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Spiky Profile : What Does It Mean?

Have you come across the term spiky profile? I’ve seen it popping up recently, but I’d avoid reading about it as I automatically thought it referred to as having a volatile or grumpy personality. I immediately thought of cactus and hedgehogs. As you can see, I am very literal!

I’m fast becoming a fan of the term spiky profile, as it makes a lot of sense to me. The first post I read on this was on LinkedIn by Prof. Amanda Kirby, and it sent me down a rabbit hole of research. 

Spiky profile’ relates to the skills and attributes of neurodivergent individuals. Research shows that we have greater spikes in our skill sets than neurotypicals.  While neurotypicals tend to have a general level of multiple skills, we tend to have significant differences in our skill sets. For example, you may be an exceptionally creative writer but can’t tie your shoelaces.  You may be incredible at speaking different languages, but you can’t keep your home tidy.   So, when you look at your skills, you’ll see big spikes representing the things you are great at versus the ones you find challenging. 

While every human being will have things they are good at and not, the variation is much more significant in those of us who are neurodivergent.


Interesting, isn’t it? It can also be a powerful tool in helping us focus on our strengths, and it is certainly something I feel needs addressing within our education system – more on that later!

Understanding your spiky profile

Embracing and understanding your unique spiky profile can enable you to focus on your strengths and appreciate the areas in which you excel. It’s been scientifically proven that when we focus on our strengths, we feel more confident and happy, and looking at your upward spikes can feel like a little dopamine hit as you realise your brilliance in these areas!

A funny thing happened as I looked at my downward spikes. Rather than beating myself up for things I didn’t do well, I felt proud of the areas I excelled in. I realised that some of the skills I lacked weren’t even that important, and if they were, I could find tools to help or ask for support from others who had those skills. This was especially powerful when it came to thinking about running my business.  I could focus on areas I’m naturally good at, which means I’m adding maximum value and feeling pretty awesome while doing it!


One area I find challenging is short-term working memory. I can’t follow a set of directions for love or money; I can only do one thing at a time, and often, I’ll have to ask for it to be explained again. The term ‘in one ear and out the other’ is a phrase others have said to me throughout my life. It earned me the nickname ‘Dolly Daydream’ in childhood, as everybody assumed I wasn’t paying attention. I used to beat myself up about being stupid, as I couldn’t remember instructions, minutes (sometimes seconds) after I’d been given them. 

Whilst it would be helpful to be able to retain instructions and directions,
I accept that this doesn’t come easily to me. It’s just how my brain works. Now, I don’t beat myself up about it and don’t try to find ways to improve it (nothing works); I focus on the workaround.  I write step-by-step instructions and ask for clarity from the person providing them (I am also very literal, so clarification is key). When I have the instructions written down, I’ll do one thing at a time – not always in the order they are supposed to be, I might add, but I’ll get there!  Regarding directions, it’s either SatNav or I ask the person with me to tell me each direction as we approach a junction or roundabout—no shame or judgment towards myself. 


I’ve found there’s something beautiful and empowering about bringing your focus and energy to the upward spikes – the areas you excel at. Do you know which areas you excel in? It might just be the secret to your success and confidence! 

Embrace your spiky highs!

Your strengths will be the key to success as an entrepreneur or business leader. It is no surprise to me that you’re 500% more likely to be an entrepreneur if you are ADHD and that many of the world’s most successful business leaders are neurodivergent. Why? Perhaps because of our spiky profiles, specifically the areas and skills we excel in.  

I remember Richard Branson openly sharing his own neurodivergent experiences, where he talks about his lack of specific skill areas. He goes on to share that he doesn’t need to be good at everything; he needs to find other people to support him with the skills he needs. 

In his book “The Diary of A CEO, The 33 Laws of Business and Life”, Steven Bartlett shares the importance of building a team of ‘A-players’ to bring in the best skills and expertise possible. He doesn’t try to do it all himself and doesn’t expect to be good at everything. 

I used to feel ashamed of all the things that I couldn’t do, especially those things that I now know to be my autistic and ADHD traits. And then I considered this: Would I rather be average at everything, or would I prefer to excel in some areas and lack in others? Honestly – I’d rather excel in some areas. 

The truth is that the areas that I lack aren’t the end of the world. I can find workarounds, outsource, delegate, utilise tools and techniques to help me or ask for support and help from others.  Of course, it would be easier if I could do it all, but the fact is, no human being is exceptional at everything (even if they believe they are!)   

I am not in any way belittling the challenges that being AuDHD bring me, there are many difficulties and hurdles to overcome. So, please don’t think I am dismissing the problems and pain of struggling to fit into a world not designed for us. I choose to be strengths-focused and let my understanding of my challenges help me create a better-supported life for myself and let go of self-criticism and judgment. 

Focus on the positives

When I first started to consider my spiky profile, I wrote down a list of all the things I believed I was good at/found easy and a list of things I found challenging. I found this exercise helpful, and I hope you do, too. 

Here are the five main benefits I took away from this exercise: it was pretty eye-opening and powerful. 

  • I realised I excelled at some skills; the big spikes showed me where I had true strengths and talents that came easily and naturally to me. A big confidence boost also allowed me to think about where I would maximise those skills in my life.

