Guest EDI blog: Introducing the Neurodiversity Staff Network

VC Blog - 30

A guest blog by Research Fellow Pat Brundell on the newly formed Neurodiversity Staff Network at the University of Nottingham.

The month of May is Disability Recognition Month 2021 at the university and as the theme is “Finding our way”, it seems appropriate to write about the recent birth of the Neurodiversity Staff Network at the university.  Neurodiversity refers to the infinite variation in human neurocognitive functioning and behaviour. Some estimates put the proportion of Neurodivergent individuals in the general population at 10% or more. These people experience atypical cognitive functioning and may be diagnosed with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia or Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia.

In campaigning for EDI, there may be a growing awareness around disability inclusion, but it is still not as firmly embedded in the diversity and inclusion agenda as it should be. It may be even harder to embed hidden disabilities into the conversation when the kinds of support needed are less tractable and may need to be part of a wider dialogue about how to engender a ‘Be Yourself at Work’ culture. This is essential to improve the engagement, satisfaction and wider experience of all staff and students at the University of Nottingham. Not only as a matter of common justice, an increasing number of organisations such as GHCQ and Microsoft are recognising that actively recruiting, valuing and supporting a diversity of perspectives and talents improves productivity and quality and fosters innovation.

On a personal level, I have resisted the fear of disclosure, stigma, stereotyped understanding and gaslighting which all too often accompanies a diagnosis of ADHD and realised that to achieve my full potential, a network of peer support and institutional recognition are crucial. This has in part motivated the creation of the staff network. In common with many neurodiverse people, a lifetime journey of coping has been punctuated by a recent adult diagnosis.. Also like many people I don’t feel disabled by the condition, but am sometimes disabled by structural norms and expectations.

The staff network has initially been set up as a MS Teamto start building a network for the benefit of staff who identify as neurodiverse working at the University of Nottingham. It is in a very early stages of life, but was imagined as providing a safe space for neurodiverse people to offer support, raise issues of concern and share information. We would also ideally be a point of contact to help the university achieve its EDI commitments”.

The network is for those  staff members who identify as neurodiverse, whether formally diagnosed or not. People who do not identify as such but are interested in finding out more, providing support or learning about research may find the Neurodiversity at Nottingham team an incredibly valuable space. The staff network aims to provide a dedicated peer support and information sharing resource to help understanding and meet individual needs for information and peer support of staff. People may have diagnoses of autism or ADHD in common but how these manifest may be very different – after all, we are some of the most interesting, energetic and creative people around!   

The network provides a forum to talk openly about strengths and weaknesses and how to access resources that help us replace negative, deficit-based stereotypes of Neuro-Minorities with a more balanced valuation of their gifts and needs.

We hope to be able to discuss and develop strategies for how the institution and the community of neurotypical people can best support neurodivergent staff and students. Currently we have about 30 members and any staff who wish to join can email me directly at or request to join through the MS team. All communication is through the team at this early stage, but I very much hope that we will be able to meet online and face-to-face in the coming months and years. Although we have a number of experienced researchers in the network, we are not offering diagnoses or professional advice, but we are able to offer a community.  

The university is making clear and welcome commitments to recognising the value of supporting neurodivergent staff and we hope to work together to make reasonable accommodations. Anyone who wants more information can email me and arrange an informal chat or they can join the network and be an active member, join discussion or whatever they feel is comfortable. Currently we have no formal roles or structure, but this may develop depending on the democratic wishes of the group.    

If you want to find out more about creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace then some useful articles and links can be found at the Telegraph, the BBC and the founder of Neurodiversity Celebration Week writes an article for the GMB here, with links to their workplace toolkit, a valuable resource for managers and staff.  

Kind regards,
Pat Brundell

Thursday 13 May 2021

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Trent Building
University Park Campus