Being a neurodivergent researcher: imposter ideas, doom-boxes and the educational monolith

By Josh Francis

In recognition of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Psychology PhD scholar and neurodivergent researcher, Josh Francis has written about his experiences and private journey by college which led him to his ADHD prognosis. On this weblog, Josh expresses his dedication to boost consciousness for neurodiversity by suggesting instruments and proposals to help others, and challenges a number of the stigmas and myths related to neurodiversity.

I struggled to jot down this weblog publish. Once I sat down to jot down it I’d maintain questioning why I used to be writing it, not being an authority on both being a researcher or neurodivergent. Ideas like these are frequent, referred to as imposter phenomena or syndrome, it’s probably we’ve all felt them sometimes. However imposter ideas happen, and reoccur… and reoccur once more, way more incessantly for individuals who are inside marginalised teams (Bravata et al., 2020), similar to neurodivergent individuals. And after grappling with these limitations for a number of failed writing periods, I assumed maybe that may be the principle subject of this text. Together with this, I’ll discuss my journey to prognosis, the formal help obtainable, and help from inside the neurodivergent communities.

Regardless of a rising recognition of neurodiversity, those that determine as neurodivergent are nonetheless inside the minority and vulnerable to prevailing stereotypes about their persona or means. I might most likely add the next conversations to a weekly bingo card: “However in the event you can sit and skim research all day how are you going to have ADHD?,” “however doesn’t everybody wrestle to concentrate on their work,” or a remark about hyper-focus being a superpower. Such stereotyping coupled with an absence of range inside academia reinforces the imposter ideas. Imposter phenomena turns into an internalised barrier to achievement (Clance & O’Toole, 1987), and a barrier to productiveness one thing that may already be a problem.

Inside my expertise, neurodivergence can result in extremes by way of how a day feels, and the way productive you will be. There are days if you really feel stuffed with vitality, and able to engaging in something. You’re employed quicker and extra targeted than any of your friends, going hours with out shifting or taking your palms off the keyboard. Nowadays are uncommon. Extra days I lose focus halfway by writing one thing or bounce between duties dropping hours to activity transitions. On as of late you’re feeling ineffective, hours will fly by with out something to indicate for it. Ideas about not being adequate to be a researcher happen on as of late. Resulting in cycles the place the ideas make you’re feeling powerless to do something, and never doing something to legitimise the ideas. The times if you get caught in these cycles really feel like a chore at greatest, it turns into like getting robust meals marks out of a pan. You wrestle to maintain at it, and the temptation to go away it’s sturdy. At worst they grow to be days when your mind, and physique, merely need to shut down as you grow to be consumed by guilt.

Cartoon taken from Gunshow comedian by KC Inexperienced (

Not the whole lot is doom and gloom nevertheless, and one thing that may actually assistance is figuring out that you’re not alone. Earlier than my prognosis I had felt fairly alone. In my hometown I had felt like I didn’t match nicely, even when with mates. I assumed maybe it was my objectives weren’t aligned and I imagined at college I’d match. And I did a bit extra, however I used to be at all times the energetic one or chaotic one, even when framed as a great factor it highlighted the distinction. I could possibly be surrounded by individuals on the identical course, with the identical pursuits and nonetheless really feel remoted. Solely after my undergraduate diploma did I meet somebody, who occurred to be a health care provider, that recognised my behaviours as ADHD indicators. Even with no formal prognosis, after occurring boards and seeing different individuals’s experiences I nearly immediately felt much less alone on the earth. I noticed individuals describe issues that I had felt like “time-blindness” or “doom bins.” I now had phrases to explain my expertise and a few recommendations for what had helped others. Seeing my very own expertise mirrored in others not solely validated my expertise however gave me a deeper understanding of my very own thought and behavior patterns. Now when I’ve dangerous productiveness days, I do my greatest to be form to myself, and perceive it isn’t a mirrored image of my means.

As for getting a proper evaluation. I selected to get assessed mid-way by my MSc, partly due to the help it could open to me. One more reason was that the nation I had been residing in beforehand nonetheless didn’t have an official prognosis for grownup ADHD (and this was in 2020). The method of registering my prognosis inside scholar companies was fairly fast. The most important profit was the 7-day extension on deadlines I might get for essays. Particularly as a result of at occasions I’d have a number of essays due on the identical day. The additional week allowed me to concentrate on one essay and submit it on the deadline, after which the following week the opposite essay. As well as, I used to be allotted further time for exams. The additional time was very helpful because it helped alleviate the extraordinary time stress I really feel in examination situations, permitting me further time to plan and organise my solutions, and time to recheck my solutions to verify I had absolutely learn and understood the query.

