When common sense and kindness prevail – my neurodiversity learning journey continued

In March 2023, we shared an article on the All Things IC blog about how we’re learning more as a team about neurodiversity and what it means for us personally and professionally.

This week All Things IC Consultant Caroline Cubbon-King is attending the Neurodiversity: A New Paradigm Conference to learn more and will share her learnings from that event in due course.

Ahead of the conference, Caroline has reflected on the importance of common sense and kindness when considering neurodiversity in the workplace.

You can read Caroline’s previous blog on celebrating our differences.

Over to you Caroline.

When common sense and kindness prevail featuring a photo of All Things IC Communication Consultant Caroline Cubbon-King

When common sense and kindness prevail

Imagine sitting in a classroom struggling to be understood and supported. Your teacher is demanding to know why you’re turning your worksheet into a paper aeroplane, why you’re swinging on your chair, why you’re making noises when everybody else is silent and why when they challenge you, you ask if you can leave the room for a few minutes to let off steam.

This is regular experience of some neurodivergent school children. Teachers are paid to deliver a curriculum, to keep students safe and to guide them through an environment predicated on standards, rules and norms. Some teachers are more understanding and aware than others, but for many children, lessons can end abruptly with no meaningful learning achieved and instead, feelings of shame, frustration and anxiety building inside a child.

The parents I know supporting neurodivergent children are on a quest to absorb as much information as they can, hoping a nugget will pop up that makes a difference to their family life.

Their social media feeds are flooded with neurodiversity experts and life hacks. Suggested web content pops up that provides an ‘answer’ to challenges they’re facing. By the time some of those people start the working day, they may feel as though they’ve run a marathon and be distracted throughout the day worrying about what after school might bring.

Thinking about the lens of education has made me reflect on workplace culture and how we communicate with colleagues.

I worry about the people who might feel like the young people I’ve just described. Bound by a corporate language, policies, and cultural norms that might not fit how they think. Forced to follow processes that make sense to one person but not to the one sitting in the next chair. Worried that working arrangements might change just when they’ve found a way to thrive or even survive at work. Feeling under pressure to put their cameras on in video calls when they desperately want to listen but not be seen. Only engaging with the communications that’s in a format that works for them and trying to block out the rest of the noise.

It’s impossible to consider and cater for everybody but it’s our role as communicators to be open to learning and willing to listen.

I learn best by listening to podcasts, looking at visuals and watching short videos. Business books aren’t my thing unless Charlotte Bronte has written them. Full day conferences and training courses are a struggle unless they’re interactive. Who wants to sit on the same velvet conference chair all day? Not me!

As I’ve been on my own personal journey to learn more about neurodiversity, I’ve learned a lot about myself too.

I now understand why I interrupt and talk over people. I know it’s rude. I feel super awkward when it happens but it’s an unstoppable force when I need to make my point there and then. I understand why I’m always the one with the flipchart pen in workshops.

It’s not because I’m trying to take over, it’s a way of getting me up on my feet, giving me something to do with my hands and it mentally engages my brain in the right way. I know why I’ve always found Procurement rules, and anything related to governance challenging. I know it’s important, so I do what’s required, but I tend to question each process and how messages are communicated along the way.

I now know why I overfill my diary, need regular deadlines and how I’m able to complete three days’ worth of work in a few hours when I’m under pressure and in the zone.

Being self-aware and learning to love your quirks is a lifelong journey. Being as considerate to others isn’t always easy. Being thoughtful, aware of your impact on others and creating space for people to show up as they are, should be.

Thank you Caroline.

If you would like to write a guest article for the All Things IC blog, please do get in touch or email us at hello@allthingsic.com.

Useful resources

Previously shared resources

Post author: Caroline Cubbon-King

First published on the All Things IC blog 14 June 2023

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