Te diagnosticeren of niet te diagnosticeren, dat is de vraag.mei 24, 2020
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The subject of diagnosis often sparks fierce debate amongst the neurodiverse community. First of all, access to diagnosis is a privilege denied to many so it is especially infuriating to be told you need something that you simply cannot get. For some diagnosis is a financial impossibility, for others the inherent bias in the diagnostic criteria prevents them from being officially diagnosed with a condition that they know with absolute certainty they have. This is why self-diagnosis must be respected more widely. On a personal level I knew I was an ADHDer long before I ever took the steps to get diagnosed.
The other issue surrounding diagnosis is whether or not it is an advantage to have one. Without one it can be hard to access the support that you need, but with one comes risk of stigma and being othered.
Business leaders should note that a diagnosis is not always necessary in the eyes of the law. The burden of proof for adjustments and accommodations is much lower than for formal diagnosis. When you have staff struggling with day-to-day duties related to memory, communication, concentration, it is better to assume legal protection and proceed with support. Not only is this a wise risk management strategy, it is likely to result in performance improvement whatever the diagnosis, and loyalty from your employees.
Social Stigma And Fitting In
For many neurodivergent people, the lack of a diagnosis does not protect them from the stigma of being different. When a diagnosis is absent the individual who can’t read well, moves differently, or has special requirements is still noticed by colleagues. As the classic ADHDer who was labelled ‘intense’ or ‘inconsistent’, I wonder would my early career have been easier if I had been diagnosed? Perhaps not in the sense that ADHD is still widely misunderstood and diagnosed people still have a tough time, but maybe my bad experience could have been offset by access to medication and accommodations. Whilst the jury may be out on my last point, one thing I know for sure is that as an inquisitive young adult I would have really benefited from the opportunity to understand myself better. In turn, this could have prevented me from internalising so much of what other people said about my behavior. It could have given me the opportunity to define myself without self-reproach.
Self-Efficacy comes from Self Awareness
Self-efficacy is a common struggle for neurodivergent people and can have serious repercussions when it comes to our working lives. Self-efficacy is defined as “an individuals belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments”. More simply put it is self-belief. How much a person believes in themselves influences all manner of things in their life and can have a profound affect on the goals they set for themselves. Imagine for a moment growing up knowing that you struggle more than the other children around you but not knowing why. This missing ‘why’ leaves us vulnerable to the opinions of others who most likely have assessed us based on neurotypical standards. I can’t tell you the amount of dyslexics I have worked with that grew up thinking they had no academic ability, or dyspraxics who grew up thinking they were lazy and didn’t try hard enough. These internalised criticisms go on to form an inner voice that people wrestle with their whole lives.
For many of us who were diagnosed later in life or have self-diagnosed as adults the identity crisis that often follows comes from realising that things you thought were personality traits are actually biological results of your neurotype. Someone should not have to spend 30 years beating themselves up for being “too intense” or “lazy” or “rude” when these assessments were never accurate. We live in a world where neurotypical perception is the norm and in order to be understood, included and celebrated we need to be able to advocate for ourselves from a place of true understanding and knowledge. Avoiding diagnosis due to fears of being treated differently prevents a neurodiverse individual from beginning their journey to self-awareness and self-efficacy.
Labels Can Be Empowering
If you’re individual trying to decide if there is any point in putting yourself through the effort of talking to professionals, I would encourage you not to focus on the negatives of having a label but instead embrace the empowerment that comes with knowing and understanding yourself. Wear your neurodiversity like a badge of honor, doing so will help others to reframe their perception. A good diagnosis will draw out strengths and bring you more insight into your vocational talents that you can build on. Get a good assessor, check their credentials and ask to see an example report, so that you know you’ll have a positive experience. It should be cathartic and vindicating, so look for positive, empowering professionals.
And for anyone who would like but cannot access a formal diagnosis, don’t be discouraged from learning about how your brain works, or asking for accommodations. There is a wealth of information available to you and many credible professionals able to offer a positive assessment of your abilities that will help you uncover your hidden talents and move away from focusing on the negative. In the U.K., you can have a workplace needs assessment for free with Access to Work.
As employers, provision of adjustments and accommodations is essential, but a diagnosis could unleash self-efficacy, a known determinant of productivity and high performance.
As an individual, diagnosis doesn’t change who you are, but self-efficacy and freedom from self-reproach might change your ability to reach your potential.