Neurodivergent social workers ‘exhausted’ from lack of understanding at work

Social workers with conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism are reporting anxiety and low confidence from being unsupported at work

Struggles neurodivergent social workers face in the workplace

A lack of awareness and support at work has cultivated a climate of fear and exhaustion for social workers with neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

A pilot study on the experiences of neurodivergent social workers has found that, of 60 responses, 34 participants reported they had received no specialist workplace support. Around 14 of those said this had been the result of a fear of speaking out and asking for help.

According to Deb Solomon, chair of the British Association of Social Workers’ (BASW) neurodivergent social workers group and part of the team behind the study, managers’ and colleagues’ lack of understanding of neurodiversity has played a big role in that.

The peer support group was set up in summer 2021, inspired by the attention an article of Solomon’s detailing her struggles as a newly diagnosed social worker during lockdown had received.

In the past year, Solomon has found new members have often reacted tearfully on first meetings, once realising they are not ‘the only one’.

“It’s really quite emotional,” she said. “Nobody talks – nobody dares to talk – and it’s really sad. That comes across every time.”

Solomon, who was diagnosed with ADHD in October 2020, attributed that fear to the stigma around the diagnosis of a disorder and the subsequent external and self-imposed doubt around the social worker’s ability to do their job. “[It’s a feeling of], ‘people are going to think that I’m now incapable, that I’ve got challenges, that I am less’,” she explained.

“I’ve had a mental health social worker say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know autistic people could be social workers’,” she added. “There’s a real lack of empathy, real lack of understanding, and that makes people not want to speak.”

Neurodiversity and possible struggles in the workplace

Photo credit: VectorMine/ Adobe Stock

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that refers to the existing variations in neurocognitive functioning and behaviours among people.

Neurodivergent people often live with neurological or developmental conditions that mean their brains function differently and their behavioural traits differ to what is perceived as ‘normal’.

Some examples of neurodivergent conditions are autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, and dyspraxia.

According to 2016 research by industrial relations body ACAS, an estimated one in seven adults in the UK is neurodivergent.

The struggles a neurodivergent employee might face in the workplace differ depending on their condition and the severity of its impact on them. Among others, they could experience sensitivity to sound or light, issues with memory, note-taking or organisational tasks, or difficulties with equipment.

A guide for neurodiversity at work created by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR staff, listed bright office lighting, noisy open-plan environments, and equipment (including bright screens, desks lacking personal organisation items, lack of visible instruction on equipment such as printers) as some factors that employers should consider addressing.

‘The effort it takes to appear functioning becomes exhausting’

Neurodivergent social workers who took part in the pilot study listed lack of confidence, anxiety, and feeling ‘resigned’ as the main side-effects of the current work culture.

“People often say to me, ‘How can you possibly have ADHD and say you struggle with executive functioning and organisation and time when you’re organised to a T?’” said Solomon.

“And it’s like, ‘yes, but that’s why’. I actually can’t function throughout the day if I haven’t put all of that time into doing that. I’m lost. It takes me probably an hour before I can even start working to just get my head around what am I doing.”

Because of that, and not being able to ‘function’ at certain points during the day, in the past she would work three or four hours more “just to try and keep up”.

“It’s exhausting. We might be functioning and perfectly fine, but it took a hell of a lot to get there before we’ve even left the house. I can get to a point at the end of the day sometimes where I’ve just run out of words.”

‘I’m less open and honest with how I feel about what my needs are’

Solomon’s experiences were echoed by a social worker from South East England, who, since becoming qualified in 2018, said she has received “mixed responses” to her dyslexia and dyspraxia diagnoses from managers.

Due to her conditions, Megan*, who works in child protection services, sometimes has trouble remembering instructions or learning a new IT system. She also gets overwhelmed by high-pitched sounds and sudden, noisy or intense lighting.

“There’s one phone in our office that has a really high-pitched scream when it charges,” Megan explained. “That can literally stop me dead in my tracks, it can give me tension headaches.” She also uses a purple filter over her screen to help her concentrate and is often unable to sit in front of a computer after a stressful day.

During a work day, Megan is careful to explain her conditions to the families she visits to make for a smooth collaboration.

