Updated: May 16
This week we are delighted to introduce the eighth neurodivergent sportsperson we are shining a light on - George Eastwood!
Not only is George an ex-cross-country runner and a keen footballer, but he is also a neurodivergent coach! His lived experience of having Tourette's Syndrome and ADHD, and learning first hand how a neurodivergent person can best navigate sport, make him uniquely suited to his role as a coach and personal trainer to other neurodivergent people. George understands that certain aspects of sport can prove difficult for neurodivergent individuals to navigate, but that with the right understanding and support, they can and should access the multitude of benefits that come from being active and just 'moving'.
It's well known that neurodivergent individuals are more likely to suffer poor mental heath and/or substance abuse - especially those with ADHD, and it's also well known that sport and exercise can have incredibly positive impacts on a persons mental health and wellbeing. It therefore stands to reason that participating in sport and exercise could have further benefits for neurodivergent brains and bodies than those already established by neurotypical-based studies... yet this is a topic that's barely received any attention or research!!!
Why? Stigma perhaps? Nondisclosure?
Regardless of this shameful lack of research, I can confidently say that every neurodivergent sportsperson and/or athlete I've spoken to (and there have been many) has used sport and exercise as a tool to both mange their condition(s) and to bring their best self to other aspects of their lives. While the research is lacking, we should look to these role models as examples of what's possible.
It's fantastic that people like George are giving neurodivergent individuals the tools, support, and confidence they need to go to the gym, to join a club, or simply to exercise from home. But the onus shouldn't be entirely on the neurodivergent individual themselves to tackle further barriers beyond those already associated with their condition(s). We asked George how he thinks sport could be more neuroinclusive, and he shared a similar opinion to us: as much as we can try to empower the individuals, it's vitally important that sports organisations play their role. Now that neurodivergent individuals are starting to speak up and the information has become readily available, the organisations need to react accordingly. They need to ensure their facilities are more neuroinclusive, and they need to educate their staff and coaches.
Sport and exercise provide mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits; they help individuals discover practical self-management tools and techniques; they provide opportunities for people to enhance their social skills in safe and structured environments; and they provide positive outlets for hard to control thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Through sport, those who have previously been marginalised and dis-abled can instead be enabled and empowered. Who knows what a positive impact that could have on society as a whole...