Stop blocking the disruptors! That was the message that was firmly implanted into my brain as I came away from last week’s neurodiversity conference in Liverpool. It had been arranged by the ADHD Foundation and brought together sessions on health, education, business and justice.
It was Rory Bremner, the brilliant comedian and impressionist, who made this plea, which was echoed by many of the other expert speakers. He reflected on how his own ADHD was what made him a good comic. Yes, it has its challenges, like double-booking himself for gigs, but it’s also what gives him his edge, his lightening wit, his ability to be creative and bloody funny.
Another speaker explained that it is precisely these disruptive characteristics which often land children in trouble at school. But, industry is now crying out for these characteristics. We need people who think differently to solve the problems of the future. We need to start seeing that difference as an asset and not a deficit.
Social Model Thinking
It comes back to social model thinking. Neurodivergent people are too often pathologized, with a focus on how they don’t fit into ‘normal’ ways of doing, behaving, and communicating. But they often don’t fit in because we’ve designed our jobs, our workplaces, our working patterns to fit the neurotypical majority.
Having sat through innumerable boring meetings, I think we could all do with a bit more disruption. We need to stop cloning the ‘all-rounders’ and make space for the brilliantly different. We need workplaces where all of this neurodiversity can work together, and feel valued and respected. And what a powerful combination that can offer – all those diverse minds working together.
But, while I can stand right behind the message – nod , clap clap, yes yes – that’s not enough. For things to change, we need action. I need to look at my own work, and that of Difference, to see where we are blocking the disruptors. And then I need to get my plunger out.