How to talk to someone for the first time about being neurodivergent
A few things to think about:
Start off with a positive, if you then go into a discussion, and then finish on a positive as well. The person starts at a good place to discuss neurodiversity that they may be uncomfortable with and allows them to leave feeling positive.
Talking quicker as we get excited and emotional won’t work well for neurodivergent people. They will, generally, need more time to process the information and in small, clear, bitesize chunks.
Step by step is good. The person you’re talking to may have different ways of thinking. Meaning by step 2, they may have forgotten step 1. Time to process is key.
Busy environments often have a lot of background noise: phones, clocks, chatting, etc. These can be distracting to a neurodivergent person and may even be painful.
How to start the conversation:
Direct using a list of traits. Are any relatable? For example, “Do you have difficulty with organising, time management and social settings?”
Or describe someone you know who has these traits and ask, “is there anything you could relate to?” “They’ve recently found out they were neurodivergent themselves and found it to be quite a relief that they now know.”
The person may have attention difficulties and, again, need processing time.
They may be enthusiastic if they latch onto something said, suddenly finding themselves talking a lot about how they feel. Stop and listen. How they’re feeling about what’s going on and what it means to them is crucial to going forward.
The steps that you’d had planned for one conversation might need to be over a series of weeks depending on how much time the person you’re talking to needs to really take in the information.
They might also benefit from having it written down for them. Some people take in information better in a spoken style and others in a written format. Think also about using ‘easy read versions’ where the text is written simply and complemented with pictures.
The best way to discover what is the right approach for the person you’re talking to is to ask them. Don’t be afraid to ask. Are you comfortable talking to me in this environment? Is there anything I could reasonably change that would make this better for you? Whether that be amount of light, temperature, background noise or personal space. Are you too close to the person for their comfort? So, these factors that might take them away from the conversation are limited as much as possible.
And always make it about them and their needs.
Don’t get hung up on the terminology and you don’t even have to talk about neurodiversity if that makes someone feel uncomfortable. You can use the same process but then ask people if they would like some coaching to help them cope with the areas where they are finding things difficult.
Sharon Lynas, Contract Performance Manager, 3SC