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CWA speaks up for neurodiversity in women and girls


Aly Bunton's school report cards always said she had potential, if only she could apply herself and try harder.

"I could never study, I'd have trouble with concepts that other people seemed to get really easily, I always had a messy room, and I'd forget everything," Ms Bunton told AAP of her teenage years.

Ms Bunton always suspected she had ADHD but she didn't receive a formal diagnosis until last year, at the age of 33.

Her life has drastically improved since starting medication and understanding the way her brain works, but the late diagnosis was bittersweet.

"The number one thing is just being able to forgive yourself, so I'm not as hard on myself as I used to be," she said.

"There is a bit of grieving for the person that you could have been if someone had picked it up earlier."

Ms Bunton's story was a catalyst for the NSW Country Women's Association to improve public understanding of neurodiversity in girls and women, who are typically diagnosed later in life compared to boys and men.

During the CWA's annual awareness week, beginning on Sunday, the century-old organisation is calling for more recruitment and training of health professionals specialising in ADHD, particularly in country areas.

It also wants action on the high cost of diagnosis and treatment, better access to subsidised medication and research into the long-term effects of ADHD on girls and women.

NSW CWA president Joy Beames said the campaign continued the organisation's long tradition of striving to improve rural women and children's wellbeing.

"There's still such a serious lack of facilities and opportunities for rural people to get in touch with specialists - just to get an appointment with the GP sometimes takes six weeks," Mrs Beames said.

"It really is quite difficult sometimes to live in rural areas because you don't have the access to the facilities that people in the city do."

The campaign is a partnership with the ADHD Foundation, which has heard from an increasing number of women aged between 30 and 50 through its national helpline.

A Senate inquiry has been examining the barriers to consistent and timely diagnosis, including the particular challenges faced by women, and is due to report back in October.

Ms Bunton, a Sydney-based CWA member, said it cost thousands of dollars to be seen by specialists in the city and involved a four-month wait.

"This was my experience in the city - in the country it's so much worse," she said.

The 34-year-old corporate manager completed three university degrees while undiagnosed, an achievement that could have been easier with an earlier diagnosis.

"The awareness week is really helpful to make people stop and think about different people's behaviours," Ms Bunton said.

"I'm hoping that we can inspire change."