  • Some of the downward spikes weren’t that important after all:  When I looked at the downward spikes, I realised that some of the things I couldn’t do well didn’t matter in my day-to-day living. I don’t need to be able to analyse data and spot trends. I’m an ‘out of the box’ creative problem solver, which means I come up with unique solutions to often complex problems. 

  • I discovered areas where I could delegate or ask for support. Remember, you do not need to be good at everything yourself. Knowing when to ask for support can remove the anxiety of trying to do it all yourself. One of the best decisions I ever made was to get an accountant and bookkeeper who is neurodivergent friendly and can help me stay on top of things.

  • I stopped shaming myself for things I couldn’t do well: I have dyscalculia, which means I can’t process numbers very well, and this affects all areas of my life. I also struggle with my short-term working memory and find it hard to follow a sequence of instructions. I spent decades feeling as though I was stupid and went to great lengths to cover this up at school and work. I’d often carry out tasks incorrectly, unable to follow instructions others seemed to find easy.   However, once I understood these challenges in the context of my autism and ADHD, I let go of the shame and found ways to support myself.  I now have automation systems at work, a virtual PA that keeps me organised and, of course, SatNav for directions!

  • I realised I’d rather have a spiky profile than a flat one!  Given the choice, I’d rather have areas I excel in and areas I find challenging over being generally average at most things. I like that I have unique skills that enable me to run a successful and creative business. And if the trade-off is that I am terrible at maths and run a mile at the sign of an Excel spreadsheet, then that’s okay. I’ll hand that part of my work over to someone that is good with numbers. 

I’m in the camp of playing to our strengths and focusing on what we do well because that is where you’ll find the opportunities for positive change in your life. Letting go of the belief that we need to be good at everything may bring you peace and help you let go of unrealistic expectations of yourself. 

The impact for future generations

What struck me when researching spiky profiles was the impact of our schooling system in the UK.  Considering the number of children in education who are autistic and ADHD who are also likely to have spiky profiles, the consequences of being in a school system that measures their ability to master a specific set of skills to a required level has the potential to be devastating. 


Children with spiky profiles will undoubtedly excel in some areas whilst struggling in others. Schools rarely encourage children to focus on their strengths and areas they excel in. They are more likely to focus on areas where they perceive the child lacking or need to ‘try harder’. They also consider the different learning and communication styles and the ability to focus and absorb information. 


When I went through the diagnosis, I submitted my school reports as part of my assessment. They were littered with comments that evidenced both my autism and ADHD. Whilst I appreciate the understanding around autism and ADHD was less than it is today, I am not convinced I would have been identified as being neurodivergent, even in today’s school environment. There is a long way to go, especially for girls adept at masking and hiding their challenges.  


The truth was that at school, maths and science were painfully difficult for me. That is not surprising, given I have dyscalculia. I spent my entire adult life saying I was ‘rubbish at maths’, repeating my teachers’ feedback from high school to university. Rather than ask for help in this area, I went to great lengths to hide my shortcomings, resulting in significant debt as a young adult.  


On the flip side, I shone in English and art. My creativity flowed, and these subjects had my full attention because I enjoyed them. I have always loved reading, writing and creative activities, but I never considered them my strengths growing up; I mainly focused on the areas I felt I was failing. I wish someone had pointed out the things I did well rather than acting like I was doing what was expected of me. 


I worry for future generations of neurodiverse kids. I worry that they will grow up focusing on what they perceive as their failings rather than on the areas they excel in.  We don’t all need to be good at everything, and I believe that nurturing natural skills and abilities will give rise to improved mental health and well-being. I am passionate about ensuring our future generations feel proud of their strengths, knowing that they are different and not less. Because the consequences of them growing up feeling ashamed and incapable don’t bear thinking about – we cannot allow that to happen. 

Celebrate your spikiness

Noticing the areas we lack often comes easier than catching where our strengths are. I spent decades focusing on everything I believed I was bad at and the areas I lacked. I spent my life desperately trying to make sure others wouldn’t see these flaws and failings in me. That was until my autism and ADHD diagnosis that I began to understand my experiences and self in a new light. 

It feels like a waste of my energy and time to keep beating myself up for things I can’t do because of my neurodivergent brain. Instead, I’d rather focus on what I can do well and create a supportive environment to help with areas that don’t come so quickly. 

Would I like to be able to cope better in specific environments or carry out daily tasks that others find easy? Of course. But the truth is, some things aren’t possible for me, and I have stopped putting myself in unnecessary situations that add to my anxiety and stress.   I push myself to grow and try new things, but always in a way where I feel supported and safe. I like to try new techniques, tools and coping strategies to see if they can help me build new skills or manage better in challenging environments. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t – but I don’t judge myself. I’m just proud that I tried something new, regardless of the outcome.

Knowing that my spiky profile means I have areas where I excel helps me feel proud of my strengths and skills and grateful for the value they add to my life.

I hope you have found my blog on spiky profiles helpful.  I’d love to hear what you think about your spiky profile. I hope it allows you to see your natural strengths and talents

Until next time, stay brilliant and bold and shine your light on the world. 


Click the link if you haven’t taken my Success & Happiness Quiz yet. You’ll get your results immediately with bespoke advice and easily actionable tips. It takes less than 4 minutes, and it’s fun!

And you can check out my mini-course, RADIATE Authenticity: Embracing The Neurodivergent You in Business. 

Until next time, Nikki