Being a neurodivergent researcher: imposter ideas, doom-boxes and the tutorial 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 means of college which led him to his ADHD analysis. On this weblog, Josh expresses his dedication to boost consciousness for neurodiversity by suggesting instruments and suggestions to assist others, and challenges among the stigmas and myths related to neurodiversity.

I struggled to put in writing this weblog put up. After I sat down to put in writing it I’d preserve 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 doubtless we now have all felt them once in a while. However imposter ideas happen, and reoccur… and reoccur once more, way more incessantly for individuals who are inside marginalised teams (Bravata et al., 2020), corresponding to neurodivergent folks. And after grappling with these limitations for a number of failed writing classes, I believed maybe that will be the primary matter of this text. Together with this, I’ll discuss my journey to analysis, the formal assist obtainable, and assist from throughout the neurodivergent communities.

Regardless of a rising recognition of neurodiversity, those that determine as neurodivergent are nonetheless throughout the minority and prone to prevailing stereotypes about their persona or skill. I might in all probability add the next conversations to a weekly bingo card: “However for those who can sit and skim research all day how are you going to have ADHD?,” “however doesn’t everybody battle 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 difficulty.

Inside my expertise, neurodivergence can result in extremes when it comes to how a day feels, and the way productive you will be. There are days whenever you really feel filled with power, and able to undertaking something. You’re employed sooner 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 means of writing one thing or soar between duties shedding hours to activity transitions. On nowadays you are feeling ineffective, hours will fly by with out something to indicate for it. Ideas about not being ok to be a researcher happen on nowadays. Resulting in cycles the place the ideas make you are feeling powerless to do something, and never doing something to legitimise the ideas. The times whenever you get caught in these cycles really feel like a chore at greatest, it turns into like getting powerful meals marks out of a pan. You battle to maintain at it, and the temptation to go away it’s robust. At worst they change into days when your mind, and physique, merely wish to shut down as you change into consumed by guilt.

Cartoon taken from Gunshow comedian by KC Inexperienced (

Not all the things is doom and gloom nevertheless, and one thing that may actually assistance is realizing that you’re not alone. Earlier than my analysis I had felt fairly alone. In my hometown I had felt like I didn’t match properly, even when with buddies. I believed 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 all the time the energetic one or chaotic one, even when framed as a very good factor it highlighted the distinction. I could possibly be surrounded by folks 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 physician, that recognised my behaviours as ADHD indicators. Even with no formal analysis, after happening boards and seeing different folks’s experiences I nearly immediately felt much less alone on the earth. I noticed folks describe issues that I had felt like “time-blindness” or “doom packing containers.” I now had phrases to explain my expertise and a few solutions 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 unhealthy productiveness days, I do my greatest to be form to myself, and perceive it isn’t a mirrored image of my skill.

As for getting a proper evaluation. I selected to get assessed mid-way by means of my MSc, partly due to the assist it might open to me. Another excuse was that the nation I had been dwelling in beforehand nonetheless didn’t have an official analysis for grownup ADHD (and this was in 2020). The method of registering my analysis inside scholar providers 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 instances 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 additional 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 additional time to plan and organise my solutions, and time to recheck my solutions to verify I had totally learn and understood the query.

I consider speaking about neurodiversity is necessary, and particularly inside academia. Academia at instances can really feel like a monolith, one thing which solely a sure sort of particular person can acquire entrance. Many neurodivergent folks can really feel that they’re too unfocused and disorganised. And lots of conventional assessments assist this. Writing logically deliberate and methodical essays, whereas being concise, can appear inconceivable to folks whose brains aren’t designed to suppose linearly. Regardless of this nevertheless, there may be very a lot a spot in academia for neurodiverse folks. In response to 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 filled with studying or writing with no motivation. My very own ideas/strategies will not be a cure-all, and they’re principally taken from higher, extra skilled folks (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 a variety of weblog articles written by neurodivergent researchers and college students wanting 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 help me zone in on duties
  • Turning off notifications, together with Outlook.
  • Chrome plug-ins, like aware shopping 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.

Total, 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 lively communities and teams which might be pushing for change and larger illustration. In-terms of neurodiversity and incapacity, we now have a student-led marketing campaign group referred to as “Entry Sussex,” a Disabled College students Discussion board Discord server, and part-time Incapacity Officers throughout the SU. All of which give alternative for assist 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 assist actions for change. The BPS has some solutions for making universities extra neurodiverse pleasant ( What we now have is okay, however we want extra alternatives, areas to share, and illustration to proceed breaking down the academia monolith.

My identify 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 youngsters, and investigating the affect of faculty transitions. My purpose earlier than ending my PhD is to pilot a potential early intervention to alleviate physique picture dissatisfaction, ideally that may be delivered between friends inside college.

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 after 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 Therapy of Impostor Syndrome: A Systematic Overview. Journal of Basic Inside Medication, 35(4), 1252–1275.

Clance, P. R., & O’Toole, M. A. (1987). The Imposter Phenomenon: An inner 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.