“I clearly explain I have sensory needs,” she said. “If it is too bright in the house, I might wear sunglasses. And if it is too loud, I might ask that we go into a quiet room. I just really kind of lay it out from there because, if I can’t give them my best or if I am kind of feeling overwhelmed by sensory stimulants, it could transfer on to the way that I work with them.”

However, Megan has found barriers when attempting to communicate her needs with managers.

In her final placement, her practice educator had requested a meeting with her university – without Megan knowing – to discuss her learning needs. The educator’s verdict had been that local authorities wouldn’t be able to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate her needs.

“I wasn’t asking for anything particularly massive,” she said. “I was asking for things to kind of be followed up in writing, just the kind of extra care and attention that you’d expect for a student.”

The experience made her fearful of revealing her diagnosis in her first workplace for months, only relenting when learning there was another dyslexic colleague in the same body.

Years later, when interviewing for her current job, Megan once again struggled to get the adjustments she needed.

Having informed the organisation in advance of her diagnosis and her need to bring notes and to take notes during the meeting, she found herself on the day being refused those adjustments because it would give her “an unfair advantage against other candidates”.

“That should have been the biggest red flag, but my judgment was clouded because I really wanted to be here,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘It could be different once you’re there’. But when I started working there would be comments like, ‘Oh, isn’t everyone a little bit on the spectrum’, or ‘I think I’m a little bit dyslexic, or dyspraxic’. It really made me feel small, unseen.”

As a result, Megan became wary of being open and honest about her needs and of advocating for herself.

Now it is her colleagues that are making the necessary adjustments for her – making sure that one phone charges at a time due to the noise or being aware of bright lights or which items make high pitch sounds – instead of her employers.

The shift happened after another neurodivergent colleague opened up to her about their own diagnosis. Over the next few months, they begun having conversations about their needs, experiences and diagnosis more openly in the office.

Overhearing the interactions, fellow colleagues slowly started to join in the conversation and offer to help make the office a more comfortable place to work in.

“It makes me feel a lot more healthy,” she said. “But it also means that they are probably having to do more work that isn’t their responsibility.”

‘Working with individuals to understand their specific needs’

While not relating directly to Megan’s situation, employers told Community Care that they need to be made aware of neurodivergent employees’ needs in order to respond to them accordingly.

A Cafcass spokesperson said the organisation urged any neurodivergent social worker to inform it of their condition, to enable it to understand their needs and make the necessary adjustments to help them do their job.

“By doing so, it enables us to work with the individual to understand their specific needs and make the adjustments that would help them succeed in their role,” they said.

The family courts body also acknowledged the contributions of neurodivergent social workers, stating that their input is key in raising awareness of conditions and improving the experience of both service users and fellow colleagues.

“Our staff also have access to a growing range of health and wellbeing resources to enable them to fulfil their role, such as guides, handbooks and webinars covering key areas of wellbeing, including neurodivergent related topics such as dyslexia and mental health,” it added.

Training and awareness at all stages

Pictured: Deb Solomon, chair of BASW’s neurodivergent social workers group

According to Solomon, what neurodivergent social workers need is not necessarily equipment to help them with tasks, but simply “understanding” from line managers.

“I might need to go and work somewhere quiet sometimes,” she said. “Or I might need to wear headphones because I can’t cope with all of the distractions and the noise; when I’m reading something and somebody comes in disturbing and talking to me, I am going to probably forget what I was doing. I’m going to need to start again. Or I am going to need things in writing – because if you’ve given it to me verbally, I’m not going to retain that.”

The pilot study she helped put together urged that, to achieve that awareness, there needs to be some systemic changes made. According to Solomon, those include:

  • Awareness training around what neurodiversity is for students, educators, and line managers.
  • “A clear path” as to what the process is to access support as a neurodivergent social worker
  • Altering recruitment processes to be inclusive towards neurodivergent applicants -“It could be just something as simple as giving that person the questions five minutes before an interview for example”.
  • Ensuring there is access to equipment to support neurodivergent needs.
  • Encouraging workers to form peer support groups.

“I think peer support is huge,” she added. “We learn a lot from each other, like coping strategies, and nothing works better. We’re talking to someone else who gets it, and giving the space for people to be able to do that is really important.

“And then what that does is it allows these groups of people to be able to influence things like, ‘Hang on, actually, your policy really doesn’t reflect what we need’.”

