We've been talking to Tash, the new Chair of our Neurodiversity Network.
As part of our organisational strategy, we’re championing equality, diversity, and inclusion for the benefit of all. As part of this, we’ve set up colleague networks for members and allies of the neurodiverse, LGBTQ+ and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
This has led to the formation of our Neurodiversity Network, a group of colleagues who are championing neurodiversity in the workplace.
Tash Hickmott is the group’s newly appointed Chair.
Why did you join the Neurodiversity Network?
‘I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. I’d been working at Insight IAPT for about six years and had hit a few bumps in my road on my way to becoming a qualified CBT therapist. With the diagnosis, my life suddenly made sense.
‘ADHD comes with significant challenges that impact education, relationships, and employment, but I wouldn’t be without it; I love the way my brain works. However, sometimes it seems easier to notice the deficits than the strengths.
‘After diagnosis, I was encouraged to join local support groups and self-refer to IAPT for CBT. As a CBT therapist myself, I recognised that I didn’t feel confident supporting people with ADHD. I also realised that I would likely meet some of my patients at these local support groups.
‘As I spoke about ADHD with others, some people were supportive and accommodating, but others were sceptical. I began to understand how it felt to be disabled and defined by my challenges. My life now appeared to come with limits that it didn’t have before. At work, I could ask for support to do less of what I found hardest, but it seems much harder to do more of what I’m good at.
‘I quickly realised that it would be great to have a group within the organisation that focused on embracing the differences in the ways our brains work and feeling confident talking about and working with them. So, I asked my service lead if there was such a group. When I found out there wasn’t, I put forward a proposal to start one and discussed this with Sarah Dewar, our Chief People Officer. Sarah then liaised with others who had made similar suggestions, and the group was born!
‘I firmly believe in our values: respect, innovation, compassion, accountability, and excellence, which underpin all my work. It is my hope that, as part of the neurodiversity network group, I can help neurodivergent colleagues feel heard, supported with challenges, and valued for the strengths that they bring.
‘I’m also keen to develop support groups and ensure the availability of training and resources to enable us all to be confident talking and working with neurodivergent colleagues, patients, and service users.’
What has the Neurodiversity Network been focusing on so far?
‘So far, we have been focused on establishing our aims as a group, starting to build links with teams within the organisation and recently shared some information as part of Tourette’s Awareness Month.
‘We have already started to work on ways in which we can support our clinical colleagues and, with support from the IT team, we have acquired Grammarly, a specialist software to support colleagues with writing and grammar.
‘We have several smaller working groups, which are focusing on some really exciting projects. This includes creating a survey to help us understand how many of our colleagues have neurodivergent conditions and the kind of support they feel would help them thrive in the future.’
As the Chair of the Neurodiversity Network, what are you most excited about achieving with the group in the future?
‘I love the energy of the group – the passion, drive, and enthusiasm – and I am really keen to take this out into the wider organisation.
‘One of my main aims is to help colleagues feel neuro-difference confident, by supporting them to better understand neurodivergent conditions and appreciate difference as strength. I’m looking forward to connecting with more colleagues, including the other diversity group chairs, hearing their ideas and working with them to develop our services to be even more inclusive. I’m also excited to work with EW Group, which is a diversity and inclusion consultant that the organisation will be collaborating with. EW Group will help us to get an objective understanding of where we already excel, and what we can do to make our workplaces even more inclusive.
‘I am genuinely excited about the change that we can make though exploring our differences, championing our strengths and embracing diversity in all forms, for the benefit of all our colleagues, patients and service users.’
What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the Neurodiversity Network, but feels a bit unsure?
‘Come along! Drop us an email at email@example.com and we’ll welcome you into the group. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable attending the meetings, you can always connect with us through the group’s Teams chat or by email.’
We’re looking forward to seeing that amazing impact that Tash and the Neurodiversity Network are going to make!