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Neurodiversity staff profiles

Catherine Butler, Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Hi, I’m Catherine, Senior Lecturer in Psychology. I was diagnosed dyslexic in the first term of my undergraduate degree. At school I had always been told I was lazy or stupid and was often in the lower set, so my diagnosis was a relief and it was the first time someone said I must be bright to have got as far as I had without any support. Thank you to that assessor and to my psychology tutor for telling me to go and get an assessment.

This new understanding of what was going on for me changed everything and reignited my love of learning and study – so much so that I have completed 3 degrees, started an MBA that I decided not to finish, and I have been a lecture for over a decade. I love how much dyslexia has forced me to think outside of the box and lead to innovations and a unique ability to connect with others. It also helps me listen carefully to my students with ILPs and help them plan their learning journey to make the most of their time at university.

My 10 year old has also just been diagnosed with dyslexia, and I am fierce at making sure the school are providing her with the support she needs so she does not have the same experience as me in school. My advice would be to feel pride that your brain is wired uniquely, enjoy the different perspectives this gives you and push for the support you need to excel in what you are learning.

Garrick Taylor, Senior Lab Manager

I volunteered to write this bio weeks ago, and then I got distracted and forgot. Then I remembered, and resolved to do it just after I completed a quick task. The “quick” task took me 3 hours. I was too mentally exhausted to do it after, so decided to do it first thing the next morning and even put it in my calendar. When I was almost at work I realised I’d forgotten my bag with my laptop and everything else I needed in it, and had to turn around and go back home to get it. I finally got into work but was going to be late for my first meeting of the day. Now it had slipped my mind for weeks, until I was kindly reminded that I volunteered. I’m now writing it. In case you haven’t guessed, I have ADHD, and the above is quite a typical occurrence.

I came to Exeter as a Senior Laboratory Manager in 2018, and I had just been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 38.
Like many adults diagnosed with ADHD and other neurodiverse conditions, diagnosis followed a major life event where the coping mechanisms I had built up over my life broke down and I sought help. As well as ADHD, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia.

Career and Education

I have a degree in Pharmacology and PhD in Biochemistry. Before coming to Exeter, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford Uni before going into lab management. I was also a retained firefighter at the same time.

Diagnosis was a lightbulb moment, lots of things about the way I was suddenly made sense. I had always felt an outsider at school, and was bullied a lot. Rather than being the talkative, excitable teenager you’d expect someone with combined-type ADHD to be, by the time I reached the end of senior school, I barely spoke for fear of the consequences of doing so.

Although, I found the social side of school hard, I excelled at the academic side. I found everything (apart from maths), incredibly interesting and now know that I hyper-focussed on subject areas I liked.

I found my A-levels incredibly hard as they required constant study at levels of detail that my non-detail-oriented mind just struggled with. I dropped out and went to sea, as you do…Eventually, I went back to my studies and completed my bachelor’s degree, and then on to my PhD.


Medication was life-changing, for the first time in my life I could do the boring things, like housework. Additionally, it massively helped with my impulsivity and tolerance levels. I could almost pass as neurotypical, almost…

However, medication isn’t a magic bullet. I have fallen into the trap of thinking that if I took my meds, I could control the symptoms I wanted to control. However, stress and tiredness can massively reduce the effectiveness of medication and so it can be all too easy to become “symptomatic” again. This can be challenging for neurotypical colleagues. I certainly discovered this when my daughter was born, and a good night’s sleep became just a distant memory.

Medication will only help with some aspects of ADHD, those with ADHD still think differently to neurotypical people. There is also the fact that ADHD is highly hereditary, if you have it, you have likely grown up in a household where several family members have had it. This means that typical ADHD traits, such as openness, impulsivity, risk taking and thrill-seeking behaviour can just be normal in your family. No amount of medication is going to undo the personality you developed because of that. Nor should it.


There are, of course, the everyday challenges that affect most people with ADHD such as organisational skills, forgetfulness and getting lost but these days in a world of GPS enabled smartphones, online calendars and task lists these can be handled. The main challenges for me are interactions with other humans.

There are still a lot of prejudiced views about neurodiverse conditions, people who feel that it’s okay to be neurodiverse as long as you act neurotypically, which can result in bullying, exclusion and isolation in the workplace and elsewhere if you don’t conform to this. I have felt in the past that I’ve quickly been identified as ‘other’ and excluded.

Like with autism, outdated views of ADHD are still abundant. Many people don’t even realise that ADHD persists into adulthood, and they certainly don’t understand how it manifests in adults. Adults with ADHD are often labelled as inappropriate, oversharing, rude, lazy, daydreamers and a host of other negative descriptions that all stem from ADHD traits.

I think my dark sense of humour and tendency to self-mock can make it hard for others to see the seriousness in which I actually treat my work. I will never be able to match the neurotypical view of professionalism, which let’s face it, was created by the neurotypical for the neurotypical. To try just means that I’m unable to use my ADHDness to its full advantage. However, I’ve always believed in and achieved professional results.


My ADHD has always meant I see the bigger picture. As my mind is unable to effectively filter out incoming stimuli, I absorb everything that is going on around me without consciously processing it. This results in me getting intuitive feelings about things and taking action accordingly, which I’m convinced is my subconscious putting things together. It’s kind of like a spidey sense! I’m very goal oriented and If I find something interesting or challenging, I become hyper-focussed and I won’t stop until I reach my goal, this has allowed me to “make the impossible, possible”. I’ve achieved things that someone with the massive issues with co-ordination that dyspraxia brings just shouldn’t be able to achieve on paper. Winning national sporting championships and competing for Great Britain in international competitions.

In a work-based environment, this determination combined with my different way of looking at things, has meant that I’ve come up with solutions that just didn’t occur to other people. Likewise, in threatening/hazardous situations, the hyperfocus this brings allows me to remain calm and deal with it.

My openness about my own life has always encouraged people to talk about their own difficulties with me, and although being open can leave you vulnerable to attack if you trust the wrong person, I would never change this aspect of myself, even if I could, because of the environment of trust and mutual support that it fosters. Most of my best friends are former work colleagues.

I’m lucky enough to have found a career that I love and plays to my strengths and would encourage anyone with ADHD who is reading this to not waste time on roles that don’t play to your own. There are plenty of jobs out there that are suited to people with ADHD, roles even where not having ADHD is going to be a disadvantage!

Professor Darren Croft

Prof. Darren Croft discusses his journey to academia and the way in which his dyslexia shaped this journey.