Neurodivergent Conditions, Diagnoses & Syndromes

Not everyone will share their diagnoses or neurodivergence with their employer, but you must be able to be supportive and understanding if they do. We look at some of the most common conditions which we find within the neurodivergent community.

Understanding neurodivergent conditions - Spectrum

When working on being more inclusive of neurodivergent conditions, it’s important to remember that many of these adjustments will be supportive of all your people - whether they have a formal diagnosis or not.

Although we’ve tried to cover as much ground as we can in this article, we can’t include every diagnosis, variation or need! Everyone is completely unique, and this is true of neurodivergent individuals as much as anyone. You must listen to the people in your team to understand their unique needs and requirements. We have also included some reasonable adjustments, these are very broadly defined and could be used to support a wide range of conditions.

We've also pulled together this helpful list of commonly used terms in the workplace.


ADHD is one of the most well-known, and least understood conditions. In the UK around 2% of adults are diagnosed with the condition. However, it may not look the way you’re expecting. For example, the NHS states that up to 30% of those with the condition may have problems with concentrating or focusing but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Lack of attention to detail.

  • Difficulties with organisation or prioritisation.

  • Starting new tasks before finishing old ones.

  • Forgetfulness.

  • Speaking out of turn.

  • Over-sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch.

  • An inability to deal with stress.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Ensuring you have space where there are fewer distractions can be very helpful.

  • In virtual spaces, encourage the use of plain backgrounds or blurred backgrounds.

  • Support and training for line managers will help them to give their team the tools they need.


Not everyone on the autistic spectrum is the Rain Man! It’s important to remember that autism can look different on everyone, and some people are very good at “masking” or hiding their autistic traits, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need as much support or accommodations. One in 100 people are on the autistic spectrum. Autism looks different for everyone. It is characterised by difficulties or differences in communication and interaction. Watch our webinar for more on autism in the workplace.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Difficulties with social communication and social interaction challenges.

  • Repetitive and restrictive behaviour.

  • Over- or under-sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch.

  • Highly focused interests or hobbies.

  • Extreme anxiety.

  • Meltdowns and shutdowns.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Sharing agendas for calls and helping people visualise meeting spaces well in advance to prepare for workshops, meetings or collaborative work.

  • Making team-building or social activities optional for all staff.

  • Ensure that changes are clearly signposted and workarounds are clear.


Not as well known as some of the other conditions discussed, roughly 6% of the population of the UK is thought to be living with dyscalculia. It’s characterised by severe maths learning difficulties. Around 25% of people have maths learning difficulties which can be caused by neurodivergent conditions or external factors. Typically dyscalculia is diagnosed when difficulties with maths are persistent and present since the learner was young.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Difficulties applying arithmetic but not other areas of maths.

  • Inability to make sensible references to numbers.

  • Extreme difficulties spotting patterns in numbers and making generalisations.

  • Reliance on repeated processes such as rote learning or using fingers to count.

  • High levels of maths anxiety.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments.

  • During interview processes when maths is tested, make sure that calculators or computers are available.

  • Give plenty of time to think through problems concerning numbers and try not to put individuals on the spot during calls or meetings.

  • Try to present numbers visually in materials shared for example in graphs.


Often confused with dyslexia, dysgraphia is characterised by trouble with writing. It’s an often misunderstood condition, and experts estimate between 5 and 20% of people are affected, with the effects being observed on a scale, meaning some people are only mildly affected. Dysgraphia is often, although not always, diagnosed with co-occurring conditions, typically dyslexia or ADHD.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Trouble with writing and spelling, poor handwriting and awkward pencil grip.

  • Problems with accurately spacing letters and capitalisation.

  • Difficulties with fine motor skills.

  • Struggles to organise thoughts on paper even if they can explain verbally.

  • Avoidance of written tasks.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Allow people to volunteer to take notes during meetings, or facilitate alternative ways of recording information - such as voice tools.

  • Have access to laptops or tablets for those who might find these more helpful than pen and paper.

  • Don’t put people on the spot by asking them to write in front of others.

  • Give instructions verbally as well as in a written format where possible.


Although dyslexia is primarily thought of as affecting reading and writing skills, it can actually affect information processes more widely. This means it can severely impact memory and organisational skills. Over 10% of adults in the UK are thought to have dyslexia. As with all neurological differences, dyslexia is a spectrum.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Reading and writing very slowly.

  • Poor or inconsistent spellings.

  • Difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions.

  • Difficulties with organisation and planning.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Think about providing assistive technology such as anti-glare screen filters, digital recorders for meetings, screen-readers or mind-mapping software.

  • Provide quiet working environments where possible.

  • Ensure that work areas are organised, tidy and well lit.


Dyspraxia is sometimes also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and affects about 10% of the population. Although those with dyspraxia may appear clumsy, it’s important not to reduce the condition to mere clumsiness, as this can diminish the troubles and coping mechanisms that adults with DCD develop. Dyspraxia can look different in adults than in children and across individuals.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Difficulty learning new motor skills or applying skills in different or busy environments.

