If You Have A Hidden Disability Or Learning Difficulty Do You Disclose It?
Do you worry that they will only see you as being disabled by your differences after you tell them?
Many people struggle with this question. I've been there many times myself. Should I tell them? Shouldn't I tell them? If I do bring it up will it put them off giving me the job? At what stage do I have to tell them? How do I explain my differences in a positive way? If I don't tell them and they test me on something without taking my differences into account, will I fail to perform at my best and not get the job? Man, just thinking about this stuff hurts my head.
The Difficulty With 'Hidden' Conditions and Disabilities
Choosing to keep your difference hidden is an option which many do choose. If you do this the employer will not be expected to make any allowances or alterations for you as they couldn’t possibly know what your barriers are. It could also be fraudulent to not put that information on a medical form if asked!
This question is one I've struggled with many times. So after considering the pros and cons for my own situation, I have decided to always disclose my differences. I cannot tell you what to do but I would strongly advise you to also tell them about your differences if it's going to affect your ability to do any aspect of the job you are applying for but whenever possible, do it in a way where you are in control.
How Are You Meant To Bring It Up?
These are my hints and tips on how to convey your different needs to an employer while ensuring they are left with a great impression of you.
Tip One: Bring It Up Yourself In A Positive Way
Examples of how to bring it up positively:
'I think I get an advantage because of my neurodiverse nature, I am naturally creative and have an ability to see the big picture straight away, because of this, I often see details that others miss.'
'I get a huge benefit from being neurodiverse because it really gives me the ability to focus 100% on the task at hand and this means my work is always of the highest standard.'
'I'm really lucky that because of my neurodiverse differences I enjoy taking on really tough challenges and projects that others tend to shy away from.'
Tip Two: Don'T Be Afraid To Mention Your Individual Diagnoses
I find that once people accept that I have benefits attached to the way my brain is wired it becomes much easier for me to talk about the individual aspects and diagnoses. I usually find people are more able to get a rounded view of my abilities on the whole when approached this way around.
Tip Three: If You Have 'Disorders' Or 'Deficits'
Words like this can create a bad impression of your overall ability. You are telling them what you have been diagnosed with by just giving the abbreviation, so you are not trying to deceive anyone but at an interview your job is to both be honest and to sell yourself.
Instead of referring to yourself as having a disorder try referring to it as a 'difference' so ADD can be described as a 'difference in attention' rather than a deficit or disorder. This will probably help you to stay positive while describing and discussing the difference with them.
Tip Four: Watch Your Language Generally
If your like me and have a number of diagnosed differences or one with other overlapping differences then you can use the term Neurodiverse.
There are less negative connotations around it and are more descriptive of our co-occurring or overlapping differences. I find it easier to discuss my dyslexic, dyspraxic ADHD or Autistic traits by first using the neurodiverse umbrella term.
You can explain that being neurodiverse means that some things that neuro-'typical' people find simple for you can be remarkably hard but things 'typical' people find really hard are quite often a walk in the park for you.
Explain that your brain works differently to 'typical' brains. *Remember that's a good thing because diversity helps all Eco-systems to flourish and with the right strategies in place your differences could be what makes the business great.
Tip Five: Talk About The Neurodiverse Role-Models
Albert Einstein, Thomas Eddison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, John Nash, Bill Gates, Agatha Christie, Richard Branson and even Winston Churchill are amongst the people to have been identified as having Neuro-diverse differences.
Many neurodiverse people who have had major successes in their life attribute at least part of their success to their neurodiverse traits.
I personally think it's what gives them the spark, I mean can you really see Jim Carrey performing the way he does without ADHD? Or Sir Richard Branson achieving all he has achieved if he didn't have that creative vision that comes with dyslexia?
Tip Six: An Essential Fact To Bear In Mind
If the employer wants a Neuro-typical employee who can reliably work to a minimum, consistent standard then that is fine, some jobs are more suited to this type of employee but between you and me, that job probably wouldn't suit you anyway. If on the other hand they want someone who thinks outside of the box and they don't see the difference as a problem. They will most likely be more than willing to adapt the job role to work to your strengths. The employer that wants the right person for the job won't be put off by your having a few differences so don't worry about mentioning them!
Tip Seven: Identify All Your Neurodiverse Qualities Before The Interview
Make Your Own List Of Neurodiverse Qualities
Look at the following list and see which of these qualities you share. These qualities can come from your hobbies, interests, and any other areas where you have achieved success in you life. They will all be qualities that employers want.
- I am loyal
- I am determined
- I am a very hard worker
- I will happily help others out
- I am very energetic and always give 100%
- I have a high pain threshold and can be on my feet all day
- I'm not afraid to take on new challenges
- I set a fast pace for others to follow
- I learn new skills really quickly
- I have the determination to keep going till I succeed
- I don't play office politics or gossip with staff
- My brain is always active.
