Neurodiverse brains work differently

Neurodiverse brains work differently – Coping Mechanisms, Tech Stack and Superpowers

13th March 2023

Everyone talks about diversity, but for the most part, neurodivergence is something that employers don’t know how to deal with, and managers don’t have visibility or training on. So often, when going through hiring processes, managers don’t understand that every neurodivergent person handles things slightly differently; we all have very different journeys and pains that give us what you might say is a thick skin. It’s not a one size fits all approach.

‘Coming out’ to employers is a challenge, especially early on. I personally wouldn’t recommend it. As soon as you mention it, red flags start waving. Why would they hire you over someone who will likely be more able on paper, albeit less creative, agile or apt at problem-solving?

Neurodiverse Brains Think Differently

I started The Difference Group, partly because corporations would ask me about my relatively chequered experience as an employee. If I told them I got diagnosed at 29 with ADD, the conversation goes from my competency and skills to how your neurodiverse trait impacts workflows, which, if miscommunicated, can leave a very bad taste when choosing between candidates.

My clients value the different perspectives I bring to them: my passion for achieving their goals and targets (sometimes obsessively) and my ability to rapidly solve complex problems and create and deliver on multiple strategies. All three clients I’ve had the great privilege to collaborate with have doubled revenues in the 12 months.

Here are some of the neurodivergent diagnoses:

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behaviour.
  2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) / ADD: A disorder that affects attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. 
  3. Dyslexia: A learning disorder that affects reading and writing abilities.
  4. Dyscalculia: A learning disorder that affects mathematical abilities.
  5. Dyspraxia: A developmental disorder that affects coordination and motor skills.
  6. Tourette Syndrome: A disorder that causes involuntary movements and vocalisations called tics.
  7. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): A condition in which the brain has difficulty processing sensory information.
  8. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): is characterised by persistent and intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviours.
  9. Schizophrenia: A chronic mental disorder that affects a person’s thinking, emotions, and behaviour.
  10. Bipolar I disorder: involves manic episodes that last at least seven days or are so severe that hospitalisation is required. Depressive episodes may also occur.
  11. Bipolar II disorder: This type involves depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than manic episodes and last at least four days

Within my personal diagnosis, I have Dyslexia and ADD, the type that isn’t hyperactive and specifically the inattentive type. This is why in my life I have to be so fastidious about how I organise my time, operational efficiency and more; for anyone with ADD, life is quite complex. To top it all off, I also have a very rare reading condition called Irlen Syndrome which means when I read black-on-white text, it looks like a big swirling ball. 

Classic ADD (or ADHD-PI): This subtype of ADHD is characterised by symptoms of inattention, such as difficulty sustaining attention, forgetfulness, disorganisation, and poor time management. It may also involve symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity, but to a lesser extent than other subtypes.

Inattentive ADD (or ADHD-I): This subtype is similar to classic ADD, but with even fewer symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is characterised primarily by symptoms of inattention, including difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, distractibility, and procrastination.

Over-focused ADD (or ADHD-C): This subtype of ADHD is characterised by excessive attention to detail, difficulty shifting focus, and a tendency to get “stuck” on a particular thought or task. It may also involve symptoms of impulsivity, but to a lesser extent than other subtypes.

Temporal Lobe ADD: Some experts have suggested that ADHD symptoms may be related to dysfunction in the brain’s temporal lobes, which are involved in processing sensory information and memory. This subtype of ADHD may be characterised by symptoms such as distractibility, forgetfulness, and difficulty with sensory processing.

Limbic ADD: This subtype is characterised by emotional dysregulation and may involve mood swings, irritability, and emotional hypersensitivity. It may also involve symptoms of impulsivity and inattention.

Ring of Fire ADD (or ADHD Plus): This subtype is characterised by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation symptoms. It may involve intense mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and cognitive symptoms such as racing thoughts and distractibility.

Anxious ADD (or ADHD Anxiety): This subtype of ADHD is characterised by anxiety symptoms and those of ADHD. It may involve excessive worry, restlessness, and difficulty with focus and attention.

ADHD Medication For Neurodiverse Brains

Elvanse – Lisdexamfetamine 

An amfetamine stimulant that helps with concentration, enabling flow state. If you are on the journey of getting diagnosed with ADD, these drugs can massively improve your productivity by around 300%. 

