Neurodiversity at Arts council England: It's okay to be different
Category: inclusion, Neurodiversity, Arts Council England, Apprentices, national autistic society, world autism awareness week, Apprenticeship Programme, Neurotypical, Autism Awareness, Asperger’s, Asperger's challenges
For World Autism Awareness Week, Isobel Gent, one of our Apprentices based in our Cambridge office, shares her personal experience
Autism Awareness Project: Spotlight with ZoieLogic Dance Theatre, photo by Matt Bartram
Being Aspergic is, quite simply, one way of saying that I experience everyday things in very extreme ways. My brain has a somewhat more complicated structure compared to neurotypical brains, processing more unnecessary sensory information and sometimes at the wrong time. Wondering what it’s like? Try to start noticing noise that you usually filter out in an office or when you're on a train, or watch this video made by the National Autistic Society (with a VR headset if you have one!)
The first time I told someone in our organisation “I’m Aspergic” was shortly after I started, when a colleague was running a meeting in Birmingham. “It’s okay”, I said, “this is normal” — and there were many more conversations like this to come, talking about how I process things and how I understand other people. I soon realised though that my normal is not the same as everyone else’s.
In my time working at the Arts Council, I’ve learned:
All brains work differently – and that’s OK! Through some work with a specialist support worker and thinking about the eight cognitive functions, the rest of my team and I have become more open about how we process different things. This has helped us see both strengths and areas for development in the work we do as a team. We can pick up work in areas where we know we’ll excel and allow for patience in areas that aren’t so strong.
Being open is healthy and understanding is necessary I'm unapologetic about being Aspergic (I was diagnosed at the age of ten) and I’m generally open about what I struggle with. I make sure those around me understand what I am going through, but there are challenges around this too. I've been in situations where I've not been able to communicate my needs with others and struggled to explain what I meant. It's important for others to be aware of what I’m feeling and processing on a regular basis. It’s also important that I can to continue to advocate for myself and others with Asperger’s, because...
I have superpowers Okay, not quite. Sometimes people may struggle to see the positive side of some traits, and can’t see how they could be helpful. For example, my eye for detail, as a result of being hypersensitive to a lot of things, can mean that I might focus on the wrong thing or miss mistakes; but turn this around and I could be picking needles out of haystacks and spotting that mistake you hadn’t! My traits become my strengths when given the chance.
These lessons haven't always come easy. My manager and I have been on training and had expert advice to help us work together.
The biggest positive change I felt was when my manager made the cultural leap in understanding what I can go through on a day to day basis. From our open conversations and new understanding, I’ve been able to find confidence in myself and with the team I work with to create an open environment for me to say that I might be struggling. Without any judgement, I can now work with them to help me find solutions to any problems or re-focus and play to my strengths. Whether you’re Aspergic, or not, this should be normal for all.
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