Updated: May 5
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological differences including, but not limited to; Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, and Dyspraxia.
The era in which you were brought up has a direct impact on diagnosis and its affects on later working life.
Dyslexia was a stand out diagnosis in the 70s. In the 90s it was ADHD, and now it is Autism. The medical profession is getting much better at diagnosing these differences in childhood, however, while much progress has been made in understanding and supporting Neurodiverse individuals, the issue of under diagnosis, especially in adults, is still prevalent.
For many individuals who grew up with an undiagnosed Neurodiverse condition, the challenges faced are often attributed to poor academic performance or behavioural challenges, leaving issues unaddressed in adulthood. This lack of awareness and understanding leaves a significant gap in support, with individuals struggling to manage Neurodiversity effectively.
In addition, the specific challenges related to diagnosing women must be taken into account. Gender stereotypes are still prevalent, leading to the under diagnosis of women who present differently than men with similar neurological differences. For example, women with ADHD may exhibit less disruptive behavior and be more likely to internalize their symptoms, making diagnosis less apparent. Moreover, stigma and shame associated with conditions such as Dyslexia and Autism can further affect women's willingness to pursue a diagnosis, leading to underdiagnosis.
Intersectionality, too, adds another layer of complexity to the issue of underdiagnosis. Individuals from underrepresented minority communities experience lower diagnosis rates, often due to limited access to mental health care, language barriers, and social stigma associated with seeking a diagnosis. Additionally, the current diagnostic criteria and diagnostic tools often don't take into account these forms of diversity, further contributing to underdiagnosis disparities.
The diagnosis of Neurodiversity is far from straightforward. There are discrepancies between the public and private health care sectors in diagnosing and treating Neurodiverse individuals. The process of diagnosis is long and costly, with waiting lists often stretching for years, limiting access to much-needed support. The expense of diagnosis further disenfranchises poorer individuals, creating socioeconomic inequalities in the distribution of special education and support services.This creates a gap where only those with higher socioeconomic status can get a diagnosis and access support. Meanwhile, those without the financial means to seek help are left to struggle alone.
Despite the growing awareness of Neurodiversity, it is estimated that up to 70% of neurodiverse adults are undiagnosed. This underdiagnosis of Neurodiversity creates significant societal challenges, impacting not only the individuals affected but also society as a whole.
One of the most significant challenges is the lack of support for individuals with Neurodiversity. They often face difficulties with employment, education, and social interaction, leading to lower overall life satisfaction levels than neurotypical individuals. Moreover, the lack of awareness and understanding often leads to societal stigma against Neurodiverse individuals, leading to social isolation and a lack of opportunities.
In addition, the underdiagnosis of Neurodiversity has significant implications for mental healthcare. Neurodiverse individuals are more likely to suffer from co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety than the neurotypical community. For example, nearly 3 in 10 children diagnosed with ADHD have an anxiety disorder (1), making proper diagnosis and treatment even more critical.
Beyond these challenges, the underdiagnosis of Neurodiversity also contributes to the loss of potential and stifles innovation. Neurodiverse individuals have unique talents and ways of seeing the world, that can contribute positively to society. When they are overlooked, society loses out on the talents and contributions of these individuals, leading to a less diverse and less innovative future.
The impact of Neurodiversity diagnosis should not be underestimated. Contrary to popular belief, a diagnosis does not take away from the individual's unique talents and abilities. Instead, it provides a better understanding of how such gifts relate to difficulties, allowing individuals to harness their skill set to overcome day-to-day challenges.
Unfortunately, many Neurodiverse people remain undiagnosed. The stigma and lack of awareness of Neurodiversity often mean that individuals' differences are attributed to personality traits, such as laziness, forgetfulness, or even rudeness. The continued reinforcement of such social stereotypes makes it harder for individuals to get meaningful support, leading to poor mental health outcomes and limited success in life. Furthermore, Neurodiverse individuals may also face challenges in forming and sustaining meaningful social relationships, therefore amplifying their difficulties.
Neurodiversity diagnosis is a complex topic that requires further research and better public understanding. While the impacts of Neurodiversity can be challenging and sometimes debilitating, with the right support, Neurodiverse individuals can lead meaningful and productive lives. Greater awareness, support, and advocacy are required for those affected by Neurodiversity, especially for those in socioeconomically disadvantaged, or otherwise marginalised populations.
In conclusion, the underdiagnosis of Neurodiversity creates significant societal challenges, affecting an individual's ability to access support, creating socioeconomic inequality, impacting healthcare, and stifling innovation. It is essential to increase awareness of Neurodiversity, address societal stigma, and provide support to those who need it to ensure that everyone, regardless of their cognitive differences, can reach their full potential.