Category: Neurodiversity, Dyslexia, Disability and Neurodiversity, OCD, ADHD, Creative Communications
Ben Chalcraft is the Managing Director at VERCIDA Group and has been with the company for nine years.
In his role, Ben ensures the vision of the business is carried throughout each department and the direction of all activities are in line from a cultural, financial and productivity point of view.
This month we are investigating creative forms of communication in a bid to raise awareness around workers with neurodiverse characteristics and encourage businesses to consider how they can be more inclusive of them.
Ben was diagnosed with Dyslexia while at school and five years ago was diagnosed with a form of OCD.
“OCD is a way that your brain works in that its filters are not as equipped as others. Intrusive thoughts, over thinking, evading to anxiety disorders, are characteristics of it. Mine is not a physical OCD. Parts of it equate to physical but it’s mainly a mental OCD,” said Ben.
Ben’s Dyslexia means that reading is more difficult, words move on the page and he has trouble concentrating. But at the same time, his brain works extremely quickly. The downside of this is that, due to his conditions, he experiences sensory overload which can lead to his gluten levels dropping, causing a feeling of lethargy.
Ben’s medication acts as a beta-blocker and a serotonin enhancer but, like a lot of medications, it comes with side effects.
“Some side effects are that you don’t get overwhelmed by much which means you could come across as less engaging and connected to the emotional value of things. The positives are that they slow me down and anxiety is almost at the level of not being there,” said Ben.
As a person, Ben is warm, engaging and compassionate but in times of ill-health his personality can transform.
“When you suffer from an episode within an illness like this it can stop you relating to the world in a positive way. It can lead to mental ill-health and depression and worries around self-worth. It can make you very tired which means you may lack the ability to achieve what you set out. During those episodes, I may be allusive. It’s hard because people have an interpretation of you and if you change it they have to recalibrate how they treat you if they are unaware of your condition,” said Ben.
People with neurodiverse conditions such as OCD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are commonly associated with high levels of creativity and lateral thinking, which are characteristics that can bring significant value to businesses.
“I have a multi-level way of thinking and I can engage with lots of different things at the same time. The way I think allows me to have a fairly high degree of analysis and out-of-the-box thinking. When you have challenges that affect you differently to others you have to be creative to fit in. I’ve had to bypass systems that other people find natural and I’ve had to find innovative ways to get to conclusions,” said Ben.
So how do people become more aware of neurodiverse conditions and the challenges people from this community face?
“Diagnosis has a big part to play. People need to have some responsibility for getting themselves diagnosed. Maybe a modern millennial or Gen Z might have much more diagnosis’ happening but there’s still a large part of society who haven’t been able to diagnose.
“The world needs to be a safer place for difference. It’s time we gave people a platform where people can say ‘yes I have this, it’s not an excuse to take time off work, it’s a recognised condition’. People just want to feel they can contribute and keep self-worth and the ability to explain what they can and can’t do without discrimination,” said Ben.
So how does VERCIDA support those with neurodiverse conditions?
“We offer time out of the office to receive any counselling or cognitive behavioural treatments. We offer disclosure so we can make reasonable adjustments, like reducing work in times of need. Tech adjustments are also given to anyone that might need them. For Dyslexia, if you need special tech to read and do your job, that’s available. My colleagues are very supportive, they ask how I am and if I need support. We have a lot of open discussion.”
And what advice would you give to employers that want to be more inclusive of those with neurodiversity?
“My advice to employers is to make people feel safe and then you’ll get the reward. It’s the safety of being able to expose it that people need.”
When we asked what Ben would say to young people with neurodiverse conditions he said:
“You can have a normal life as a result of managing your condition/s and it can be part of your personality. You can have as many opportunities as other people.”