Employers’ responsibilities under the law

Photo credit: Vikky Mir

According to the Equality Act 2010, any impairment – which includes neurodiverse conditions – that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities is a disability.

That means that when an employer is made aware of their employer’s disability, they are required by law to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate their needs.

According to the government’s website, these reasonable adjustments include, among others, adapted equipment, altering the recruitment process, making physical changes to the workplace, training and support for people the new employee works with, and allowing the person to work somewhere else that is more comfortable for their needs – e.g. a quiet place or the ground floor.

Research from employment law firm Fox found that, in 2021, there were 93 tribunals for employees who had allegedly been discriminated for their neurodiverse condition – up from 70 the previous year.

Dyslexia accounted for 40 employment tribunals, autism for 28, Asperger’s for 21, ADHD  for 19 and dyspraxia for 12.

Solomon also recently helped pass a motion during the British Association of Social Workers’ (BASW) in June that aimed to raise awareness and support for the neurodiverse workforce.

While the work is still in early stages, the motion will have BASW and the neurodiversity special interest group working with local authorities, universities, and regulators to introduce inclusive training, co-produce a neurodiversity policy, and celebrate good practice examples.

“At the moment for neurodivergent social workers there’s no concrete support,” she commented. “There’s nothing out there that says ‘This is how you get supported’, and I guess that’s what we’re trying to create.

“Sometimes it feels like it’s such a huge mountain to climb, and it’s knowing where or how to do it. We’re trying to get examples of good practice at the minute for one of our campaigns – and it’s hard to find them.”

She went on to explain that it is often “hit or miss” with managers, but if they don’t have the knowledge, “it’s not necessarily their fault”.

“They’re not purposely discriminating, but they just don’t know how to support.”

John Pearce, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), welcomed “efforts to raise awareness of health issues” and recognised that a lack of support is a vital issue for neurodivergent social workers that can affect their mental health and wellbeing and their work with children and families too.

“It is vital that social workers can operate in an environment where great social work can flourish, enabling the children and families we serve to flourish too.”

*Name has been changed for anonymity


35 Responses to Neurodivergent social workers ‘exhausted’ from lack of understanding at work

  1. Autistic and ADHD social worker August 17, 2022 at 6:05 pm #

    This is why I don’t want to go back to local authority social work. I’m off with burn out currently, some accomodations were made within my last role, an agency role, however it was within a sinking team who didn’t have time to offer support and I got the impression they didn’t reallt know how. This was within an autism and learning disability team. Within the teams I’ve been in since qualifying 3 years ago ive burnt out from each one in less than a year. There isn’t enough resources and support for neurotypical (non autistic) staff so there definately isn’t enough for staff with disabilities. I requested reduced hours but was declined. There needs to be more flexibility in order to get the best out of the people.

  2. Dyslexic Social Worker August 17, 2022 at 8:01 pm #

    I am afraid from my 15 years experience in local authority adult social work. I would advise to any Neurodivergent social workers, to get empowered, learn your legal rights under the Equality Act. Over the past 15 years I have seen very little understanding or forthcoming adjustments from my employers. There seems to be a very much sink or swim attitude towards social workers with disabilities. As a dyslexic social worker I recall waiting over 2 years to be given dyslexic software to support me in my role. I truly believe that change will only happen when you take these managers/organisations down the tribunal process. This may seem cynical or harsh but the reality is that local authorities are so behind the times with reasonable adjustments in the work place. Most other employment sector organisations whether private or public are actively seeking out neurodiverse workers to a changing future work place. I recently read that GCHQ was actively seeking out staff with neurodiversity for the security of the nation as they can bring things to that work place that others do not. I also read that dyslexic staff work 4 days but are paid for 5 days in recognition that their brains are processing information twice, three times as hard as a non-dyslexic person. Could you imagine if I was to request 4 day working to be be paid for 5 days in a local authority. Yet in GCHQ this is a given, as a reasonable adjustment to their nuero diverse employees. I instead work 4 days and get paid for 4 days, but let me ensure you that I am doing as much work in those 4 days, as my colleagues are doing in 5 days. Without any recognition from my employer.

