Less Well-known Types of Neurodivergence and their Impacts on Health and Work

This month, we’re going to focus on some of the less well-known types of neurodivergence and their impacts on health and work.


Because May 3 – 9 is Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week and May is also Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month; Better Sleep Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. This is our contribution to raising awareness about these important issues.


Tourette Syndrome Text and medicine container

Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week

 Tics and Tricks: How Adults with Tourette Syndrome Navigate the World of Work

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a type of neurodivergence that causes involuntary muscle movements and vocalisations called tics, which can vary in type, frequency and severity.

TS often co-exists with other neurodivergent profiles such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and learning difficulties.

TS affects about 1% of the population and usually starts in childhood but can persist into adulthood. Many adults with TS face challenges in finding and retaining employment, as well as coping with stigma and discrimination.

One of the greatest challenges a person with TS experiences in the workplace is managing the responses and behaviours of others. Bullying, being ostracized, mimicked or teased or being asked inappropriate questions, can make work a psychologically harmful environment.

Multi-award winner, singer/songwriter 21 year old Billie Eilish said of her TS that “The most common way that people react is they laugh because they think I’m trying to be funny. And I’m always left incredibly offended by that.”

Whilst coprolalia (uncontrollable outbursts of obscene language) and echopraxia (unexpected, complex motor tics) are extremely rare, where there is a risk of these occurring the worker with TD must be offered support and reassurance and encouraged to work with the employer to manage any risk. These presentations are the exception and not the rule and it is a mistake, and a discriminatory practice for an employer to assume that a person with TD is not fit to be employed because of these rare presentations.

For more information check out the Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia Inc. HERE…

Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia – A support network for those with Tourette Syndrome and their families.

Mother and child zebras

Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes Awareness Month

Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: How to Manage Symptoms and Work Challenges

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a rare genetic disorder that affects the connective tissues that support the skin, joints, blood vessels, and other organs. People with EDS have weak and elastic connective tissues that cause various problems, such as joint dislocations, skin fragility, vascular rupture, and chronic pain.

EDS has no cure, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. These treatments include pain relievers, blood pressure medications, surgery, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Why is this relevant to neurodivergence?

Studies suggest that there is a higher prevalence of ADHD, Autism and Tourette Syndrome amongst people with EDS than the general population although the reasons are not known, and more research is needed in this area.

It can cause problems for people who work, such as pain, fatigue, memory loss, anxiety, and stigma. These problems can affect how well they do their job, how happy they are with their job, how often they miss work, how long they stay in their job, and how they grow in their career. However, people with EDS can still work and achieve their goals if they get the right help, such as treatment, adaptation, and support.

The EDS community uses a zebra print logo to represent their condition. The zebra is a symbol of EDS because doctors often look for common causes of symptoms rather than rare ones, as the saying goes “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras”. However, people with EDS have many different and complicated symptoms, and they may have an uncommon type of EDS. So, they are the zebras among the horses, and they use the zebra print to make people aware and show support for their condition.

For more information check out Ehlers-Danlos Australia at Ehlers-Danlos Australia (ehlersdanlosaus.com) 

Better Sleep Month

Better Sleep Month is a campaign by the Better Sleep Council to promote the benefits of good sleep and how to achieve it. Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health and productivity, but many factors can interfere with it, such as stress, diet, and environment.

Better Sleep Month provides tips and resources to help people improve their sleep habits and quality, such as following a regular sleep routine, avoiding stimulants and alcohol at night, making the bedroom comfortable and dark, reducing daytime naps, and coping with stress. Better Sleep Month also urges people to assess their sleep needs and problems, and to seek professional help if they have difficulty sleeping or have sleep disorders.

Neurodivergent people may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or have irregular sleep patterns or rhythms. They may also have restless legs or movements, breathing problems, insomnia, narcolepsy, or night terrors. These sleep problems can have various causes, such as sensory issues, anxiety, medication, melatonin, genes, other conditions, or lack of support.

It is important for employers to understand this when managing fatigue related risks at work.

For more information check out Sleep Health Foundation – Australia’s Leading Advocate for Healthy Sleep

Mental Health Awareness Month

Neurodivergence and Mental Health in Adults: What You Need to Know

Neurodivergent people face many challenges in a society that is designed for neurotypical people, or those who have the dominant or expected way of thinking and behaving. The incidence of mental health conditions amongst the neurodivergent population is 50% as opposed to 25% in the neurotypical population.

These mental health challenges can affect their mental health and well-being, especially in the workplace. Some of the common mental health issues that neurodivergent people may experience are:

Anxiety: Neurodivergent people may feel anxious about social situations, sensory overload, changes in routine, or expectations from others. They may also have difficulty coping with stress or uncertainty and worry about their work performance and employment security.

Depression: Neurodivergent people may feel depressed due to low self-esteem, isolation, discrimination, or lack of support. They may also struggle with finding meaning or purpose in their lives.

Burnout: Neurodivergent people may experience burnout from trying to fit in, mask their differences, or meet unrealistic demands. They may also feel exhausted from coping with their challenges or managing their emotions.

PTSD: Neurodivergent people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from experiencing trauma, abuse, bullying, or violence. They may also have difficulty processing or healing from their trauma.

These mental health issues can affect the performance, productivity, and satisfaction of neurodivergent workers. They can also lead to absenteeism, turnover, or disability.

It is important to raise awareness and understanding of neurodivergence and mental health in the workplace. Employers and co-workers should respect and accommodate the needs and preferences of neurodivergent workers. They should also provide a safe and supportive environment where neurodivergent workers can thrive and contribute their unique skills and talents.

Check out the range of FREE mental health resources that are available at Beyond Blue, and to learn more about the employer’s responsibilities to ensure the psychological health and safety of workers, you can find the new Code of Practice, a communications kit, presentation and much more on the Worksafe Queensland website.

The Neurodiversity Workplace Profiler, now available in Australia via The Neurodiverse Safe Work Initiative is a is a tool that helps neurodivergent workers and their employers understand their unique neurodivergent make up as well as identifying their strengths and challenges. It can provide the employer with a roadmap to be able to assess and manage the workplace risks that the neurodivergent worker experiences differently.


Want to hear me speak?

If you’re an employer, OHS professional or just generally interest to know more about the strengths and challenges of neurodivergence at work, why not register for this Webinar, hosted by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) on Thursday 4 May at 2.30p, (AEST). Certified members of the AIHS will receive 5 CPD points for their attendance. You can find out more here.

If you fancy a quick trip across the Tasman to Wellington, New Zealand why not register for the Australian Psychological Society 2023 Members’ Symposium from 19 – 21 May at which I will be presenting. APS members will receive 15 approved CPD hours for attendance. You find out more and register here.

Finally, if you haven’t already, check out the Neurodiverse Safe Worker and Neurodiverse Safe Work Employer private Facebook Groups to connect with others and start building these communities. I’d like start growing a vibrant community of neurodivergent workers and employers interest to learn more so I’m throwing a challenge out there to send an invitation or link to 5 of your contacts to join these groups and start to follow our work.

It is only by sharing our experiences and talking openly about our neurodivergence that we can start breaking down the stigma that’s cause by a lack of awareness and flawed assumptions.


Catherine Lee (She/Her)­

Director and Founder

RN dipOHN GradCertMgt GradDipOHS COHSProf

The Neurodiverse Safe Work Initiative

Cathy with mic - public speaking and training

Our Address

PO Box 502
North Lakes Qld 4509



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