficult for someone else. For example someone with ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder) may find wearing noise canceling headphones helpful whereas someone else may have a sensory concern and find it difficult to wear them for long periods of time.
As you read this article, note that some of these suggestions may not relate to your specific situation. I would also like to note that efforts to advocate for oneself may also end in still feeling under supported. The current state of the world still unfortunately has not been equipped with the tools, resources, and information necessary to fully understand / provide that support at times. With all that said, it is still encouraged to continue and try having conversations with important others in your life if you feel you are able to.
Tip #1: How to Develop Self-Advocacy Skills
Self-Advocacy for neurodivergent individuals is still in its infancy. As we continue to expand and understand who falls under the neurodivergent umbrella, those insights also contribute to increased support and research allowing for increased advocacy on the subject.
So, as a neurodivergent individual, how do you start to develop these skills? First, take into account your specific concerns. When you hear verbal directions is it difficult to remember everything that was mentioned? Do you have difficulty concentrating in loud environments? Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and more share some of these concerns.
If you are in a position to receive an official diagnosis stating exactly what your personal concerns are, that can be helpful in defining ways to increase self-advocacy. For others who may not have access to receiving a diagnosis, taking self-assessments can be helpful as well.
Please see some self - assessment tools below:
Tip #2: Research Potential Accommodations
Once you have a better understanding of what your current needs are, you may want to do research to better understand possible accommodations available to your specific situation. This can look like online research or going to your local library to learn more.
People with ADHD may struggle with executive functioning skills. As described by Harvard University, “Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.”
Autism can also have overlapping symptoms with ADHD and have difficulty in executive functioning as well. So needing a visual timer to help with Time Blindness or having important handouts printed in dyslexic friendly font to better engage with content are among many of the accommodations available. Please see this article here for more information.
Tip #3: Advocating For Yourself
Last but not least, the actual act of advocating for yourself. This can take many forms including sharing your diagnosis with your manager, school counselor, and others in your life. It is important to know that the decision to disclose your diagnosis is yours and yours alone. You do not need to disclose your diagnosis to advocate for yourself.
After better understanding what might be helpful for you, trying assertive communication can be effective in expressing your needs. This video linked here details a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) model called ‘DEARMAN’ providing helpful examples of having an assertive conversation. Additionally, having someone you trust (friend, therapist, teacher, etc.) by your side can help ease some of the anxiety of advocating for yourself on your own.
I hope these 3 tips can help you to advocate for yourself in work, school and personal situations. Learning how to advocate for yourself, doing research, and practicing self-advocacy are all important so that you and your brain can function at its best.
If you are interested in learning more about self-advocacy for adults with ADHD, check out our ADHD Support Group, run by our neurodivergent therapists.
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Marie Clyne is a licensed social worker and provider at Catalyss Counseling. Her focus centers around adults struggling with Depression, Anxiety, and ADHD. Marie's passion lies in getting to know you, who you want to be, and working together to help translate those goals into reality. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.