    The most shocking thing for me was that I was convinced that the social work profession was all inclusive, anti-discriminative anti-oppressive. When in fact, some of the most oppressive people I have worked with have been in social work, not all mind. And this is coming from a person with lived experience of being in the army, horse racing and working in the haulage sector too. I have witnessed so many of my colleagues with disabilities sink, struggle and leave due to oppressive managers, and organisational structures, the lack of understanding and inability to give people the reasonable adjustments they are entitled too. My advice is this, social workers with disabilities need to take some of their social work training and learn to empower themselves to their rights within the work place and especially a public sector work place too, as the Equality Act especially pertains to these organisations.

    • Ava Buck August 20, 2022 at 1:23 am #

      As a retired social worker who is a person with dyslexia I was never given any slack. I know how difficult it was to use equipment or to understand new systems. I guess nothing has changed

      I am sad that you refer to yourself a ‘dyslexic social worker’ as this seems to put the dyslexia first
      First and foremost you are a qualified social worker who who is a person with dyslexia which can cause problems but also enhances the way you see things differently and I bet you have a high IQ higher than many of your colleagues

      I fully agree that Open plan offices are really not conducive to anyone I had the luxury of having a small office I share with two part time staff

  3. Jo August 17, 2022 at 8:40 pm #

    I am severely dyslexic and the main way this affects me is with driving due to my problems with coordination. I have struggled to get support in this when I asked for some travel support in hard or dangerous areas to access by foot. My manager advised that you are a community SW are you saying you are unable to access the community to do your job. I never mentioned it again.

  4. Sophie August 17, 2022 at 11:45 pm #

    I suffer from dyslexia and anxiety and it’s only recently that I’ve started trying to remind my employer of it more. No adjustments have ever been made for me and even recently, I went for an internal job interview and was told I wasn’t allowed to see the questions beforehand as it was not fair on other candidates.

    I really struggle to process and retain information when caught out on the spot and if I’m caught off guard, I can literally forget my own name. It’s very frustrating and then the anxiety sets in and it’s crippling. I think I’m a burden most of the time and my confidence has got worse. I often feel like an idiot or that I say the wrong thing or my response wasn’t good enough. Following that internal interview, I got the role but when I tried to explain my anxiety and why I had been freaking out, I was told to “fake it till I make it”. Now I am silent. I tread on eggshells and worry about talking about my dyslexia or anxieties or how I’m feeling. I did have one colleague in the team who I relied on a lot for catch ups and emotional support but, I can’t talk to them anymore either. It’s very isolating.

    I find working in the office very difficult with the noise and the lights and hot-desking. It can take me over an hour to be in a position to function and there are periods in the day where I come to a hault and find myself gazing at the celling. I hope that articles such as this raises awareness and helps to level out the playing field for all social workers and professionals…. Everyone really.

    • Justine Radford August 18, 2022 at 9:22 am #

      I have worked in social care for over 30 years and as a social worker for 15 years. Unfortunately the profession has changed, it used to be minimal recording/writing and more practical face to face work to effect change. I have worked in a team where the proportion of those with dyslexia was about a third of the team. I came to understand that the proffession is attractive to those with neurodivergent conditions because we are creative and have the ability to “think outside of the box”. Unfortunately the changes in the proffession increase the struggles for us and doesn’t utilise our skills. Furthermore, stress and increased pressure is not helpful to functioning.

      I have dyslexia, diagnosed only 10 years ago but struggled through education and work environments. It was when my job changed and the volume of report writing increased my work became a struggle and I felt highly critisted for the quality of my writtian work.

      I have had a varyng degrees of adaptions offered some helpful and some a hynderence to my affectiveness. I have also experienced discrimation and bullying, from a manager with poor knowledge of neurodivergent conditions. This lead to a huge loss of confidence and sickness and could have resulted in leaving the proffession, probably the darkest period of my career.

      What works for one person doesn’t for others but what is helpful is those who supervise understanding the conditions, its limitations and its strengths and building that into someone’s work environment to support and encourage someone to be the best social worker they can.

      I strongly believe that the education system needs to change so that learning can be achieved by all, including those with neurodivergent conditions and not the few without.


