Underresearched & Undiagnosed

For our Underresearched & Undiagnosed campaign, we’re working with writer and broadcaster Chanté Joseph to raise awareness of the fact that certain sectors of society, such as women and people of colour, are far less likely to have their neurodiversity diagnosed. For example, in the UK, it has been found that Asian school pupils are half as likely to be identified with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) as white British pupils. Black people also tend to be diagnosed later and less often, and are frequently misdiagnosed: autism tends to be misdiagnosed as ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Coupled with the fact that women, and especially BAME women, are much more likely to engage in ‘masking’ – when someone hides the true extent of their symptoms – it’s even more apparent that there’s a real lack of focus on them as a demographic. Together, we’re encouraging those who think they are neurodiverse to seek support and prompt employers and other institutions to offer this to them.

Chanté Joseph is known for her wit, community activism and successful career as a writer, content creator, and TV presenter. Less known, however, is the difficulty she faced on her path to success. Only receiving a diagnosis of ADHD in October 2020, Chanté struggled from childhood throughout education and into her adult life to conform to one-size-fits-all work and learning environments. Her relationships and friendships also took a toll from her RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria) as a result of her ADHD.

In her school years, she found it difficult to focus on her learning, especially when it came to repetitive tasks. What’s more, being a young Black girl, her hyperactivity and distraction was dismissed as poor behaviour, with teachers labelling her as a “bad student”. Despite this, Chanté found that outside the constraints of academia she flourished, taking part in extracurricular activities such as leading community activism and volunteering initiatives, as well as cheerleading, dance, and music.

Her strengths lay in her creativity and public speaking, and although her brilliance is now evident, the overlooking of Chanté (and many other people like her) in neurodiversity can be attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, Chanté’s personal identity doesn’t fit the current public perception of what a person with ADHD looks like. In media and conversations around the condition, the image evoked is often of a white boy with an inability to sit still in class; wrongly, ADHD is imagined as a behavioural issue and often treated as such.

Furthermore, literature and research around neurodiversity holds the work of predominantly white, male researchers who often use participants that reflect their identities as gospel. Research has historically overlooked women and those from differing ethnic backgrounds, with results from a select group of participants assumed as the status quo – though this is not an issue unique to neurodiversity.

Secondly, Chanté believes her extracurricular accomplishments were subconscious excuses by educators as to why “there was nothing wrong with her”, even though her severe struggles were causing a dependency on caffeine pills as she attempted to study for 12 hours daily. Unfortunately, ADHD and other learning conditions are sometimes viewed through a lens of absolutism that assumes these individuals will struggle in every area of life. Achievements such as Chanté’s are therefore seen as justifications for non-diagnosis. The reality is, ADHD or other neurodiverse conditions are no indication of the intellect or level of success that an individual can achieve.

Her difficulties focusing didn’t end after university, with Chanté struggling in her internships within business environments such as Google and the Bank of England. At Google, the free food, yoga, gym, and sleep pods, amongst other ‘work perks’, were exciting for many interns, but a nightmare for Chanté who found herself overstimulated and struggling to focus during work hours. Her experiences, especially with management that didn’t recognise her struggles, reminded her of her time in school – leaving her feeling small and low on confidence.

Her diagnosis came after a string of internships, while at her longest full-time job at an agency. She had seen online the experiences of other Black women who also struggled with ADHD during the pandemic, prompting her to go for an assessment. Her employer at the time covered the costs of the assessment, but the process took so long that by the time she had completed it and received her diagnosis, she had left her job.

Since then, Chanté has worked on a freelance basis, which she says gives her more control over how she works outside the rigid structures of a typical work environment. She’s since gone on to take on projects in journalism, broadcasting, social media, panel hosting and a plethora of events. Her diagnosis hasn’t solved all her issues – finding medication and therapy that works for her has been time-consuming and expensive – but it has helped her to understand her body better, recognise when she’s “drifting away” and take the steps to realign herself. She credits medication, therapy and her community of neurodiverse Black women for the progress she’s been able to make in managing her ADHD.

On advice she would share with those in a similar position, “I know it becomes really difficult to separate yourself from these really horrible things, because you just don’t believe that you’re working hard enough. But actually, you are, and you just work differently. Once you get into the groove of understanding what works for you, it will be amazing. But first, you have to be kind, and you have to be honest. And it’s not stuff that you have to show other people necessarily, but just to yourself. Listen to your body more, and be kind.”

Partnership with the BAME Apprentice Network

Cognassist are very excited to announce the launch of their partnership with the BAME Apprentice Network. The BAME Apprentice Network are dedicated to closing the diversity gap in apprenticeships, a cause we are totally aligned with.

More info to come soon!


From Chanté:

From Cognassist:

Handbook: How to support Neurodiverse learners

Download the handbook for access to information that can help you to identify and support Neurodiverse traits in either yourself or someone you know.

If you’re interested in the handbook but don’t have a work or education email address, just let us know at marketing@cognassist.com