What does neurodiversity look like?

By Rebecca Smith • 14 March 2023

Work It Out helped me build on my strengths

I’m extremely fortunate to have received support from the Young Women’s Trust Work It Out service. I was feeling completely lost after being fired for the fifth time – I’d had a decade of instability with jobs and multiple periods of burnout. I had a lightbulb moment that I might have ADHD and had just received a diagnosis when I signed up to Work it Out. I didn’t know what it meant for me and my future was uncertain. My coach helped me to build on the strengths I already have and encouraged me to find a company that celebrates neurodiversity. I’m now thriving in a high-pressure corporate career – which is something I never thought I’d be able to do! I want to show people that this is what disability looks like. You have immense potential and with the right support, you absolutely can thrive.

Overcome challenges with the right support

My manager at work is also super supportive. She trusts me to do my work and gives me the flexibility I need to do it.

I’m also lucky to have supportive parents. They encouraged me to go to university and kept me afloat when I was between jobs which was often pre-diagnosis!

Because I am finally financially stable, I am planning to buy a house. I am confident and I can hold my head up high. My physical health is much better – I had chronic pain due to the stress of ‘holding everything together’ and this has now gone! I’m thriving, not just surviving, and I want to channel this energy into helping others and giving back to society.

By sharing my experience, I want to show other young women that it’s possible to overcome the challenges we face with the right support.

Changing attitudes around neurodiversity

I think there’s a long way to go when it comes to changing attitudes around neurodiversity, particularly in the workplace. In my experience, it’s hard to understand what your needs are and what your employer’s responsibilities are when it comes to accommodating them. This makes it hard to advocate for yourself. The law states that your employer needs to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabilities but this leaves a lot open to interpretation. It would help if employers had a greater awareness and understanding of how to accommodate disabled people, informed by the lived experience of a diverse range of people.

A lot of managers, teachers and healthcare professionals noticed I was struggling but couldn’t understand why. They just didn’t have the awareness of how ADHD presents in women and girls. I could ‘mask’ my symptoms fairly well, got good grades and wasn’t disruptive, so I wasn’t ‘bad enough’ to warrant much attention. Inside though, it was a different story and I didn’t have the language or awareness to express what was going on. I experienced chronic pain, burnout, depression and anxiety. Had I been diagnosed earlier, it would have saved me a lot of pain.

If you know a young woman and want to do more to support her, I’d say listen to her! Value her ☺️ don’t put limits on her- she can do anything with the right support.

See also

Support for access to work if you have a health condition

What are reasonable adjustments at work?

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