    • Don August 20, 2022 at 10:34 am #

      I empathize with you. I am dyslexic dyspraxic with anxiety, hypertension and I am also hypersensitive. A recipe some would call a disaster. What I really need is a huge all sides All we need is serious understanding. A bit like: light vs dark. There is day time and it’s not odd that there is the night. So why is it so difficult to understand there are neurodiverse/ divergents/ typicals I really cried throughout reading this article. I need to support others like myself

  5. Amy August 18, 2022 at 8:47 am #

    I was a student SW with anxiety, depression and undiagnosed Austism. Both the uni and both of my placements were oppressive…I saw a PE try and fail a student with dyslexia because his writing wasn’t seen as good enough…I never completed my final placement due to a bullying manager, yes I am academically gifted, I got a distinction in my social work masters. But I struggle so much in other areas, I mask and camouflage so much to appear normal,it’s exhausting. No support given, And if I made a mistake I was dragged over hot coals as I’m not ‘stupid’, but what they don’t understand is that if I’m stressed I retreat into myself, almost become mute, unable to ask for help and my mind goes blank and I forget simple basic things when I’m overwhelmed. Currently I’m at home with a baby and on PIP, I’ve lost so much confidence in my ability I don’t think I could ever go into practice again.

    • Nicola August 18, 2022 at 2:30 pm #

      Amy you should consider returning to the work place as an ISW and court expert. If this how you were treated image how some service users are treated. Please we need you.

  6. Dyslexic Social Worker August 18, 2022 at 10:11 am #

    Some of the positive points a dyslexic employee brings to a potential employer, including social work.

    Innovative Thinking

    Being dyslexic in a neurotypical world is not without its challenges. Dyslexic people have spent their whole lives coming up with new and imaginative ways to cope with and overcome these challenges by reframing them and thinking outside the box. When it comes to their work, this serves as an added strength that often separates them from their colleagues, as they can conjure up ideas others would not have considered.

    Problem Solving

    People with dyslexia often have enhanced spatial awareness and visual processing, which gives them a natural aptitude for analysing complex systems and their interconnected nature. This ability to see the bigger picture and identify patterns that others may miss can be highly beneficial when it comes to finding creative solutions to problems.


    Having needed extra help and support with learning, people with dyslexia are often more understanding and considerate of other people and their unique needs and struggles. This heightened sense of empathy can also help them read people and situations enabling them to pick up on underlying issues others in the team might be unaware of. Dyslexic people can make supportive and attentive managers and leaders, fostering a helpful and inclusive working atmosphere for the whole team.


    Many dyslexic people have had to fight to prove themselves in a neurotypical world. Activities such as reading or writing which most people take for granted can present a huge challenge for people with dyslexia but one which they rise to and overcome. This way of life can make dyslexic individuals highly determined and focused; qualities which they bring with them into their working life enabling them to persevere in difficult situations and projects with the inner knowing and confidence that they can meet the challenge each time.


    Dyslexic people often show strengths when it comes to reasoning. Their ability to see the bigger picture, assimilate complex ideas and understand patterns gives them the edge when assessing possibilities and forecasting future outcomes. This is an invaluable skill for any manager or leader as it is key in decision-making processes and evaluating risk.

    Three-Dimensional Thinking

    Often thinking in 3D many people with dyslexia demonstrate enhanced skills in visualising, forming, and manipulating 3D images in their minds. This unique ability to view objects from all angles, without having to pick up a pen and paper or simulate a model on the computer, sets them apart from the rest.


    The ability to recall information and restage scenes in their mind makes dyslexic people able to create vivid imagery and convey ideas and concepts in a stimulating way. Their access to a rich storehouse of memory along with the ability to imagine the future allows them to create such scenarios and stories, which they can also write in such a way that the reader can imagine it clearly.

    I ask why someone who bring the above talent to an organisations such as a local authority social work department, would not be embraced for all that they can offer to that organisation. Employers are actively seeking the above skills in a potential employee. So why do dyslexic and nuerodiverse employees struggle in social work when they have so much to offer ? Is this a lack of understanding ? Is it an unwillingness to change structures ? Or is it just plain and simple some form of subconscious discrimination ? If we don’t learn to accept difference in the work place, we will loose that above talent to other organisations and career paths.

    Why is social work not a for runner like GCHQ and working hard to bring dyslexic and other Neurodivergent staff into their departments and more important why are they not retaining these staff. Is it really too much to sit a person down and ask them how can we make the work place better for you ? To do this the manager and employer needs to have an open and inclusive mind to what a person needs or requires for their adjustment. Is it too much to want dyslexia software provided in less than two years of starting your job ? Or for a dyslexic social worker to do the majority of their written work at home in a quieter environment ? This stuff is not much to agree to, is just called a reasonable adjustment.

