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Last night’s ND Leadership chat on #edutwitter with @TwinklSLT

Last night (Wednesday 25th January 2023), I took part in a live Twitter chat with the Twinkl leadership team.

Thankyou to everyone that engaged with the chat last night and who continue to engage with it today. Thank you to the leaders team at Twinkl for inviting me to chat about such an important topic. It was good to share my experiences of being a neurodivergent school leader.

I’m looking forward to more discussions around this and using my experiences to support other ND Educators to succeed in the work place.

I am training to be a workplace adjustments assessor and an ND mentor so I would love to connect with people around this. I’m also working in partnership with people to provide further training and resources so please look out for that too.

Below I have set out the questions and the thread. I have also added some of the strategies that I have found helpful for me as a leader. These are strategies that work for me because I’m me, they may not work for everyone but give them a try and let me know if they help.

Q1. What does it mean to be neurodivergent, and does this impact your type of leadership?



Q1: Answers, opinions, thoughts and comments in the thread below. @frankietweetart Remember to use the #TheLeadersTeam and to vote on the thread below. #edutwitter pic.twitter.com/8NnhHJhZME — The Leaders Team (@TwinklSLT) January 25, 2023

Q2. What advice would you give to members of SLT to support their neurodivergent members of staff?



Q2: Answers, opinions, thoughts and comments in the thread below. @frankietweetart Remember to use the #TheLeadersTeam and to vote on the thread below. #edutwitter pic.twitter.com/4v5p4qdxM8 — The Leaders Team (@TwinklSLT) January 25, 2023

Q3. How can neurodivergence positively impact your leadership and/or your teaching?



Q3: Answers, opinions, thoughts and comments in the thread below. @frankietweetart Remember to use the #TheLeadersTeam and to vote on the thread below. #edutwitter pic.twitter.com/wvkyKcvOeP — The Leaders Team (@TwinklSLT) January 25, 2023

Q4. Should neurodivergence be disclosed to other members of the SLT and staff?



Q4: Answers, opinions, thoughts and comments in the thread below. @frankietweetart Remember to use the #TheLeadersTeam and to vote on the thread below. #edutwitter pic.twitter.com/YBzcpnNNJL — The Leaders Team (@TwinklSLT) January 25, 2023

Strategies/possible reasonable adjustments

I have found that the most important thing is to ask, “What do you need to succeed? How can I/we help you achieve?” That might sound corny but whether someone is neurodivergent or not, everyone has their own preferences and many people may not be diagnosed or had that “it all makes sense” moment yet.

Here are some strategies that I have learnt myself without knowing I was neurodivergent. I have made key words bold which really helps me.

Day to day

  1. Patience and sincere praise! Fundamentally important

  2. Set reasonable deadlines for yourself and others with plenty of notice and give reminders, extra time if needed. If you know someone isn’t good at a particular task, don’t insist on them doing it if it’s not important. If it needs to be done help them to achieve success with it. This may mean that you need to explain exactly how you want it to be done and provide a template.

  3. Don’t insist on small talk, its not always sincere and people can tell. A simple “how are you” will suffice but be generally interested in the answer.

  4. A weekly desktop paper planner, a digital planner may be too distracting and you may be tempted to check the internet while you’re using apps.

  5. A separate work mobile phone as constant messages and emails can be overwhelming. If this isn’t in your budget, you can purchase a cheap pay-as-you-go phone, no need to top up after the first use if you’re running off wifi for emails and calls.

  6. I’ve recently heard about ‘body doubling‘. This is just getting someone to sit with you or monitor you whilst you work if you have a focused task to do. It sounds strange but it really works! Getting Stuff Done Is Easier with a Friend (additudemag.com)

  7. It can help to turn off notifications for social media and put your phone on silent. That way you can check it when you want to. If it’s an emergency they’ll always ring the office or get someone else to tell you. Other people don’t like it but it makes life peaceful for me.

  8. Create digital folders for your emails so that you can find everything around one person or topic in one place. On Microsoft you can create a rule so that emails automatically go into a folder but I worry I might miss emails if I do that so I tend to manually sort mine.

  9. Get focused time to concentrate on things. Some people find it easier to answer emails after work when there is less chance of people replying. 🙂

  10. I use delay send for emails as I might be working unconventional hours and don’t want to interrupt other people.

  11. I really benefit from flexible hours. I often start late but always get my work done as I tend to work in the evenings/late at night.

