Neurodiversity Fruit Salad

By: Martin Quick, Neurodiversity Coach, 3SC

18th June 2024

When I first started out as a Neurodiversity Coach for 3SC I made the mistake of coaching my clients in the context of the specific condition that they would come to me with. What’s wrong with that you might say? Well, what if that restricts your ability to serve them?


Author, public speaker and autism consultant, Donna Williams, famously described autism as a “fruit salad”


There has sometimes been a misconception that people can be more autistic, or less autistic than others. In this paradigm people are like a smoothie which on one side of the spectrum is diluted with water, whilst at the other end fully concentrated. This of course isn’t true. Those with autism may have some shared challenges and strengths. However, just because there are aspects of their condition that isn’t immediately obvious doesn’t mean that they aren’t fully present. Therefore, it is more akin to having different components (like fruit pieces) which are discreet aspects of their personality. Each person may have slightly different combinations of those fruits and those individual pieces may vary in size too. Crucially, they all could be said to have a full bowl, so to speak.


“To understand any person’s autism, you have to understand the pieces of the ‘fruit salad’ that came together to mentally develop, challenge or derail that particular person in a whole range of areas,”

Said Donna Williams.


In a recent webinar I attended, Catrin Lowri founder and director of Neuroteachers, expanded upon this concept to discuss neurodiversity as a whole. She explained that people can have multiple (co-existing) neurodiverse conditions. Each of which require a slightly different approach when it comes to interventions and support needs. Case in point, there are individuals who have both ASD and ADHD.


Medication can be a very helpful way of managing some of the challenges of the ADHD aspect of their condition. However, this will do nothing to support them with their communication or sensory needs linked to ASD. In this new model, the different fruit pieces can represent different conditions that co-exist under the umbrella of neurodiversity. Each component part of an individuals’ neurodiversity needs to be recognised, understood and managed accordingly.


Herein lies the challenge! Many people have only one diagnosis. Others recognise their differences but stand in a long queue for a formal diagnosis. Again, others fail to meet the threshold for a formal diagnosis in any one area of neurodiversity, despite having multiple challenges.


The beauty of our neurodiversity coaching programmes are that every session is unique to our individual clients. Clients get to identify and explore how their brain works, formulate success strategies and more fully lean into their unique strengths. We explore not only what works or doesn’t work for them but crucially why it does or doesn’t work for them. People are nuanced. Neurodiversity is nuanced. Coaching has to be nuanced if it’s to be the best service we can give