    In the future, I would I love to see an article in the community care about how much of social work departments are now actively seeking dyslexic and Neurodiverse staff to the profession of social work. But most of all how much they are doing in support of these staff to create inclusive, and thinking out of the box work places. Why is social work not a front runner for work place inclusion ?

  7. Maria August 18, 2022 at 10:35 am #

    You should do another article entitled “Female social workers are being discriminated against by their male managers for going through the menopause”!

    • Dyslexic Social Worker August 18, 2022 at 4:00 pm #

      Equality for all Maria no more no less. We can’t just pick the parts of the Equality Act which suits us and is the flavour of that particular month. Let’s embrace all as everyone has something to offer. Let’s not change the narrative, let’s allow another marginalised group to have a turn, have a voice.

  8. Rhian Taylor August 18, 2022 at 11:03 am #

    Neurodiverse staff within my organisation- Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust- have produced a really excellent video about making reasonable adjustments re neurodiverstiy in the workplace. I would recommend.

    • Dyslexic Social Worker August 18, 2022 at 11:42 am #

      Cracking video Rhian thanks, speak volumes.

  9. Dyslexic Social Worker August 18, 2022 at 11:20 am #

    It’s intresting how many non-neuro disabled social work collegues are contributing to this article, when with other social work subject matter, people seem to have something to say. Maybe the lack of responses here speaks volumes within its self about what this article is trying to draw attention too.

    • Alan August 18, 2022 at 4:12 pm #

      Or for once some of us want to listen and not butt in on a conversation led by those most affected.

  10. Nicola August 18, 2022 at 2:37 pm #

    I would love nothing more than to have a ND SW access my parenting. I am looking for an ISW to undertake a parenting accessment in the Stockport (Heaton) area. I resonate with how you are feeling and encourage you to keep going – there is a never ending stream of parents that need your services.

  11. Dee August 19, 2022 at 11:20 am #

    In 2015, I told my then employer I thought I was dyslexic. It’s a big issue to finally say it, they were not helpful and the manager said, she had no training in this area that I was not dyslexic- I left shortly after- it was one of the first times in 15 years that I ever had a period of sick leave- I remember falling on the floor in my house saying I just can’t go to that place. I never returned. In 2020, just before the first lockdown I paid for an assessment and I am dyslexic and have dyscalculia.I then did the access to work assessment, my current employer has limited understanding of what having the conditions means- my line manager is very helpful but the organisation is sadly lacking. The one time I have felt understood is via the group and the ability smart trainers- it’s positive that I just don’t have to keep explaining! That in its self is exhausting, recently signed up to complete the practice educator course, the university (not the lecturer) where useless, I haven’t finished it….so it goes on,,,

  12. Autistic Social Worker August 19, 2022 at 10:41 pm #

    The invisibility of Neurodivergent and disabled social workers is amplified by the lack of commitment to change by the profession as a whole and those who are responsible for setting the standards in which we practice. Where there are no standards for employees, this will continue.
    We are starting to speak up and out but need systemic support and change. There are so many strengths ND social workers offer the profession and the people we work with but our biggest barriers are the stigma, bias and discrimination forged by unethical research and misinformation about who we are. Until we are respected and that marrative changes, this will continue.

  13. Free as a bird August 19, 2022 at 11:01 pm #

    I was diagnosed as autistic after I left social work so fortunately I never had to deal with the poor response from social work managers. I just thought I had bad anxiety until diagnosis. As a social worker, I was constantly told I “lacked resilience” and no support was offered. Yet my propensity for learning and retaining information was excellent and I was always good with my clients when it came to empathy. I believe this was due to a lifetime of feeling like an outcast and not accepted for who I am. I think my managers’ brains would explode if they actually had to support me as an autistic person.

    People have to care to support people, and local authority managers just don’t have the time to care about their staff a lot of the time. Social work is a sinking ship. The profession definitely doesn’t deserve its neurodivergent staff. I encourage you all to leave and be happy like me!

