When Inclusion Works: a workplace built for Neurodivergent employees shouldn’t be a rare find…

Inclusion is a word that has been bandied around in ND circles for as long as I’ve been on the scene. How do we make sure people feel included? What reasonable adjustments should I ask for? When/should I disclose? are questions I see asked in Facebook groups and on Twitter. I have often wondered what I need when starting a new job, and struggle to know what Access to Work could provide. Or what would really help me. How do you explain an ADHD brain to a new boss? is one of a long list of questions. My ADHD has often caused more complications at work than dyspraxia. Developing a way to maintain focus on what I’m supposed to, staying on task, being able to make myself stop for lunch and being easily distracted were all a challenge when I was undiagnosed and unsure exactly what was going on with my brain. Not being medicated until my 30’s certainly made the workplace feel like I was going into battle with my brain every morning.

I’ve recently started a new job, and for the first time in my life at almost 34 i’ve learned what inclusion really means, and feels like. I thought I knew what being inclusive meant, but I couldn’t have been further away from the truth. For years inclusive meant what people wanted me to believe. I thought I had to ask for things. I felt awkward about disclosure. I ruminated about when the right time would be for people to see the real me. I wondered if I should hide my neurodivergent brain. And in some situations now the mask still comes down. I assumed that inclusion meant I needed something special or different to other colleagues, because I was well, different. I didn’t fit in. The words “special treatment” swam around my brain. I thought reasonable adjustments were the answer. I never felt “normal”. I was taught that I’ll always have to fight for what I need.

I’ve now realised that none of that was true. You don’t have to be treated as “special” or “different.” You just have to be you. I have been around the wrong kind of practice and workplace for too long, the kind of practice that makes us ND crowd feel further away from a team. I know I’m not alone in feeling lost finding my feet at work, neurodivergent people are more likely to experience workplace trauma or burnout following a lack of support or understanding managers who create an environment we can thrive. Every one of my ADHD & dyspraxic friends shares some kind of traumatic workplace experience or on going mental health difficulties often exacerbated by work. It is sad. And it really shouldn’t be like this.

Starting to experience inclusion for the first time has taught me that reasonable adjustments, should just be practices adopted for all as standard. I always thought I had to gear up to have a “special conversation” about what I need, and to keep reminding management when they don’t do what I ask for. This absolutely isn’t the case. And shouldn’t be, for anyone. Not having to plan this conversation has been a revelation. I haven’t had to ask for anything “special” in the two months I’ve been here. This has meant i’ve felt included, part of a team, connected, valued and listened to, without asking for anything different to what they already do. Everything is Neurodivergent inclusive from interview right through to induction and beyond. All employers should make ND employees feel like they have a place at the table without having to ask for anything that hasn’t already been considered to help them sit there with the rest of the team. You wouldn’t ask for a chair when you book a table at a restaurant, you would expect it to be included when you make your reservation.

The tools, techniques and learning should be in place long before we start a job. The workplace is full of neurodivergents, many undiagnosed or who choose not to disclose. No one should feel they have to out their neurodivergence until they feel ready, and managers should build environments based on these principles. Before we accept an offer. And without having to ask for it. Inclusion should always be there and central to a workplaces values, ethos and structure. A strategy developed to ensure everyone feels included. This is what I’ve learned, and I hope you can learn from this too.


Since the pandemic many employers are opting for online interviews, rather than face to face. For me this helps as I don’t have to worry about finding a new place/getting lost/google maps failing me when I also have to make a good first impression. It also helps to be able to focus on the interview preparation and not spending half of that time analysing google maps. This was a standard part of the interview format:

  • Pre-interview tasks emailed in advance, rather than something to do during the interview. Not all jobs require a task beforehand, but for most comms roles these are pretty standard. I was emailed a task, with clear instructions and summary at the end explaining everything I had to do and by when, then just before the deadline I was sent a reminder email.
  • Writing every interview question in the chat as they are asked. Being able to read back the question helps with working memory and processing. So simple, yet so helpful.
  • Not asking questions in two parts. This is horrendous for ND brains, as I can guarantee I’ll forget there was a second part of the question. The feedback for an interview I had several years ago for a job I didn’t get was, “did not answer the second part of the question,” I did not know there was a second part.
  • Offering prompts if an answer needs to be expanded, or you didn’t mention a key part of the job description. In one question I forgot to mention social media, when social media is pretty key to my comms roles. I was so focused on describing a newsletter in detail. This prompt allowed me to say what I wanted to say, I just needed to be reminded it was in my brain waiting to get out.
  • Using a de-biased interview and application process.


Over the years I’ve had jobs with no induction process, literally just a tour that was classed as induction and places with a list to get through, but with so many conversations I forgot everything when the induction was over. Getting inductions right shouldn’t be hard, but putting the right kind of induction in place can mean the difference between an ND employee feeling overwhelmed before they even begin or thriving in a place that accepts them.

