Blog

Creased Puddles first Neurodiversity for Occupational Health Professionals Workshop

On January 9th, 2024, Creased Puddle held their first workshop on Neurodiversity for Occupational Health Professionals.

Caroline Turner, Managing Director, and Robert Manson Neurodiversity Occupational Health Consultant delivered it.

There were 16 Occupational Health professionals in attendance from public and private organisations. This ranged from Humberside and West Yorkshire police,

Doncaster Council to RWE and EoN Energy companies.

Neurodiversity and Neurodivergent Conditions

The course raised and discussed the concept of neurodiversity and its impact in the OH arena. It emphasised the evolving nature of neurodiversity, which is defined as the acceptance of diverse brains. The workshop addressed various neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and Tourette’s syndrome, outlining their characteristics, statistics, skill sets and associated challenges. It also offered a comprehensive understanding of the diverse cognitive profiles of neurodiverse individuals.

Language

If we are to provide a balanced view of different cognitive profiles then OH must step out of the comfort zone of looking at someone in purely the deficit, medical model. We use words like ‘Characteristics’ rather than ‘symptoms,’ we work to identify what they are good at or enjoy and we provide recommendations which combine not just assistive technology but different ways of working.

Individuals may consider themselves Neuro-different, neurodivergent or a neurominority however as we don’t have exact figures, yet the latter can be misleading. Some will identify as neurodiverse.

Areas of Overlap

It is misleading to not consider the areas of Stimming, Masking, Executive Functioning, and the impact of the sensory environment for all referrals as these areas can provide rich information on which to suggest recommendations.

Performance, Conduct and Absence

When we are supporting an individual ensure that supportive plans:

  • Are specific about the expectation and how it will be measured.
  • Allow extra time for meetings or to achieve the plan.
  • Build in adjustments on how the organisation will help them Achieve it.
  • Build in review periods more than normal to provide feedback.
  • Allow for evidence to be presented in a variety of ways e.g. recorded.

When providing guidance for Managers advise them that feedback could trigger Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. How someone best receives feedback when they first join a team is great way to assist with reducing this. Help someone to feel safe and this may mean that you must provide more reassurance than normal, especially through their probationary period.

Neurodivergent individuals may present with mental ill health by:

  • Presenting as direct or being ‘short’ with colleagues
  • Shutting down, becoming quiet and working more at home
  • Increased swearing, less patience, less able to ‘mask’
  • Increased Executive Functioning challenges e.g. in prioritising and planning.

When individuals are absent agreeing how they prefer to be contacted and when can be vital.

The workshop highlighted the potential benefits of a wide range of assistive technology in addressing challenges related to information processing, concentration, and expressing ideas. It also covered how these don’t have to cost huge amounts and they start with low/no cost alternatives.

The course covered how you make sure that your appointments and meetings with your clients are made as inclusive as possible by:

  • Using accessible fonts and formatting in your communications
  • Provide structure and where possible, the questions beforehand.
  • Allow people to bring someone with them to assist with communication.
  • Back up any verbal advice in writing, using bullets or allow a recording.
  • Provide extra time for the appointments or break up into two separate sessions.
  • Consider providing breaks and encourage them to bring fidget equipment.

Note that your clients may not know what they need, they may not have experience of working with assistive tech or may not want to ‘stand out’ Iin the team as ‘different’ by using noise cancelling headphones.

It is worth considering that as an adult the individual may have strong coping mechanisms which they are struggling to deploy because of their challenges with anxiety and / or depression. Start with how to lower this in the first instance, addressing the route cause where possible.

Provide basic reasonable adjustment suggestions and if these don’t have the result you would have liked then to refer to specialist Neurodiversity Workplace Needs Assessors such as Creased Puddle.

In summary, the workshop provided occupational health professionals the opportunity to clarify and further explore their own role in supporting neurodivergent employees. It provided greater awareness of neurodivergent conditions which involved practical recommendations as well as when to refer for specialist assessments and intervention. With this increased knowledge occupational health professionals can enhance their own role and further add value to their organisations.

Testimonials we received as part of the feedback –

The training provides an excellent overview/revision of the various types of condition that are commonly grouped under the heading ‘neurodiversity’. The session equipped me with an excellent range of resources and ideas for supporting employees with neurodiverse conditions in the workplace. There was also plenty of opportunity to discuss experiences and challenges with OH colleagues and with the trainers. I would recommend this training as essential for any OH physician or advisor who is assessing, and writing occupational health reports for, neurodiverse employees. Dr Matthew Mills MRCS(Ed) MSc MFOM. Clinical Director, Expedite Health.

‘The day was thought provoking, I gained a good insight of ND issues. I left wanting to go away and learn more about ND behaviours, how they manifest, so I can create more understanding.’ Katie Amis-Hughes, Senior Occupational Health Nurse Advisor – Clinical lead, West Yorkshire Police.

Really enjoyable and informative course, content was packed from start to finish and I have come away feeling more knowledgeable, insightful, and empowered to tailor first line support for our neurodiverse colleagues. Thank you so much – would highly recommend to other occupational health professionals. Janette Kennelly, Senior Occupational Health Nurse Advisor, RWE.

This course was really fantastic in broadening my knowledge and awareness of the challenges neurodivergent people face within the work environment and how we can help them overcome these challenges and work to the best of their abilities. Anon.

For once a course that delivered on what it set out to deliver and was tailored specifically for occupational health. Highly recommended. Anon.

Excellent course to build knowledge of neuro diverse conditions and gain information about the small changes you can make to help in employment. Anon.

It was really fantastic – I felt thoroughly engaged from start to finish. Anon.

Very interesting and informative course. Allowed time for discussions and debates. Anon.

If you would like more information on our workshops and training get in touch via email at [email protected]