- I am creative and think outside the box
- I can be very enthusiastic.
- I like to take on new challenges, especially when I can work at my own fast pace.
- I am an original thinker
- I'm great at finding solutions
Tip Eight: Keep Focused On Your Positive Traits And Abilities
Examples you could use...
- It is reported that Richard Branson left school without the basic O' Levels that most of his peers got but that never stopped him from showing the world what he was capable of.
- Albert Einstein was told he was dumbfounded and lacked the ability to do basic maths by his teachers but look what he achieved in the field of physics!
- It’s even argued that Agatha Christie was dyslexic yet look at how prolific a writer she was. Sometimes people just need to be given a chance to do what they are good at.
It would seem that success is down to how determined someone is to achieve something and the opportunities they make for themselves not on how well they did at school.
Tip Nine: Make It Personal
Tell them that if they give you the chance to show them how great you will be working for them, they won't regret it!
Tip Ten: The Problem With Disclosing A Hidden Medical Condition Or Learning Difference Is...
Unfortunately, when it comes to hidden impairments or learning differences it is common for interviewers to change their tone, place their hand over their mouth, take a pause and in a slower and usually deeper voice ask things like; 'with your difficulties can you really see yourself being able to manage doing this work' and 'how will you be able to 'cope' with this job requirements, especially if you have lots of medical appointments? Or the one I hate the most 'Are you sure you are up to doing the job considering your disability?'
Tip Eleven: What To Do When Suddenly Faced With Negativity
I used to get angry at the question and respond with defensive statements. I felt it was just as bad as asking a young lady if she planned to get pregnant. Or asking a neuro-typical, young interviewee whether their religious beliefs would 'stop' them from being able to do the job. It just seems plain wrong to me that even when we do talk honestly, openly and positively about our differences an employer can still ask stupid questions like 'do you think you are able to do this job?'
These negative lines of questioning still irk me but now I try to answer like this.
- I realise you have concerns about hiring someone with my diagnoses but we are not all affected in the same ways. I see many of my differences as my strengths that help me to achieve things. The things I identify as weaknesses I put strategies in place to help me manage them.
Tip Twelve: Turn Negatives Into Positives
- Do you use apps on a smartphone or tablet to help you organise and plan activities, find your way around and to remind you about things you need to plan for in the future?
- Have you learned to not rely on your memory for directions so instead use mnemonics to remind yourself of routes, numbers and pins?
- Have you taught yourself how to step aside from a conversation to not be overbearing.?
All of these things are strategies so make sure the prospective employer knows you are used to finding strategies to overcome barriers yourself!
Tip Thirteen: Stay Confident About Your Strengths
If you have a neurodiverse difference you might at times struggle to identify the positives. If you do, it could be because you are not looking at the overall picture. Even some of the most irritating traits that seems to affect many of us like finding our way around could also be our strength! Having an inability to follow directions might have made you really good at planning and finding alternative coping strategies. Whatever you do, whether it be using google earth, using maps, making maps, turning directions into mnemonics, whatever it is, IT IS A POSITIVE STRENGTH!
After explaining your main strengths get straight back to answering the question that the employer is really asking. What adaptations are they going to be expected to, or obliged to make if they take the risk and give you the job?
Tip Fourteen: Make The Following Clear
Tip Fifteen: Discuss Difficulties By Providing Strategies
- The only alterations I will need initially (assuming you don't have additional physical needs to take into account), is that I be given a little extra induction time so that I can create clear descriptions and strategies for all the new processes and responsibilities you will be expecting from me.
- That whenever possible you give me either one instruction at a time or provide me with a written list of what you expect me to do if it's outside of my regular routine.
- That you agree to meet with me at regular intervals for the first three months to identify any potential difficulties or barriers so that I have time to put strategies in place so that they do not become a problem later.'
Tip Sixteen: Discuss Your Willingness To Ask For External Support
Tip Seventeen: Be Ready For The Tough Questions
- My main weakness is that I work best while I'm moving so even when I'm sat working, my leg, feet or fingers are usually moving and although it helps me concentrate I'm pretty sure it irritates others.
- My main weakness is that I cannot multitask well, if I don't plan out how to do multiple jobs I can start them all but finish non. That's why I really do need that bit of extra time to write my tasks down first!
- My main weakness is... I think your getting the idea.
Tip Eighteen: End On A Positive Note
Tip Nineteen: Key Points To Remember
I would personally want to hire lots of Neuro-diverse employees. If you want to know why check out my previous blog on 'The Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce.
It might help you see the positives you can bring to the workforce!
Tip Twenty: Make It Sound Natural
Confidently discuss what makes you who you are
and what you can achieve when you set your mind to it!