As someone who understands and knows the traits of people with ADD, within my friendship group, which is made up of predominantly fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve identified four people with ADD, all earning fathomable more than before their official diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

ADHD Tech Stack

AkiFlow – Productivity Toolkit

A productivity tool designed for people with many, many plates to juggle. Akiflow enables me to time block my day effectively and keep everything organised with tags; it also categorises everything, so you know how long you have worked on specific categories of tasks.

F.lux – Protecting Your Eyes

Changes the warmth of your screen to optimise it to the time of day. Essentially giving your eyes a break when doing super long stints while in flow-state. Computer screens aren’t built for with brightness or nits in mind… your corneas will thank you for installing this. 

Noisli – Background noise generator

With a penchant for distraction, regular music is a big nono. Noisili generates background sounds that channel you into flow state; playing your music of whatever kind on YouTube is a fallacy that will always end in distraction.

Otto Pro – Block Everything Unimportant

Otto is my friend that keeps me on track, essentially, it’s Pomodoro perfection. It allows you to concentrate continually for your desired period and then have 5 minutes of indulgence before returning to the grindstone.

BBC News – Blocked
Twitter – Blocked
LinkedIn – Allowed
SEM Rush – Allowed
WordPress – Allowed
Gmail – Allowed
Hubspot – Allowed

Gmail Tags For Everything – Your Email Sidekick

Most people with some form of neurodivergent trait are in nature, very visual in terms of the way they see the world, and interact with things. Every email that comes in gets tagged, and every email that isn’t taggable gets binned…. No questions asked. Never signup to newsletters unless they are essential; you don’t have the headspace.

If it doesn’t have a Google tag it gets binned

Accessibility – A Powerful Web Assistant

The world was built for people who read black on white. But, what if your brain cannot read black on white, I see swirls. So to combat this, I use Accessibility, which according to Google Chrome App Store, only has 3000 users, but it’s an absolute lifesaver; it allows me to see what I’m writing. Otherwise,  he words get lost as I’m writing. It also means I don’t have to wear cool coloured glasses. People always ask why your glasses are a different colour; or think I’m channelling 90s, Steven Segal.

Golden Hour – Get out of your house and plan your day

When you are ready to start your day, go somewhere and plan your day come rain or shine. One of the annoying downsides of the medication is still having amphetamines in your system at 2 am feeling like it’s midday. Getting sunlight first thing the morning to kickstart my circadian rhythm is essential otherwise, the medications make me an actual insomniac. 

Coping Mechanism To Find Your Flowstate

It’s taken me over 3 years to build the coping mechanisms that have enabled me to function normally. I had never experienced flow-state before at work; weirdly, the only time I experienced it before I got diagnosed was when I went surfing; something about the connection with water, the ocean and being at one with nature made that possible – that was ‘totally-radical’ man and all that. 

Thinking Differently About Neurodiverse Brains 

Everyone is diverse in some way; everyone has unique learned experiences. The way some brains solve problems is magical; for example, my superpower is I can create numerous high-value strategies in a very short amount of time; from 15 minutes, I can connect the dots and have a clear picture and direction of what needs to be done. I’ve only met one other person, in my 10 years of working, who is my brainy doppelganger, a fellow agency owner.

People with ADD + Dyslexia in general, have the following superpowers:
– Super connectors 

  • Advanced solution mapping 
  • Identifying risk
  • Creating plans
  • Out-of-the-box thinkers

Advice On Neurodiversity For Hiring Managers

Plan neurodiversity into teams where it makes sense. No one should force anyone into a role they aren’t cut out for; when/if someone divulges that they have a neurodiverse condition, look to understand that applicant’s superpower, often creating a role for these individuals will be the best thing you can do; they drive innovation, have incredible problem-solving skills, and we can bring a burst of energy into any company culture.

Anyway, I hope you found this helpful. It’s been a long, frustrating but incredible journey. Diagnosis is just the beginning. Finding your toolbox is the next phase of the journey.

Alex Lawford

I unlock the potential of your SME, startup or scale-up; building and scaling brands. I work directly with founders, CEOs and senior leadership teams to craft strategies, implement marketing and unlock opportunities utilising technology.

Blog Comments

The Difference Newsletter