  12. I sometimes use AI such as jasperai as a prompt if I’m struggling with a blank page. Jasper – Try For Free

  13. I’m starting to use mindmaps better to plan out work. What is Mind Mapping? What Are Its Uses? | Mindmaps.com

  14. Stick reminders up or put them right in front of you so that you can use them as visual prompts. It might be an object that other people think is random but you know why it’s there ( also sometimes you might forget 🙂

  15. Get some earplugs if you need to be subtle (also good for migraines) or better still some noise cancelling headphones if you can be a bit more obvious. Some people like loop but they are very expensive for what they are. They look good though. Your life, your volume | Loop Earplugs

  16. White noise really helps, It is my top playlist on spotify – also helps me sleep. Some people prefer brown noise or pink noise. Use this video to test what works for you. https://youtu.be/aiyh2j-BfkQ

  17. Having a quiet space to work or take a break when you need to.

  18. Having a PA or virtual assistant to help you deal with mundane tasks and prioritise your workload is really useful. It’s important that you have a good relationship as they will notice when you’re not okay and get you drinks/lunch if you’re really lucky.

Meetings

  1. Give people time to think about their responses, so ask and come back to them

  2. Don’t tell people not to write notes, what they need to capture might be different to what you’re focused on. But do send a summary of key points/ actions after.

  3. Get separate notebooks for separate topics.

  4. Please send key documents like the agenda out in advance of meetings so that people know what will be discussed so have time to prepare.

  5. Multiple screens really help. I’m often looking at different screens at once, I might be looking up something I don’t understand or want to find out about in more detail, I’m still listening.

  6. Doodling helps. Its not rude, it helps us to concentrate

  7. Subtitles/closed captions help people who are hearing impaired or who are easily distracted. I use subtitles for meetings as I often miss key words or get lost if there is a word used that I am unfamiliar with.

  8. Questioning for clarification. We may ask a lot of questions and don’t do well with blunt answers but we still like people to get to the point even if we don’t always do that ourselves. 🙂

  9. Reminders either from someone else or alarms on your phone. I tend to set alarms for when I need to get ready to leave, when I need to leave and 5-10 minutes before a meeting starts. But I still might be late 🙂

  10. Diary– I tend to copy some of the important details of a meeting such as zoom/teams link into my digital diary entry so that I’m not scrambling to find them just before a meeting

Assistive technology

If I’d been diagnosed when I was younger, I don’t think there would have been any support availability as good as what you get now.

A decent digital device such as a tablet or Chromebook is a must and you shouldn’t have to fight to get it.

I use dictation and read aloud to check how things sound. This is often built into your computer now so you don’t need a separate app. I prefer Microsoft over google docs and I struggle with apple for written communication but love them for visual work.

I use grammarly to check my written work. You can get a plug in for social media so it will check your tweets and Linkedin posts as you type them and give you the thumbs up. My Grammarly – Grammarly

Health

I dont take medication, that’s my preference and its a very personal choice.

I have been told that exercise will help ( I’m working on it)

Meditation ( also working on that)

Fluid intake. Drinking lots of water (at least 2 litres a day) can stop you feeling anxious and tends to make your thoughts clearer as it stops you being dehydrated. I struggle drinking water and I don’t really like squash so I have a drinks machine on my desk. Even though I don’t drink coffee (makes me jittery) I have found that I am drinking a lot more tea instead.

Eating regularly, sometimes this may need to be blocked out on your diary. Im often ‘hangry’ and I know there is a strong correlation between my mood and food.

Outside support

Sharing your diagnosis-If you feel comfortable sharing your diagnosis do ask for workplace support, in particular reasonable adjustments to help you succeed at work. You are protected by law. If you donthave a diagnosis an employer must be able to show that they had no idea of a persons needs if an employee took them to tribunal due to lack of support.

Profile of needs- Its a good idea to do a strengths profile of need to support you in the workplace whether you choose to disclose or not. The following are good ones-

Coaching– I have always had a coach from outside the organisation as I feel I can be more open with them. They have helped me clarify my thoughts and supported me to achieve my goals. There are lots of specialist ND coaches now who have a better understanding of how to coach ND clients.

Mentors– Slightly different from coaches. It may be someone with more experience than you in your role who can offer guidance and support. This can be someone in your workplace (often called a buddy) or someone from another organisation but in a similar role or in a role that you aspire to be in.

Networking– Although social media can be overwhelming. It is a great space to connect with people who are similar to you and can offer support. Doing a tag search on Twitter and Linkedin has enabled me to connect with so many supportive people. I’m also looking at other platforms like edoocoo which isn’t so noisy (yet).

I hope this has helped.

Best Wishes

Frances

@frankietweetart

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