Friday, 19 February 2016

Simple adjustments- Dyspraxia/hidden differences in the workplace.

Over the last few weeks in the media there has a lot about neurodiversity in the workplace and how best to support people who think in a different way. This was something which came up in questions from the public when I was asked to go on the Victoria Derbyshire show, there was quite a bit of misunderstanding that if people have difficulties in the workplace they simply shouldn't be doing the job.  I think sometimes people get scared that they have to look after someone and spend a lot of time helping someone assuming that a lot of mistakes will happen. But in reality there are so many little reasonable adjustments which can be made, often things which take up no expense and little time which can make a huge difference.

It's understandable if you have no personal experience of differences/difficulties/disabilities to be a bit overwhelmed when it comes to helping someone, but so many people have struggles which are invisible to the eye, which can't simply be ignored. After I had experienced a particularly low day in a previous workplace, where there had been a lot of frustration, tears, feeling of worthlessness, my dad (undiagnosed dyspraxic, but has some very similar traits to me) came up to me and told me that it was like being a square peg in a round hole and  no matter what I did, or how hard I worked  the way I thought meant I would never fit into a mould, but that it was ok, and with the right help and acceptance I could find my worth and feet in life. 

In this blog I thought I would discuss some simple accommodations which can be made both in education/the workplace but in day to day life too to help someone who thinks in a different way. I hope they help you help someone out there and are useful. 

1. Acceptance

One of the greatest things you can give to someone to who thinks in a different way or has a difficulty or disability is to accept them for who they are and not try and change them. Difference is nothing to be scared of, not everyone has brains wired in the same way or processes information or the world around us the same, it's not wrong it's just simply different. We all as human beings have strengths and things which we struggle more with, just because someone has a label or a reason for these doesn't make them any less of a person. It's really important to remember that no two people with the same difficulty or difference are the same, there's no on and off switch and you simply don't just grow out of them when you become an adult. By accepting someone for who they are not only will give them the courage to gain coping mechanisms but develop self worth and confidence, plus you will get so much of an appreciation back. I know I probably bore people by saying thank you to them and how grateful I am. But for those who have taken the time to accept me for who I am quirks and all I'm forever grateful.

2. Boost self esteem/confidence

The emotional and social side of hidden differences is such a huge factor with many people with hidden differences and difficulties especially for those with little understanding out there such as: dyspraxia. It's something which is so important and can have such an impact on mental health and well being as many people with hidden differences and disability's often have anxiety and depression alongside. Whether due to bullying, past experiences, frustration there could be many reasons why.  A little bit of encouragement can go such a long way, it can give someone such a boost and feel like they're not as bad as sometimes they think they are. Simply just asking someone how you can help if you see them struggle can make a huge difference. 

3. Ask questions

It's so important with issues which are invisible to ask questions and find out more and how you can help someone, the more questions asked, the more awareness is generated and the less stigma and ignorance there is. 

4. Focus on strengths

As well as struggles there are many strengths people who think in a different way can bring and offer, such as: thinking outside of the box, seeing the bigger picture, creativity, understanding and empathy for others. Plus determination and resilience and never giving up.  

5. Give more time

New tasks can take a lot longer for someone with dyspraxia/dyslexia to master. I know for me any tasks which require a lot of fine motor skills/co-ordination will always take me so much longer than someone else, I'll make a lot of mistakes as I'm learning and will often will need to be shown quite a few ways how to do it or how to do it in my own way. But being put under pressure can cause stress and a lot of anxiety, just giving someone that extra time and a bit of a breathing space can make a huge difference.A little bit of patience can also help someone feel relaxed, before you think how long a task is taking someone remember that the brain/body is having to work 10x harder to do tasks others take for granted, but it also shows resilience and determination. If you do notice someone is getting very anxious from personal experience (hidden difference or not) incorporating self care and breathing strategies can be helpful.

6. The right environment

Just as time pressures can cause a lot of stress and anxiety so can the environment you have to carry tasks out in can as often there are issues surrounding sensory sensitivity such as: noise, heat and light. Distractions, background noise, bright lights, lots going on can all be very overwhelming, distracting and exhausting. But a few minor adjustments can make someone feel a lot calmer, less anxious and able to focus on the tasks ahead.

7. Escapism

Everyone chooses to relax in their spare time in different ways. Self care and making time to look after yourself is important to everyone. For some people with hidden differences their choice of escapism or how they choose to socialise may seem different to others. It all comes back again  to acceptance, you never know what you might find out  or learn when you broaden your horizons, don't just dismiss something because it seems different to what you personally wouldn't choose to do.

Finally I recently came across these interesting characters and could definitely relate to the second one (for me the ice cream would be probably half around my mouth and down my front too!) We are all different, unique individuals which all have a lot to offer this world. Until next time, remember to be kind to yourself!

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