In 2023, ‘Neurodiversity’ is a vastly used ‘buzz word’. One internet search will bring up thousands of results and resources. This can leave people feeling overwhelmed with information. In this confusing tangle of information, how can legal professionals simplify this very complex topic and become allies to our neurodivergent clients and co-workers?
This article will cover why is important to be aware of the struggles faced by those with ADHD, how to support clients with ADHD and how this will be beneficial to your practice.
Neurodiversity is defined as the range of differences displayed by the human brains and behaviours, it usually refers to conditions such as ADHD, ADD and ASD. ADHD is acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
As a Court of Protection Paralegal, it is my role to assist clients who lack mental capacity. Our clients have learning difficulties or brain damage and would fall within the neurodiverse category. Throughout my experience within this role, I have developed an understanding of the challenges faced by neurodiverse people, and an appreciation of the importance of making accommodations for these differences, to make their day to day lives easier.
Why is it important to be aware of ADHD?
ADHD affects 3-4% of adults in the UK, with this statistic significantly increasing since 2020. This condition can be limiting to those who are affected by it and is often referred to as an ‘iceberg’. This is because the visual symptoms are often not representative of the multitude of unseen symptoms, which often leads to a misunderstanding of the effects of ADHD.
For example, whilst more obvious symptoms may include: fidgeting, excessive talking, interrupting conversations and being easily distracted; invisible symptoms may include: difficulty organising tasks, lacking time management skills, anxiety, low self esteem, poor emotional regulation and trouble sleeping.
These unseen symptoms are additional obstacles to people with ADHD. As lawyers, we should be considering these barriers when assisting out clients and doing our best to remove some of these obstacles when possible.
How to support clients with ADHD
There are a multitude of ways that lawyers can support clients with ADHD, but these are my top five tips:
- Allow extra time for meetings
Individuals with ADHD often find it more difficult than their neurotypical counterparts to process auditory information, especially in stressful situations. For example, during one of our neurodiversity panels at Jackson Lees, a speaker mentioned that they often spend so much energy concentrating on listening that they may forget to actually listen to the information.
Allowing extra time for meetings enables both the lawyer and client to clear up any confusion at the end of the meeting and raise any questions. It also allows the lawyer to simplify and outline what has been covered in the meeting as well as next steps, and for the client to raise any questions they may have. This small act is one way to empower clients with ADHD by ensuring that they are actively aware of the information presented in meetings.
- Book quiet meeting rooms
Booking a quiet room for meetings can make a big difference for neurodiverse clients. This is because individuals with ADHD may struggle to focus on the information being presented or topics being discussed if there are other noises or visual distractions in the room.
- Follow up calls and meetings with an email or letter outlining details of meeting
Struggling to recall details is often a symptom of ADHD. Providing a follow up letter with a summary of the meeting or call, gives the client a physical note of the meeting to refer back to rather than solely relying on their memory.
Clients with ADHD may also struggle to process verbal instructions, so it may be helpful to have details of the meeting, especially any next steps, written down to refer to in the future.
- Set deadlines and stick to them
Individuals with ADHD are more likely than neurotypical people to overthink the outcomes of situations. This may lead to increased anxiety and apprehension. Providing reliable deadlines can ease this stress by providing some comfort to the client that they will have a resolution or response by the decided deadline.
However, due to this raised sense of anxiety, missed deadlines can cause tension and further stress to clients with ADHD. This may cause them to hyper fixate on the circumstance and cause further anxiety to the client. This is why, if you set deadlines, it is important to stick to them.
- Be sensitive and open minded
My final and overarching advice is to be sensitive and open-minded. Individuals with ADHD experience the world differently to neurotypical people. Some situations that neurotypical people may deem to be relatively stress-free, may be extremely stressful to individuals with ADHD and vice versa. This difference in perspective can be challenging for some to understand, but that does not mean that they cannot be open-minded to educate themselves or to be considerate of those with ADHD.
Emotional dysregulation is also a significant symptom of ADHD, this means that individuals with ADHD may have heightened emotional reactions. This is because people with ADHD are more likely to experience a build-up of high stress levels, leading to more intense emotional responses. Being patient and understanding to these reactions can make a big difference to your client’s experience.
In conclusion, neurodiverse individuals perceive the world around them in different ways and each client is unique. The above tips are small ways to help clients feel more comfortable within your office, and to make them feel more secure is using your service. These small steps all help to make a larger positive difference.
At Jackson Lees, we take pride in our ability to understand and cater to the needs on neurodivergent individuals. You can find out more about our firm and the services we offer at: https://www.jacksonlees.co.uk/
Written by Shea Carson is a Court of Protection Paralegal at Jackson Lees Group