Could You Be Neurodivergent?

Identity, Mental Health

More and more moms I knew were getting diagnosed with ADD or ADHD later in life, so I set out to find out more. 

In this article we meet Shannon Kealey, whose journey with neurodivergence began in childhood, though it took years for her to recognize it. Raised by a family and children’s therapist who casually joked about her having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Shannon and her mother never pursued a formal diagnosis. Instead, they dismissed it as a personality quirk. Even when Shannon was diagnosed with type one diabetes at 11, her mental health needs remained overshadowed by the demands of managing her physical illness.

As Shannon grew older, she, like many girls, didn’t fit the stereotypical image of someone with ADD or ADHD. Rather than displaying hyperactive behaviors, she was labeled as “lazy” or not reaching her potential. This misperception is common among girls, who often learn to mask their neurodivergent traits to fit in socially.

It wasn’t until adulthood, after a successful academic career, that Shannon revisited the possibility of being neurodivergent. Struggling with gastrointestinal issues and stress, she finally sought a diagnosis, which led her to discover she had ADHD. Her story highlights the challenges adults face in recognizing and obtaining diagnoses for neurodivergent conditions.

The article also explores the process of diagnosis for both children and adults. While children may be identified through observations by teachers, adults often face more challenges due to overlapping symptoms with other disorders. Neuropsychological evaluations are crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.

Dr. Shané Teran, an organizational development psychologist, emphasizes the importance of understanding the triggers for neurodivergence, particularly in times of stress like the pandemic. She helps clients identify these triggers through talk therapy and develops personalized action plans.

Shannon’s experience underscores the transformative impact of receiving a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Despite initial misdiagnoses, she persisted in advocating for herself until she found the right support. Medication for ADHD significantly improved her ability to focus and manage her symptoms.

Finally I highlight the strengths associated with neurodivergent conditions and provide resources for individuals seeking diagnosis and support.

  1. Shannon Kealey:
    • Childhood experiences: Shannon’s early recognition of being different.
    • Lack of formal diagnosis: Her mother’s boyfriend’s casual dismissal of ADD, leading to a lack of pursuit for a diagnosis.
    • Overlapping challenges: Shannon’s diagnosis of type one diabetes overshadowing her mental health needs.
    • Gendered perceptions: Shannon, like many girls, not displaying typical signs of ADD/ADHD, leading to misconceptions and labeling as “lazy.”
    • Late diagnosis: Shannon’s journey to recognizing her neurodivergence well into adulthood.
    • Impact of diagnosis: Shannon’s experience with gastrointestinal issues and stress leading to seeking a diagnosis, eventually discovering she had ADHD.
  2. Dr. Shané Teran (Organizational Development Psychologist):
    • Trigger identification: Emphasizes understanding triggers for neurodivergence, particularly during stressful times like the pandemic.
    • Therapeutic approach: Utilizes talk therapy and personalized action plans to address triggers and manage neurodivergence.
  3. Abigail Wolf (Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner):
    • Diagnosis in children: Highlights the role of teachers in identifying neurodivergence in children, leading to evaluation by psychiatrists or neuropsychologists.
    • Comorbidities: Discusses common comorbid conditions associated with ADHD.
  4. Dr. Nicole Murray (Neuropsychologist):
    • Diagnostic process: Advocates for comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations to conclusively identify neurodivergent conditions.
    • Treatment planning: Works with patients to create life inventories and develop treatment plans tailored to individual needs.
    • Common behaviors: Identifies trouble with task completion, procrastination, inconsistency, and emotional or physical dysregulation as common symptoms.
  5. Jen Rice (Somatic Coach and Strategist):
    • Personal experiences: Discusses her own challenges in obtaining a formal diagnosis and the lack of specialists focusing on neurodivergence in women.
    • Coping strategies: Shares strategies for intentionally designing life to minimize triggers and accommodate neurodivergent traits.


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