27 workplace adjustments to support neurodiversity in the workplace
“I felt liberated”: Alex’s Neurodiversity Story
Being diagnosed with autism as an adult is like slotting the last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, except this puzzle has been a lifelong endeavour where pieces were missing or didn’t fit together. It is a messy puzzle, but finally, the picture is becoming clearer.
I had always known I was different. Compared to everyone else, I felt like I was broken in some way. I often struggled at school and especially found difficulty in social situations. Sadly, like most children and teenagers with autism, I was bullied and ostracised. I knew that I could get a diagnosis had I pushed for it. However, I was acutely aware that public perception of the condition conjured up stereotypes that were exaggerated, misinformed and unkind, to say the least.
I knew being labelled with any kind of neurodiversity – especially if that became public knowledge to a large school – could spell disaster. My less benevolent peers would surely have latched on to this and used it as a new tool in their arsenal for bullying. Although I desperately wanted to know why I was different, the stigma and the repercussions were too much to handle.
In 2023, those thoughts seem so distant. Having worked at Cognassist for four years, I have come to realise that neurodiversity is something to be proud of; we are all different, and that difference should be celebrated. Working with people who have all had their own experiences of neurodiversity – I felt liberated and invigorated to seek out a diagnosis.
Although the process was lengthy and, at times, frustrating, it was worth it. The diagnosis came with a range of emotions, relief, validation, sadness and anger for the years I spent not allowing myself to get the support I needed earlier.
When I received my diagnosis, I shared it with friends, family and colleagues. To my delight, their responses were “Congratulations”, “I’m so happy for you!” or even “Welcome to the club.” People are more aware of neurodiversity these days and there has been such a positive leap forward in how we support and interact with neurodiverse people. Yet, only 29% of autistic people are in employment, according to the Office for National Statistics, citing a lack of personalised support and a lack of understanding of neurodivergent conditions from employers.
Getting a diagnosis for neurodiversity and knowing that I can speak freely and openly about it is a step in the right direction for all under the umbrella of neurodiversity. That’s why organisations in this space, like Cognassist and others, are so important because they give neurodiverse people the voices we so desperately need. Employers need to know that we can thrive in employment, given the right support and opportunities.
My puzzle is by no means complete. There’s still a lot to learn about myself, and there will be more to learn in supporting others too. Thankfully, it feels like awareness and public perception of neurodiversity are changing for the better, and I’m proud to be a very, very small piece in this movement.
If you, or someone you know, has had similar experiences, I hope this has helped you feel less alone and more empowered to seek out the support you need.
Trainee Product Owner at Cognassist
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