“How I Became an Autism Advocate After My Own Mid-Life Diagnosis”

As an AuDHD woman (autistic with ADHD) who was diagnosed later in life, I know what it’s like to be discriminated against and exploited, especially in the workplace, for my differences. It was those demeaning experiences that inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. to better understand invisible disabilities in professional settings, with the goal of helping organizations celebrate neurodivergent individuals of all abilities.

Earning my doctoral degree was no easy feat. From navigating social interactions and managing sensory sensitivities to coping with a learning disability, every step felt like a battle against the odds. I came face-to-face many times with imposter syndrome, intrusive thoughts, and task paralysis.

But with unwavering support from mentors and peers – along with my own inner strength and a desire to make a change – this journey ultimately become one of triumph, resilience, and unrelenting advocacy.

[Read: “Could I Be Autistic, Too?” Signs of Autism in Women with ADHD]

A Novel Tool to Improve Workplace Inclusivity

During my Ph.D. research, I became acutely aware of the lack of understanding and support for individuals with invisible disabilities in the workplace and its consequences. Too often, stigma and stereotypes prevent talented individuals from reaching their full potential, leaving them feeling marginalized and misunderstood instead.

Determined to address this issue, I developed a tool for employers called the Workplace Invisible Disability Experience (WIDE) survey. This survey aims to assess the experiences of employees with invisible disabilities in the workplace by shedding light on the challenges they face and identifying areas for improvement. By collecting data and raising awareness, the WIDE survey empowers organizations to recognize and address the barriers that prevent a thriving and inclusive environment.

Advocacy’s Many Forms

Advocacy is not just about raising awareness; it’s also about action. That’s why I took the initiative to establish a disability ERG (Employee Resource Group) in my workplace. This group serves as a platform for disabled employees to come together, share their experiences, and advocate for positive change. Through awareness campaigns, training sessions, and policy initiatives, our ERG works to create more inclusive and accommodating workplaces for all.

Education is another crucial aspect of advocacy, which is why I am committed to continuing to educate and inform others about invisible disabilities. Through speaking engagements, workshops, and training sessions, I aim to dispel myths, challenge stereotypes, and promote a culture of acceptance and understanding.

[Read: How I’m Improving the Workplace for Adults with Autism]

I am most excited to be a speaker at AutisticaPalooza, a multi-day conference that delves into a diverse range of topics by and for autistic women. By sharing my own experiences and insights, I hope to inspire others to embrace neurodiversity and work toward a more inclusive future.

A Transformative Journey

Completing my Ph.D. was just the beginning of my transformative journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment. As I continue to advocate for change, I am driven by a vision of a world where individuals with invisible disabilities are valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. I am confident that together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

Autism Advocacy: Next Steps

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