I consider speaking about neurodiversity is necessary, and particularly inside academia. Academia at occasions can really feel like a monolith, one thing which solely a sure kind of particular person can achieve entrance. Many neurodivergent individuals can really feel that they’re too unfocused and disorganised. And plenty of conventional assessments help this. Writing logically deliberate and methodical essays, whereas being concise, can appear not possible to individuals whose brains aren’t designed to suppose linearly. Regardless of this nevertheless, there’s very a lot a spot in academia for neurodiverse individuals. In accordance with the Workplace for College students’ 2020 report 14.5% of scholars recognized as neurodiverse or disabled (Workplace For College students, 2020), whereas different stories estimate 20%. Such an quantity is to not be ignored, and thru remembering that as much as a fifth of these inside universities are neurodiverse we are able to really feel much less alone.

From Workplace for College students 2020 (

Speaking about experiences can also be useful for sharing methods to beat limitations like days stuffed with studying or writing with no motivation. My very own ideas/strategies aren’t a cure-all, and they’re principally taken from higher, extra skilled individuals (I like to recommend the next YouTube channels: How To ADHD, Dr Amina Yonis and Productiveness and ADHD). I observe teachers on Twitter to assist with my motivation, I like to recommend following neurodiverse researchers like @ZJAyres and the hashtags #DisabledInSTEM and #AcademicMentalHealth. I additionally learn loads of weblog articles written by neurodivergent researchers and college students desirous to share their experiences.

However the next have helped:

  • Textual content to speech software program for studying – if I’m studying visually and listening to what I’m studying my thoughts doesn’t wander as a lot.
  • Blocking out areas in my calendar for self-directed work and SPECIFYING what I’m engaged on.
  • Loud quick paced music may also help me zone in on duties
  • Turning off notifications, together with Outlook.
  • Chrome plug-ins, like aware looking or Momentum, to chop down on distracting websites.

Primarily something that helps me focus my mind on a single activity and restrict the temptation to swap to different duties. As a result of transitioning between duties, or having to re-remember what I used to be doing beforehand, is how I lose hours into the ambiance.

General, there’s a huge want inside academia for diversification (and honest diversification). Not only for neurodiversity of incapacity, however for race, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic standing, and way more. At Sussex we’re extra lucky to have energetic communities and teams which are pushing for change and larger illustration. In-terms of neurodiversity and incapacity, we’ve a student-led marketing campaign group known as “Entry Sussex,” a Disabled College students Discussion board Discord server, and part-time Incapacity Officers inside the SU. All of which offer alternative for help and neighborhood inside Sussex. As well as, many workers are open about their very own one thing and the limitations they face, which will be validating to listen to for a lot of college students. I actually encourage anybody studying this weblog to learn extra experiences of those that determine as neurodiverse, and help actions for change. The BPS has some recommendations for making universities extra neurodiverse pleasant ( What we’ve is okay, however we want extra alternatives, areas to share, and illustration to proceed breaking down the academia monolith.

My title is Josh, I’m a primary yr PhD researcher within the College of Psychology on the College of Sussex. My analysis space is surrounding physique picture dissatisfaction inside kids, and investigating the affect of faculty transitions. My purpose earlier than ending my PhD is to pilot a attainable early intervention to alleviate physique picture dissatisfaction, ideally that may be delivered between friends inside faculty.

Alongside my research I’m a scholar consultant for PGRs in Psychology, and member of Entry Sussex a student-led incapacity marketing campaign group ( And once I’m not working, I like taking part in board video games, crafting, and shopping for too many home vegetation.


Bravata, D. M., Watts, S. A., Keefer, A. L., Madhusudhan, D. Ok., Taylor, Ok. T., Clark, D. M., Nelson, R. S., Cokley, Ok. O., & Hagg, H. Ok. (2020). Prevalence, Predictors, and Remedy of Impostor Syndrome: A Systematic Evaluation. Journal of Normal Inside Drugs, 35(4), 1252–1275.

Clance, P. R., & O’Toole, M. A. (1987). The Imposter Phenomenon: An inside barrier to empowerment and achievement. Girls & Remedy, 6, 51–64.

College students, O. for. (2020, June 25). Disabled college students—Workplace for College students (Worldwide). Workplace for College students.