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The Crossover of My Developmental Conditions

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Today I received my adult ADHD diagnosis through the U.K. NHS system. I wanted to write and share some revelations with you over how relieved this has made me feel, but the truth is I don’t actually feel anything. It was no surprise that I qualified for my diagnosis, and although I am glad may now get some additional support at university, I can’t help but feel the diagnosis procedure was not about me at all. There was an ADHD-shaped box that I either fit in or I didn’t. Well, it turns out there was no doubt I fit in the box, but it seemed to dismiss all the elements that make me who I am and instead provided me with a hollow tick list exercise.

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One thing that was evident was that it didn’t explore comorbidity. I am already diagnosed dyslexic and dyspraxic. I have three children, two of whom have an autism diagnosis. I have evident social communication traits that I have noted through reading are commonly associated with ADHD and I have sensory integration difficulties again related to ADHD, but these things are also associated with autism, yet this comorbidity wasn’t explored nor discussed with me.

I briefly asked the psychologist whether she noted any spectrum traits during the assessment, to which she smiled and didn’t answer. In all honesty, at this point in my life exploring my social communication further is not really necessary as I have a comfortable understanding with where my strengths lie and what I find difficult. But without exploring this element further, how can they make sure they are offering me the correct diagnosis? And more importantly, the right support?

The more I explore neurodiversity the more I realize there is such an overlap between conditions that it is sometimes difficult to note where one criteria ends and the other one begins. The fact of the matter is it is extremely hard to box a way of being and thinking in a way that encapsulates the individual. Medical professionals have tried to squeeze people into these diagnosis-shaped boxes to understand their “difference,” but in doing so they reduce the individual to a limited list of traits that encourages generic “treatment” and support.

I hope that in the future we will move away from tick list diagnoses and instead be given holistic neurodiverse assessment and holistic neurodiverse support. Neurodiversity is complex, and I feel the current categorizations no longer serve a purpose other than identifying whether a person has certain shared traits. By boxing individuals we may be missing their key strengths and the best way to support that person. Should a person like myself just continue to collect developmental conditions, or should there come to a point whereby they view the person and their neurodiversity holistically?

I hope the latter will prevail, but until then let’s be the change we want to see and remember that neurodiversity goes beyond a tick list, it goes beyond what is encapsulated in current procedures, and every person will express their difference in a truly unique way. Let’s remember that these “boxes” that capture diagnoses are limited in their explanation and that people will share traits across the developmental conditions whether diagnosed or not. Each individual expression of difference is unique.

A diagnosistic criteria will only ever go so far to explain what a person experiences. If you want to help a person you need to understand the whole person and move away from generic condition-based intervention to instead providing holistic individualized support.

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Getty image by arianarama
Originally published: January 12, 2018
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