    • Autistic and adhd social worker August 23, 2022 at 4:51 pm #

      I totally feel this, I didnt get enough support in my social work jobs, before or after I told them I’m autistic and adhd, and now I’ve left and I’m very burn out trying to figure out my next steps. Can I ask what work you went into? I’m thinking going into research may be a way forward.

  14. Chris August 19, 2022 at 11:54 pm #

    Wow, I am not alone! Been a reg qual SW for 15 years plus, PQ’d and specialised in MH. Have won an award for the role i played in securing convictions for a peadophile ring. Whilst working in a CMHT an OT colleague suggested I may have dyslexia and she did a preliminary test with me. As part of the CMHT role I had to undertake the AMHP course at masers level. It was only then my workplace supported me to get an official diagnosis from an Ed Psych. The AMHP course had already started and my dyslexic diagnosis was confirmed weeks into an intensive 6 month course. I was then trying to being taught and trying to understand the likes of resources dragon etc whilst the course was going on. It was a nightmare and although I finished the course with really good feedback on my practical work I didn’t pass on account of my ‘critical analysis’ and inclusion of ‘case law’ etc in my assignments. This resulted in me losing my job as being an AMHP was a requirement. I could write a book on my experience doing this course, it was brutal. To make matters worse my practice teacher made no allowance for the dyslexia, I even spent 2 weeks in an neighbouring counties AMHP hub where they were enabling dyslexic student AMHPs to successfully pass the course. The contradictions were crazy! I’m now with the NHS in a mental health role and feel more supported but overall having dyslexia in this kind of work with ever increasing expectations is just a recipe for burnout! I’m really pleased to read this article and the comments and see a light shine on this topic, thank you. I wish I had meaningful solutions but my experience has been so similar to all that have contributed above, the struggle is real!

  15. Chris August 20, 2022 at 10:46 am #

    How ironic, wrote a long reply about my experience with this (really struggling with the disabling small text!) and then it wouldn’t let me submit my comment. It’s just like the frustrating crap that happens at work etc!! CC should look at there own practice as well as reporting it ..

  16. Margaret August 20, 2022 at 11:20 am #

    I’ve always regarded my difficulties as mild compared to others, also extremely complex. I retired as a C& F SW many years ago but I found this article and the replies to be very healing. Thank you.

  17. Stephy August 20, 2022 at 12:49 pm #

    Neurodiveristy needs to start featuring in inclusion policies and training in social work organisations.

    Until this happens people are not going to come forward and those that do may not get the right support. There are still so many stereotypes out there and general lack of information about what the conditions mean for people living with them.
    This is particularly the case with ADHD which still has a lot of stigma and misperceptions attached to it.

    • Alison August 21, 2022 at 7:35 am #

      And is over diagnosed with the consequence that rational and normal responses to distressing experiences are medicalised. A typical European and North American response to alienation and unhappiness. Dismiss the label and talk to each other.

      • Dyslexic Social Worker August 21, 2022 at 9:23 pm #

        Tell you what Alison why don’t we all drop the racist, sexist and diisabilist, labels too and we can all live in your inclusive happy equal world. Unfortunately, labels and legal acts are in place because people are far from inclusive and all accepting of each other’s differences. So until that changes labels are required.

        • Alison August 25, 2022 at 5:36 pm #

          My point has nothing to do with labels. Racism, homophobia, sexism, ableist discrimination are not dependent on a medical diagnosis. You should be concerned too when normal human emotion rooted in real life experiences gets medicalised.

          • ADHD and autistic social worker August 31, 2022 at 8:09 pm #

            I would suggest that you inform yourself about ADHD (and autism) and how it is underdiagnosed, especially for anyone who isn’t a disruptive white boy.
            Many of us have lived whole lives undiagnosed and learned to mask our neurodiversity, and live with the consequences of it. Masking is exhausting, and will lead to burnout or many gifted social workers. Our neurodiversity brings gifts as well as costs, and there are horrendous waiting lists for formal diagnosis of any form of neurodiversity, and many of those who do diagnose lack experience in diagnosing anyone who is not a disruptive/withdrawn white boy, or who does not otherwise fit the commonly believed stereotypes. It’s how we survive under the radar for decades.
            I have ADHD (inattentive type) and probably autism to.
            I have identified my sensory issues, especially with auditory processing, and my employer has been supportive in providing equipment which helps me to manage it.
            Denial, or believing that is it overdiagnosed, won’t make it go away for those of us who live with it. Education is what is needed.
            My neurodiversity is an essential part of my identity, I have been much less stressed since acknowledging it and accommodating it. Our neurodiversity brings many strengths to social work, and I won’t apologise for mine. I pay attention to detail, I can deep dive in to subjects and have an excellent understanding of something, this means that I can think on my feet and that I am excellent in a crisis.

