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Discovering you have a neurodiverse condition in adulthood

In recent years, understanding and awareness of neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD, autism, and learning difficulties in adults have increased. With information and resources available to us 24/7, we can now at a click of a button research symptoms, experiences, and behaviors that we may be struggling with. Social media can be helpful in raising awareness for such conditions that many people may have missed in childhood.

Discovering you may have a neurodivergent condition such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia in adulthood can be both a relief and a worry. On the one hand, you may finally understand why you have struggled all these years with certain tasks, but at the same time may be frightened that you will be treated differently because of this.

Here are some conditions that you may be diagnosed with in adulthood, and the signs to look out for.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)

Autism spectrum disorder is an umbrella term that has combined conditions that are on the spectrum—such as Asperger’s—into one diagnosis.

ADDitudemag explains that severe autism is most likely going to be diagnosed in early childhood – however, high functioning autism may go misdiagnosed for years. People with autism struggle socially and with communicating. Those with autism may also experience the following in adulthood either at work or in their personal life:

  • struggling with what others are thinking or feeling.
  • struggle to read social cues, or facial expressions when having conversations.
  • finding it hard to keep emotions balanced and/or to express emotion.
  • going off on a tangent during a conversation.
  • speaking in monologues.
  • doing repetitive or routine behaviors.
  • finding life is restricted by certain activities; not wanting to go out of your routine or try something new.
  • taking things literally or finding certain phrases confusing, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs,” “break a leg,” or “you’ve missed the boat.”
  • liking everything to be in its place either at home or at your desk at work.
  • struggling to maintain eye contact.

If you feel like you might have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and it’s influencing your work, reach out to someone in your organization that you trust, such as your manager or human resources department for further guidance.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterized as having difficulty with concentration or paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. If you think you have adult ADHD, the chances are you had all the symptoms as a child, but they were either mild or went unnoticed.

In some people, as they reach adulthood their hyperactivity may have lessened but they still can experience other symptoms. ADHD can interfere with work, relationships, and home life. You deserve to get help for you ADHD if you suspect you may have it. Contact your health professional today.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adulthood include:

  • being impulsive and taking risks.
  • having trouble planning.
  • being disorganized, even when you try not to be.
  • procrastinate getting work or tasks done.
  • struggling to finish tasks once you have started.
  • finding it hard to focus.
  • being forgetful and are constantly losing things.
  • difficulty managing time efficiently or effectively.
  • often feeling restless or fidgety.
  • interrupting people talking and finding you talk excessively.
  • finding it hard to manage your emotions.
  • becoming frustrated easily and blowing up over small things.

ADHD can be a challenge in the work environment or at a place of education for the above reasons. It is important that you speak to someone at your workplace or institution about making accommodations or adjustments for you. Disability laws may entitle you to certain accommodations. These adjustments can look like this:

  • having flexible work arrangements so you can take breaks when necessary.
  • extra time to complete work.
  • a quiet desk space to do your work if you are in an office.
  • extra time for exams if you are a student.

A formal diagnosis is required for this to be agreed, so it is important to speak to your health professional for more information about this or visit CHADD for more information.

Dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia

Dyslexia. This is a learning difficulty which causes problems with spelling, reading, and writing. Dyslexia can affect you day to day and you may have problems at work or school. Common signs of dyslexia include:

  • reading and writing very slowly.
  • mixing words or seeing letters back to front.
  • having trouble with planning or organization.
  • finding it hard to take in written information or instructions.

This can understandably cause difficulties at work as it may take you longer to process and act on instructions given to you. There is help available, so speak with your manager or human resources department, or visit the International Dyslexia Association for more support and resources.

Dyscalculia. You may be experiencing dyscalculia as an adult if you struggle with numbers, including telling the time, calculating change, or struggling to make and stick to a financial budget each month. As a child, you may have struggled with math but got by, and as an adult didn’t really need to use math or relied on your computer or calculators for help. You probably took a job that doesn’t deal with numbers or statistics; however, you still may struggle day to day. Here are some common signs:

  • struggling with daily activities that involve numbers e.g., estimating how long a task will take, budgeting your money, or estimating a distance.
  • relying on addition and struggling to work out more complex math, e.g., how much 20% off would be if shopping.
  • poor sense of numbers and estimation, e.g., when at the cash register.
  • basic math ‘facts’ are hard to grasp.
  • having no idea if any of your calculations are correct or not.
  • slow at calculations.
  • struggling or unable to do mental arithmetic.
  • experiencing high levels of anxiety with numbers.
  • difficulty or inability to work out a monthly budget or find it hard to balance your expenses.

It is often the case that people who struggle with numbers also have signs of dyslexia too, and vice versa. If you want to find out what resources your employer can offer you, speak to your manager or human resources.

Discovering you have autism, ADHD, or a learning difficulty in adulthood can be challenging. However, there are positives too. It may be a relief for you to realize why you have been struggling all these years, and now you can take steps to support yourself as an adult and get the help you deserve that may not have been available or offered to you as a child. You can also find helpful resources at