So many questions, so little time…
I thought the section on disability within the BBC program ‘Question Time’ last night was great. If you haven’t seen it, I’d have a look, you can catch it on the good ole’ BBC iPlayer.
The comedian Rosie Jones had a brilliant message, and was an amazing advocate for those, like her, with cerebal palsy, and all other disabilities. We need people who have lived with hidden and non-hidden disabilities to speak out, both those that have the ear of the country, and also for those who speak to their community, their local circle or even just their family and friends.
I have often felt that I have the passion and experience to speak out for those with neurodiverse brains, but it can be a challenge to change preconceived ideas and mindsets in a 5 minute conversation (especially when you aren’t a neuroscientist or psychotherapist and struggle with recall!)
I think all you can do is your best, where you are, with who you are!
Employment was one of the big issue Rosie addressed, and I feel really strongly about this subject.
I have a Masters degree in music, and was forging that career despite my personal challenges (before this I had been job to job struggling). However, since my diagnosis and the global pandemic, I have lost this work and feel unable to find a job in the ‘real world’ that suits my need for constant breaks, changes on pace and subject (as boredom strikes), a specific environmental set up, some social time but also time alone etc.
In fact, pre-diagnosis, I have consistently been in jobs well below my ability or creative interest, which have left me bored and unsatisfied. They have also been just about or not at all manageable on and off in terms of my conditions.
I was in and out of work with lots of sickness absence, both mentally and physically and sometime thrived, sometimes appeared like an 8 year old, which confused everyone, and especially me! Social issues took all my energy, which of course were constant, with ASD.
Consistency was a major problem; ambition and intelligence but unknown neurodiversity made for a perfectly frustrating and depressing storm. It left me feeling incapable, wasted and hopeless.
The statistics for those unemployed with disabilities is absolutely appalling. Like Rosie referred to, the disabled have so much to give but it costs a little more time and money than those without, and this is part of the issue. Businesses aren’t willing to spend.
I have found a lot of people telling me that the awareness and rhetoric in businesses and society around neurodiversity and disability is improving. That’s great. But I don’t see the change on the ground.
Some companies, such as Google, deliberately hire those with ASD, as they value the aspects of positive traits that come with the condition, that are so well suited to the type of work they do. That’s great.
But not everyone is a “typical” neurodiverse (what some in society typically think it looks like). Even the view of neurodiversity can sometimes feel like its shaping into a new box for people to have to fit into e.g. super bright computer geek with a hyperfocus in one area.
What about all the other companies and other skills? What about those who have a thousand interests in a thousand different things and having their hand in lots of pies suits them? What about businesses in my street that I actually apply for? What about the thousands of applicants all vying for the same job – a job that requires “basics” such as being a good team player, flexible and quick thinking, for which I am none. When there are already a thousand people applying for one job, who is going to pick the person who has the potential to become one of the best at their job but would need extra time, support and understanding to help get them there?
But you and I have so much to give. I am creative, I think outside of the box, I have good ideas, I am a good speaker and writer despite my challenges with dyslexia and dyspraxia (it takes me longer and I have to check everything much more). Where is our place? I feel like I am bursting with potential that has sat inside of me for so long, and I KNOW many others with disabilities feel the same. We just need a leg up to get us to the same starting place as others. That’s all we need.
I don’t know how to fix this for me and everyone else. It will take a societal shift, but also the acceptance that if people don’t experience these challenges, with the best will in the world, it is just really really hard to fully appreciate how it feels. That is why we need advocates, and people who experience these things who will speak out, and work with society for a better space for those with a disability.
I both hate and appreciate the word disability. It feels derogatory and defeatist, and marginalises people. It also helps identify those that need extra support in certain areas.
We need to have a great understanding, reflection and acceptance of peoples’ real and major challenges living with these conditions, and I think that is the aim of the word.
But sometimes, it just marginalises people and makes them feel like a different species. We are all human, with different challenges, abilities and personalities. Yes, we need to highlight and acknowledge these MASSIVE differences that can make life so hard in certain areas for some people, including myself. On the one hand, my conditions make it really hard to function in the society we live in. One the other hand, brains that cause people to break sociatal norms are a problem because of societal expectations and norms.
I hate to make such definitive statements because with all these things there are often two truths that hang together to form a fair and moderate approach. It is challenging, particularly in written form, to cover all angles of any one subject.
Some societal norms are deeply appropriate and conditions need to be managed around them. However, we have to acknowledge that a literal physiological difference in brain function is not something someone can help or change. Yes conditions can be support, helped and managed but they will never go away, and there needs to be a balance, in which people are helped, supported and understood to be able to function well.
Side note from the program: interestingly Matt Hancock revealed that he is neurodiverse! He states he had dyslexia – he said that he was able to get by because of his maths skills and the help he received when he was finally diagnosed at age 18. Often those who are diagnosed later in life do so because their other skills, and/or their ability to mask their differences, or even the fact that they don’t fully fit into the diagnostic criteria conceal their neurodiversity. Anyway, this is now a new subject for the next blog! See you there 🙂
Does anyone have an career/unemployment disability/neurodiversity experience? I’d love to hear you stories, questions, challenges, tips and tricks, or just thoughts and ramblings! Comment below!