      • ADHD?/ASC?/NQSW August 24, 2022 at 9:17 am #

        I tend to agree with this to a point. There’s many labels that could be stuck to me though I have purposely ducked diagnosis and just masked up and ploughed through. Some people need the lable but others just want to do what’s necessary to get on with it without the added hassle of explaining their issues or the pitfalls of medicalisation and medication

  18. Sarah Bailes August 22, 2022 at 5:07 am #

    I loved this article! Mostly becasue I am currently having work discrimination myself and having to fit for my needs to be able to do my job as I have been! Covid really opened my eyes to ways of working and my work excelled becasue of it. Now being forced back to the office all my nerodiceres issues are highlighted. I have paid out for a second dignisiftic assessment to try to support the work place adjustment and the fight continues! I am trying to set up a nerurodicerses support group to show others to come forward and raise awearness. I would be keen to liken with BSWA for other nerodicersis social worker plateform a as I feel their is little to no help education kr support for social workers out their!

  19. Kathy Prudden August 22, 2022 at 9:56 pm #

    Thank you for this article. I am in the U.S. and am neurodivergent from a traumatic brain injury. I’ve encountered mixed responses. Although most colleagues that I’ve told about the cognitive and executive functioning challenges I now face have expressed compassion and a willingness to accommodate my needs, they have also minimized and/or doubted my limitations; e.g. saying that I “don’t look like I have a brain injury” and “you adapt so well”.
    I appreciate the point in the article that we may be able to do the tasks set before us, but it takes longer and is exhausting. I find that I’ve also worked extra hard to be sure that I’m not asking too much of colleagues. I am, thus, no longer able to work fulltime because of the ensuing fatigue. This saddens me as I love being a social worker.

  20. Elizabeth August 23, 2022 at 12:28 am #

    As a Practice Educator, 4 of my students on first placements were dyslexic. I had very little knowledge of this condition so had to do some reading. I asked each student how their condition affected their learning, written work, comprehension and between us devised an individual learning programme. One student we agreed that rather than present me with written essay on some casework, that she would do brief written notes and give verbal presentations. Another student requested that she studied case papers etc in a quiet room away from the other workers and be given extra time to absorb information. As a social worker with a disability myself, and in need of specialist equipment in the work place, I rarely encountered reluctance to supply equipment as I was known to be very vocal and fully aware of my legal rights. Equally when our team was asked to consider hot desking – I refused on the grounds of my disability.

  21. Lorraine Christina Dixson August 23, 2022 at 6:08 pm #

    I have diagnosed ADHD and Dyslexia. Most managers were supportive of my dyslexia and made reasonable adjustments that met my needs, however, when it came to ADHD there was no support. i found managers very oppressive and discriminatory most of the time. I was told by two different local authority managers i was not allowed to share with clients i had ADHD as it would be breaching professional boundaries. As someone with ADHD i have certain behaviors that seem rude or strange to others such as tending to interrupt or change the direction of a conversation leaving people looking confused. I think its important for clients to know this is not because i was being rude or dismissive but due to my ADHD. I once worked with a young mother whom i believe demonstrated numerous behaviors linked to ADHD and described these in a review child protection report, and my opinion the mother required assessment by an expert in ADHD. I was told by the child protection chair and then my manager i had to remove the information about ADHD as i was not qualified to write about this area. It was ok for me to write about my opinions regarding depression though.

  22. ADHD?/ASC?/NQSW August 23, 2022 at 11:08 pm #

    Mask it, learn the patterns of the job, let some people know some details of how you operate, make space and time for yourself (fag breaks, drive, walks out the office etc), don’t rant too much, control your emotions, get out when you see the signs, repeat.

    That strategies basically worked for me for 13 years in health & social care after a psych ward stay in my teens for psychosis. Flared up a bit at uni doing a masters but now as a social worker I find myself getting back into the above routine, I think it helps having a solid manager who knows the score though but they can be hard to find.