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Neurodiversity in Turf

by TurfCareBlog

Neurodiversity in Turf is a very insightful blog which l hope will help bring a better understanding to us all on how we can better manage and maybe even identify certain conditions within our work place.

‘Neurodiversity’ is a term that describes differences in how our minds work. It is not a substitute for ‘disability’, it means that we recognise that certain conditions (for example, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism) do not need medically ‘fixing’ and are instead variations in the way we think. What has this got to do with turf? Well, ours is an industry which potentially contains higher numbers of people living with such conditions than in other professions.

Due to the challenges that diverse thinking can bring in certain settings (education, workplace, social) people can be drawn to environments where they feel less exposed and more comfortable, particularly if it means working alone.

However, thanks to some very brave and candid voices in the industry we know the career of turf management and its long hours, relatively low pay, and pressure to produce the best possible surfaces can impact mental health. Allied with an existing condition this can lead to a huge range of conflicting emotions in peoples’ minds as they manage their work/life balance. This article tries to bring some brief clarity to some of the terms you might have heard and are often inadequately explained in the media.

It might help you recognise what you or colleagues might be experiencing.  We sometimes hear ‘these did not exist when I was at school’ and suggestions this is part of a new age of being overly sensitive. These conditions did exist, we just did not recognise and support them like we can, and should, now.

Specific Learning Difficulty (SPLD) is a term given to quite a wide and varied group of conditions that impact how some people receive and process information;

Dyslexia is perhaps the most well-known SPLD. It relates to how people process language and is most evident in reading, writing, and spelling. There have been numerous examples of ‘celebrities’ sharing their dyslexia and how they feel it gives them huge creative advantages or problem-solving skills. No doubt they do, and there are compensations the brain can make for the condition, leading to potential strengths.

For most people with dyslexia, however, it is not a ‘benefit’. It makes many tasks challenging as we often require an ability to read, and process, written instructions regardless of the subject or task. People with dyslexia need support and strategies to navigate what can often be assumed is straightforward. Simply reading this article could be too much.

Dyscalculia is a similar type of SPLD to dyslexia but relates to numbers and the ability to calculate. We are surrounded by maths and challenges can be evident in what we may think of as simple things like keeping score in a game, or far worse, calculating fertiliser or spraying rates.

Dyspraxia impacts movement and co-ordination. Tasks requiring motor skills may be very challenging, for example tying shoelaces, the supposed ‘correct’ way to hold a pencil or riding a bike (it really is not ‘as easy as…’). The solution is not practice. People with dyspraxia may need to break down actions into smaller steps and adapt their use of tools.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which is characterised by restlessness, inattention, and impulsive activity among other aspects. If unrecognised it could be wrongly assumed to be ‘bad’ behaviour if seen in a child or being rude and disruptive in adults.

Autism is a condition that exists to varying degrees of severity and the term covers numerous other named diversities. Milder forms may give rise to social difficulties whereas more intense versions can see challenges for people that require constant support. Again, some media portrayals have not helped common understanding and you should not think that everyone with autism can recite vast lists or count cards in a casino, it is more that everyday encounters can take on great significance, stress, and concern.

These are of course very basic summaries, and there are great variations in severity, ability to cope, and response to these conditions. Some people may have a number of them to cope with. Many people may have progressed to adulthood without even knowing why certain tasks were so difficult. As we continue to have discussions on mental health in the turf industry just pausing a moment to consider whether someone has been given additional challenges in life and may need additional support, and greater tolerance, can be no bad thing.

Andy Carmichael on behalf of the TurfCareBlog community.

Managing of people and there and our conditions all start with awareness, so we hope at TurfCareBlog we are playing our part in this awareness. Please also see a blog we did on mental health earlier in the year – https://turfcareblog.com/why-l-left-the-turfcare-industry-but-returned/

We love to hear any experiences you may have on this subject, whether that be you or a work colleague if there happy for your to disclose. Please leave any replies in the comments box below.

Some useful links below for further reading.










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