  • Difficulty handling tools and equipment such as keyboards, printers or staplers.

  • Poor balance.

  • Poor organisation or time management skills.

  • Missing deadlines or appointments.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Try to keep working environments consistent and calm, particularly if your colleague will need to do manual or physical tasks, including typing.

  • Empower managers to assist with workload organisation.

  • Give your team plenty of time and space to master new skills.


Epilepsy is not always considered a form of neurodivergence by the wider public. However, epilepsy can often affect how the brain works. Not only this, but epilepsy can often go hand in hand with other forms of neurodivergence, for example up to 40% of those with epilepsy are also on the autism spectrum. Epilepsy can come and go, but many people will deal with epileptic seizures their whole lives. The main symptom of epilepsy is seizures.

The drugs used to control epilepsy often have neurological side effects such as drowsiness, agitation and irritability. Although we often think of seizures being triggered by lights this is relatively uncommon, only occurring in 3% of cases.

More common triggers include:

  • Stress.

  • Tiredness.

  • Menstruation.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Uncontrolled shaking is common but not as much so as we often see in popular media.

  • Losing awareness and blank staring.

  • Becoming stiff.

  • Strange sensations.

  • Uncontrollable movements and behaviours.

  • Collapsing.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Only require a driving licence where strictly necessary, many people with epilepsy cannot get one.

  • Avoid lone working so there’s someone who can help in case of seizures or other accidents.

  • Adapting workspaces to make them safer for your team, or adapting equipment.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD can both be classified as neurodivergence and as a mental illness. Although often derided in popular culture, with people claiming they’re “a bit OCD” it’s actually a disorder that affects just over 1% of the population. Over half of those people have the most serious symptoms which can make the condition debilitating. Many people associate OCD with obsessions with cleanliness, and although this may be part of some people’s experience of OCD it’s far from the only obsessive thought.

Generally, there are five types of obsessive thoughts...

  1. Checking (eg. locks, plug sockets, or objects).

  2. Contamination/mental contamination (eg. by germs or “bad” thoughts).

  3. Symmetry and ordering (eg. keeping things in an exact order or balance).

  4. Ruminations/intrusive thoughts (eg. always running through the same cycle of thoughts in the same order when doing certain tasks or activities).

  5. Hoarding (although some experts no longer consider hoarding a purely OCD compulsion and class it as its own related disorder).

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Obsessions - recurring, unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that cause anxiety, unease or disgust.

  • Compulsions - repetitive behaviours or mental acts which temporarily give a reprieve from unpleasant feelings brought on by obsessive thoughts.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Offering flexible working hours can be helpful for those who struggle with deadlines.

  • Signposting mental health resources is vital since therapy can be a useful tool for those with OCD.

  • Allowing remote and flexible working can be very useful for those who have challenges with getting to work, or within their workspace.

Traumatic Brain Injury (Or Acquired Brain Injury)

Over 1 million people go to A&E every year with a brain injury. Although most of them go on to make a full recovery, many may find that they have ongoing and sometimes life-long symptoms. These can vary from person to person and may diminish over time or may fluctuate. Everyone experiences brain injury differently.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Physical effects such as balance problems, dizziness and headaches.

  • Memory problems.

  • Fatigue.

  • Sudden or uncontrollable anger.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • It may be necessary to adjust the workload or responsibilities of your employee, or even move them to a different team or department.

  • Providing modified or assistive equipment such as anti-glare screen protectors or screen readers may help.

  • Encouraging flexible hours and remote work where necessary.

Tourette Syndrome

We often associated Tourette Syndrome (TS) with uncontrolled swearing, but this is actually not common at all - only 10% of those with TS swear. Instead, they display a variety of different vocal or physical “tics”. Tics are uncontrolled and unwanted movements or vocalisations. Tourette Syndrome looks different for everyone, and some people, particularly adults, can control their tics for long periods.

Typical Traits & Behaviours

  • Verbal tics such as grunting, whistling, throat clearing or sniffing.

  • Physical tics such as blinking or eye rolling, shoulder shrugging, limb jerks or grimacing.

  • Hyperfocus for example where an individual blocks out all other sounds.

  • Difficulty with verbal processing.

Examples Of Reasonable Adjustments

  • Stress is often a trigger for tics, so ensure you account for this in the interview stages.

  • Provide dedicated space where a person’s tic may not disturb others.

  • Provide training and information to colleagues and clients who may interact with your team.

Remember that you cannot diagnose anyone without the help of a trained professional so this is just to give you an idea if one of your colleagues discloses a diagnosis or their needs with you. You should speak to the individuals on your team to make sure you’re making your workplace safe and inclusive for them.

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Recommended reading

Neurodiversity: Creating an Autism Friendly Workplace

Supporting Neurodiversity in The Workplace

Neurodiverse Vs Neurodivergent

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