  • A longer induction process is key. Something that is only a week long will lead to our often poor working memory not being able to handle all of the new information.
  • A clear timetable of induction sessions, noting any useful reading to do before the session. Having something to read or watch helps us retain information.
  • Record all virtual induction sessions. Sounds simple but this has literally changed my life. I know this is harder when in person, but if over zoom, press recored. The session can then be available for anyone who wants to go back and watch it later. Every induction session I’ve been to, I’ve watched bits of again, and when I’ve been on annual leave I don’t have to fall behind as I can catch up on any sessions I’ve missed.
  • Reflection – building in reflection as part of the induction helps everyone to learn and feedback what went well, what wasn’t helpful and things to do differently next time.


Something that helps me and many of specifically ADHD people I know is accountability. Having someone say “have you done that thing?” or just checking in to ask “how are you getting on with this?” or “how are you doing for time?” and even “Do you think you should have a break and come back to it later?”

If I don’t have any kind of accountability I will work on the wrong thing for far too long, or work on the right thing but a tiny part of it for ages; tip: it’s great you’ve got that one sentence perfect, but there is still a whole document to proof read before Christmas, and when hyperfocus takes over I can overlook admin. Since being medicated for my ADHD instead of struggling to start work somedays, I now struggle to stop. Accountability helps to pull me back when I need to be. Helping ND folk to stay on track doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to be checking in and asking the right questions. This has all helped:

  • Regular check in calls. Someone to say this is what we have to do, these are the priorities, does everything make sense?
  • A shared to-do list following every check in, to tick of tasks or add notes if more clarification is needed.
  • Group admin accountability time. During team meetings there is dedicated time to do time sheets and expenses. We stay on the call, and give everyone a bit of accountability to get these done. Some elements of Admin is vital in every job, but for us ADHD gang getting it done can be hit and miss. It doesn’t give us the dopamine we seek, so we’ll put it off until we have a mountain of receipts (if we haven’t lost them) but no expenses actually claimed for. I’m so on top of my expenses these days because there is dedicated admin time built into my work day.
  • Virtual chat groups to post what you’re working on that day are good to build into an organisations day and also helpful to keep people on track. I now know that before I do anything, I need to tell everyone else what I plan to do.


When starting a new job the one thing I’m always told is “apply for Access to Work!” “You can get assistive software!” But what does this software actually do? And will it help me? When I did apply, and was given software in previous jobs, I rarely used it. The software is so generic, it’s like saying every ADHDer needs to run 10 miles every day before work. We don’t. Some of us might want a walk, or maybe just a sit down. We’re all different. And if you were running that far everyday I’d probably be worried about you, so don’t do that. Two things that are important for remote teams are A) to keep everyone connected and B) Ensure everyone has an opportunity to have their say. The most ND accessible software that I’ve found to be more useful than anything I’ve used before, is not something “special” for me that I have to go through the complicated admin process of Access to Work to get several months later but software that is used by the whole team, because it works, Notion and Miro. Notion basically allows you to create to-do lists, plan projects and collaborate as a team. It also acts as a place to easily find information. Want to check out a particular policy? Or can’t find a form? Notion is where it’ll be. Miro on the other hand is essentially a giant virtual whiteboard with lots of post it notes. It’s great for team meetings to get everyones thoughts or for smaller group planning. No voice is ever lost with a post it on Miro. It can also be used to make training sessions, team meetings or inductions much more interactive and participatory. I’d be surprised if Miro wasn’t designed by someone with an ND brain, it’s so ADHD friendly, it should be available on prescription. I never have to lose an important post it again.

Throughout my life I’ve had to work around a lot of things, or even accept that sometimes the world isn’t built for me. That my brain functioning, now massively helped by medication, isn’t considered when designing the majority of services, organisations or places of work. That in order to access these like everyone else, I would have to sit down and have a conversation about being different and ask for alternatives to the way they do things. I often harp back to being a kid at school with undiagnosed ADHD but diagnosed dyspraxia and a statement for special educational needs. I once had an orange card on my desk because I had extra time in exams, talk about making a teenager feel branded. I learned that I was always going to have something different to everyone else, and people would, as they did at school, ask questions. I wasn’t taught about the ways my brain would be an asset at work and that one day I would feel part of a team.

Inclusion isn’t hard. It isn’t complicated. But when done right and when standard practices are inclusive it can make the world of difference. You don’t suddenly build a lift when a wheelchair user applies for a job, you will always have that lift. Exactly the same principle. Always assume that at least one of the brains on your team will be ND.

No one should have to wait until their 30’s to understand inclusion. We shouldn’t be told “Oh that’s just the way it is” in response to questions about inclusion and accessibility. So many organisations claim to be inclusive, but what are they really doing? Are they just going through the motions to become a disability confident employer? A previous manager several years ago once told me that I had to change who I am because my Myers Briggs personality didn’t match what she wanted a youth worker to be. I always use this as an example to emphasise when inclusion doesn’t work, and then it really really didn’t. I’ve gone from almost believing that my way brain wasn’t good enough at work to now feeling valued for what I can do without the unhealthy focus on where I might struggle.

This entry was posted in ADHD, Dyspraxia, Education, Mental health, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to When Inclusion Works: a workplace built for Neurodivergent employees shouldn’t be a rare find…

  1. Pingback: What I’ve learned when neurodivergence has been hard to talk about at work. And the change I’ve felt when it isn’t | A Little More Understanding

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