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ADHD awareness should be acceptance

ADHD Awareness Month: Is It Enough?

ADHD Awareness month is October in the UK, and I always have a bitter sweet feeling about ‘awareness’ months and days. Whilst they are a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on certain things, I don’t personally believe they do much to move the dial, in terms of acceptance and true understanding. 

I was trying to find an analogy that might work, to show why awareness isn’t enough, and listening to the individual and accepting their experiences to be true and unique, is so crucial. And I came up with coffee. Bear with me, there’s a method in my madness!  There are SO many different blends of coffee, the world over. They differ in flavour, strength, and richness, there are different blends and different ways to brew coffee, and there are different ways to drink it. Some people have a fancy coffee with toppings and syrups, others like a flat white and many will opt for the iconic espresso.   But it’s all coffee. To a tea drinker, it’s just coffee – all of those flavours and experiences wrapped up in that one word – coffee (and I’m sure the same applies for tea, but I don’t much about tea, sorry about that!) . 

 

But to someone who loves their coffee and has taken time to learn about the different blends, their preferred way to may it, and whether they add cream, milk, or nothing at all – to just call it ‘coffee’ is an insult! It will send chills down the spine of the coffee connoisseur when they hear the words ‘it’s just coffee’. 

Similarly, when we are talking about ADHD awareness (or any form of awareness), it’s not enough to just be aware of it and put it under the umbrella term of ‘ADHD’. When it comes to the understanding and appreciation of  ADHD and autism – there’s a significant difference between awareness and acceptance.  Do you agree? Let’s explore this in a little more detail, in case I lost you with my love of coffee! 

ADHD Awareness v Acceptance

The reason I have an issue with ADHD Awareness Month (and all awareness days and months) is that awareness is often surface-level. It acknowledges that ADHD exists, but it focuses more on the lists of traits, which are derived from out-of-date stereotypes and medical research.  The diagnostic criteria for ADHD is based on young, white, middle-class boys, and it hasn’t been changed since.  Whilst there is more awareness of traits in females, there is still not a true understanding and certainly no support in place.

Awareness often doesn’t move beyond statistics and generalities. And whilst it is amazing that so many ADHD’ers are sharing what being ADHD is for them, in order to raise awareness, we don’t see the message coming across that every single person is different and our experiences will also differ wildly, based on our environments, health factors, lifestyles and trauma level (plus a whole lot more!). 

Acceptance, on the other hand, is rooted in empathy. It focuses on taking time to understand the individual experiences, the joys, challenges, and the unique strengths that come with being neurodivergent – for that one individual. Acceptance comes when we listen to the persons’ experience, we believe what they are saying to be their truth and we accept them for exactly who they are. 

Why does it matter? While awareness is the first step, stopping there can lead to oversimplified and often incorrect stereotypes. By emphasising acceptance, we encourage a deeper understanding, one that sees the individual, not just the diagnosis.

This is something that I can really relate to. My own diagnosis was rejected by so many people I knew because I didn’t fit their idea of what ADHD looked like. Few people were willing to listen to my experiences.  And, at the same time, I questioned my own experiences, wondering why I wasn’t like everyone else I was seeing online, or reading about. So, the awareness element affected my own self-acceptance, until I made the connection and stepped back from the noise. When I started to truly understand my own ADHD experiences, everything changed for me. And this is where I believe the power is, for each of us to live our lives in a truly aligned and self-compassionate way. 

From passive awareness to active acceptance

As we go through ADHD awareness month, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on acceptance v awareness. To me, awareness is passive; it’s an acknowledgment. Acceptance is active; it’s a form of support.

By moving from mere awareness to genuine acceptance, we can create environments where neurodivergent individuals, whether female or male,  entrepreneurs or not,  receive not just understanding but also resources tailored to their unique needs.

So, during ADHD awareness month, I invite you to take the opportunity to share YOUR unique experiences and traits with those in your life. Share how your ADHD and/or autism impacts you and your life, and what you’d like them to know. Is there more support they could offer, or perhaps a different way of working or communicating with you?  Each of us, as ADHD entrepreneurs or leaders, has the ability to harness ADHD awareness month to foster understanding, acceptance, and support, within our own networks, communities, and close circles.

Supportive environments aren’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ for us. They are crucial for harnessing the potential of each and every one of us, ensuring that we don’t just survive but thrive!

ADHD Awareness: A chance to break stereotypes!

I talk a LOT about the damaging and outdated stereotypes, that so much of society holds to be true.  This is why days and months like ADHD Awareness Month worry me. On the one hand, they shine a spotlight on ADHD and bring awareness to the fact that it impacts the lives of those with it, but that awareness is predominantly based on outdated checklists and traits of what ADHD looks like

I like to think that ADHD Awareness Month can be an opportunity to smash apart those outdated stereotypes and replace them with a deep understanding that ADHD is unique to each and every one of us who lives with it daily. it’s an opportunity to be part of a movement where we step out and share our lived experiences honestly, openly, and authentically. Where we can remind society we are individuals and that each of our experiences is unique. 

The problem is, that focusing solely on awareness might lead to viewing neurodivergent individuals through a narrow lens. Neurotypicals might know about sensory sensitivities or common traits and behaviours, but without understanding each person’s unique experiences, they don’t have true acceptance. The danger is,  that they miss out on the creative, passionate, and innovative minds behind these traits and the label of ADHD.

These limited views can overshadow the immense value and unique perspectives that autistic and ADHD entrepreneurs, like us, bring to the table. It perpetuates outdated stereotypes, making it harder for neurodivergent individuals to claim their rightful place in the world. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be part of a movement, where we can foster deep understanding and acceptance within our own communities? Wouldn’t it feel great to be a catalyst for change, knowing that we’re leaving the world a better place for generations to come? I sure think so! 

Will you be joining me?

How do you feel about ADHD Awareness Month? Do you feel like awareness is enough, or do you feel like there’s so much more to it than awareness? 

In all honesty, I believe this extends way past the month. It’s not as if we experience ADHD for 1 month a year, and then it goes away again until the following October! I believe it’s really important that society starts to understand each individual’s lived and true experiences. And that collectively, we start to listen to those experiences and develop our understanding of the individual traits, challenges, and needs. 

I believe we have the opportunity to change the landscape forever, by smashing apart outdated stereotypes.  How? By being honest and open, by talking about our experiences, by advocating for the support we need, and by showcasing our unique skills and talents. 

We can celebrate our ADHD skills and talents, and invite others to ask us questions, to dig a little deeper, and to develop their understanding of our experiences. Then, these outdated stereotypes will fade away, and be replaced with a beautiful kaleidoscope of the strengths of neurodiverse individuals. We’re different, not less. And in my opinion, we are frickin’ awesome!! 

I’d love to hear your stories, as we move through ADHD Awareness Month. Let me know how you’re showing up, and what you’re doing to be a catalyst for change.

Stay brilliant, stay bold, and go out and shine your incredible light in the world. 
 

If you haven’t joined my private Facebook Group for autistic and ADHD entrepreneurs and leaders then I’d love you to join us, you can click on the button below.  And if you haven’t taken my Success & Happiness Quiz yet, then click on the link. You’ll get your results immediately, with bespoke advice and tips, which are easily actionable. It takes less than 4 minutes and it’s fun! 

Until next time, Nikki x