Celebrating neurodiversity with Nicky and Kirsty Campbell

Broadcaster Nicky Campbell and his daughter Kirsty share more than a familial connection: they both have a diagnosis of ADHD. Now, the duo are hoping to raise awareness of the need for understanding and why it’s important to seek support as they prepare to host the Celebrating Neurodiversity Awards.

Kirsty and Nicky. Pic credit: Nicky Campbell

When broadcaster Nicky Campbell was 60-years-old, he was diagnosed with ADHD, but the move to see a specialist and get a diagnosis didn’t come solely from his own quest for answers, his daughter Kirsty, who is one of four girls, urged him to go. Kirsty was 15-years-old when she received an ADHD diagnosis herself, something which changed her academic life almost overnight. She had recognised traits in her dad and wanted him to have the same understanding and support that she was privy to. 

Their story might not be new to you: in September 2022 Kirsty joined her dad on his podcast, Different, alongside Iain Lee who, like Nicky, has ADHD and bipolar. The episode gave an insight into living with ADHD, but also fuelled the father-daughter duo’s appetite to raise awareness of the need for support. 

Conversation

The conversation around neurodiversity and inclusion is growing thanks to people in the public eye speaking out about their experiences and helping to diminish any remaining stigma around diagnoses like ADHD. While this is the case, there’s still more work to do to inform people, and Nicky and Kirsty are taking this a step further as the hosts of this year’s Celebrating Neurodiversity Awards from Genius Within

“I think one of the great things about these awards and interviews like this is that people might see them or read it and this will resonate with them,” enthuses Nicky. “After doing a phone in on the radio about ADHD I had a mother get in touch and say everything we talked about sounded like her son and where could she get support. I think that shows the power of public conversation so hopefully we can keep doing that.” 

The awards were created by Genius Within to celebrate the achievements of neurodivergent thinkers along with the organisations that support them. Each year the awards have gone from strength to strength, and this year they will be a hybrid event, held both in person and streamed online on 28 September 2023.

Nominations are now open and don’t close until 23 June at 23:59, so there’s plenty of time to work on your entry. You can nominate individuals, organisations or projects using the online nominations platforms, it is possible to nominate yourself or another organisation and it is free to enter. To make the awards as accessible as possible, nominations can be completed as written, video or audio answers.

This year, there are 10 categories including the Stereotype Buster Award; the ND Achiever Award; the Inclusion Project Award; the Community Choice Award; and new for this year, the Young Achiever Award.

Transformative

Before Kirsty received a diagnosis, focusing in school and achieving academic success felt near impossible, but within weeks of starting tablets that help her focus, her grades improved. She went on to do extremely well in her GCSEs and is now studying at university. 

“When I was at school I think I was always seen as quite disruptive because I was loud and I didn’t really have a filter, I really struggled to focus,” reveals Kirsty. “I used to sit there and not know what was happening. I had bad anxiety which can come with ADHD and I used to think something bad was going to happen all of the time to my family or even my dogs. 

“I started speaking to someone about those feelings and they said ‘actually, I think you might have ADHD’. After I got a diagnosis it completely changed the way I was in school and with everything.” 

Nicky and Kirsty’s experience of being so close and sharing a diagnosis while their condition affects them both in different ways speaks to how unique an ADHD diagnosis can be. Luckily, after his own diagnosis Nicky had an expert close by to help him navigate this new information. 

“When I got that diagnosis I already had Professor Kirsty Campbell from the University of ADHD there,” jokes Nicky. “She has all of the information and understands everything about it, and she always used to say to me you definitely have ADHD.” 

Different

Armed with their own experiences, Nicky and Kirsty are always keen to highlight that ADHD can present differently in each individual, and that currently we need better access to the diagnosis pathway and support. 

“It is sometimes seen as a sort of blanket term, but it can be so different for everyone,” highlights Nicky. “We both have this hyper-focus when we start working, but I get lost all of the time, for example if I’m looking for the bathroom in a big building, whereas Kirsty doesn’t really have that.” 

“When I focus it’s like everything around me is going really fast like a time lapse, and actually that’s not a disadvantage for me because of my work, it actually suits my job perfectly,” adds Nicky. “I think I’m lucky that I’m doing something that my brain works with, because a lot of people aren’t that lucky, especially if they don’t get a diagnosis until they’re older and have been struggling in a career that doesn’t work for them.” 

Nicky and his daughters. Pic credit: Nicky Campbell

Kirsty has peers who also have ADHD and as she studies at university, she has seen the different ways that people cope with the pressures and stress of life in higher education, as well as seeing a change in herself as she learns more about her ADHD. 

“I’m at university with a girl that I’ve known all through school, since I was really young, and she has seen the whole progression I’ve been through,” explains Kirsty. “I definitely gravitate towards other people with ADHD, especially at uni. The more you speak to other people it helps you understand more about yourself and also the differences that are there. You can help each other to manage things and to talk about it.” 

By speaking out, using their platform and engaging with the media, celebrities and public figures are helping to destigmatise ADHD and other areas of neurodiversity, and from her own experiences, Kirsty believes there has already been positive change. 

“Without that diagnosis so many people can’t reach their potential,” stresses Kirsty. “I love my ADHD because it’s part of me and I don’t see it as a negative. I also know that I was so lucky to have support all around me and how powerful that can be. 

“There’s still this huge disparity where girls and women aren’t diagnosed as much or get a later diagnosis, so we need to understand that ADHD presents differently in people. We need the system to improve because otherwise, people won’t be able to get support and thrive.” 

Find out more about the awards at www.geniuswithin.org, and keep up with Nicky on Instagram and Twitter @NickyAACampbell 


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