Mental Health
May 31, 2022

What Does it Mean to be Neurodiverse?

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
min read

It wasn’t until I reached the age of 38 that I was “officially” told that I’m neurodiverse. My whole life leading up to that point, I had just been labelled in very unflattering ways!

Challenges in the workplace

Navigating my career with neurodiversity was a challenge because I was always conscious of the ways that I didn’t fit in or conform to corporate standards. 

This awareness meant I spent an incredible amount of time “masking” my true feelings and reactions – I became a master at pretending to react in the ways that everyone else expected of me. And I presented in a way that made it look like people's comments didn’t affect me and just rolled off my back. 

I never ask for special treatment or accommodations during my corporate career – neither “physical” like different equipment, nor “process” such as remote working, time off, etc. 

Why didn’t I ask for these things? 

Because, quite simply, I knew that being labelled would mean the death of my career! 

What I didn’t realise though was that the elements of me that got outstanding results year in and year out and made me the best at creating order in the chaos, caring for others, and getting things done – well they were my own personal strengths that were wonderfully “hyped” because of my neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity in the workplace

“Neurodiversity might be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will be best at any given moment?” 

Henry Blume, The Atlantic 1998

A huge benefit of an inclusive work culture is that it fosters diversity of thought, creativity, innovation, and different approaches to work. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, it was stated that research suggests teams with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be 30% more productive than those without them. Inclusion and integration of neurodivergent professionals can also boost team morale.

Organisations that give extra attention to recruiting, retaining, and nurturing neurodivergent team members can gain a competitive edge from increased diversity in skills, ways of thinking, and approaches to problem-solving.

Abilities such as attention to detail, visual memory, visual thinking, pattern recognition, and creative thinking can help shine a light on ideas or opportunities that teams might otherwise miss.

It’s important however to ensure that accommodations are made for neurodiverse team members because their needs will differ from the rest of the team. For many they’ll already experience increased stress and anxiety in their daily lives. Add “masking” (acting the part to fit in) into the mix and you have a recipe for burnout! 

My personal story includes two burnouts, which I see now could have been avoided had I been comfortable and able to express my neurodiversity openly. Just imagine what I would have achieved for the companies I worked for if I could have harnessed my superpowers for good instead of hiding them. 

If you think your business would benefit from my superpowers, and you’re ready to receive support creating a working environment that embraces the amazing skill sets neurodiverse members can bring, let’s connect. CLICK HERE to get in touch and arrange a call.

Valentina Coco Website Profile Picture
Valentina Coco
inclusive leader

I'm a connector, leader, change-maker, mother and coach. My experience of going through many burnouts motivated me to find solutions to improve the culture in the workplace and achieve more.

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