Category: testimonial, Neurodiversity, Dyslexia, Hidden Disabilities, Autism, Disability and Neurodiversity, Staff Testimonial, Asperger’s Syndrome, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, DIO
At VERCIDA we tell the diverse stories of people within our network in a bid to encourage businesses to embrace diversity in the workplace and learn the strengths diverse characteristics offer.
Too often the challenges and limitations of diverse characteristics are focused on. Today we want to talk about neurodiversity, so we are going to introduce you to Jonathan Hallam, a GEO Analytics Manager at DIO.
Jonathan has dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and Asperger’s and has been with DIO for nearly five years. Like Jonathan, people within the neurodiverse community often have multiple conditions. For Jonathan, his conditions cause both physical and mental challenges.
“Most neurodiverse people won’t just have one condition which means there’s a lot of different types. In different areas, I have higher and lower levels of disorder. Dyslexia is low and I’m probably more ADD than ADHD,” said Jonathan.
Asperger’s syndrome, also called Asperger’s disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). People with Asperger’s are often highly analytical and logical but struggle with social situations, language and communication.
When it comes to social situations, Jonathan is more comfortable with face to face interactions, making the current situation, with constant virtual meetings, challenging but video makes it easier for Jonathan to read expressions. He also notes that he has always found it easier to communicate with people older than him.
“Personally, I’m better with people older than me and my peers as they are more likely to understand my conditions. I have difficulties getting to know other people the same age as me because of my Asperger’s and I don’t always get sarcasm,” Jonathan explained.
Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination and with it, Jonathan struggles with balance. To combat this, he has been practising Taekwondo since a young age. Due to his dyspraxia, writing is also a challenge and with dyslexia, words can jump around on the page making reading difficult. This is known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome.
Because he has had difficulties with writing, Jonathan has developed excellent IT skills. And, as is the case with many people with Asperger’s, he is highly analytical and has the ability to concentrate for long periods of time when he is interested in something.
“What you’ll find with most neurodiverse people is IT skills. It started because I had bad handwriting because of my dyspraxia. I’ve done lots on computers and it means my IT literacy and skills are very good. Coding would be good for people with these conditions,” said Jonathan.
Rather than hinder his work, Jonathan’s conditions mean he excels in his role:
“It’s a good technical role so the IT and tech means it’s logical to follow through and because of my Asperger’s I always want to complete the work so I’m good at completing and progressing through.”
Jonathan has faced challenges in school and in the workplace due to a lack of understanding by peers and colleagues of his conditions.
“Quite early on, at primary school, lack of understanding meant I was sometimes excluded because teachers wanted me to be away from other kids because I couldn’t concentrate,” said Jonathan.
Although he has not been on medication since he was 15, Jonathan has had to adjust his way of life to manage his conditions and has become extremely independent.
“After university, once getting the job at DIO, I moved down south four hours away from parents and have been here nearly five years. In both cases, at university and down here, I’ve become independent and pushed on to develop my life,” said Jonathan.
Jonathan has found the reverse mentor scheme at DIO particularly useful and continues to see his mentor for support. DIO also have disability networks, they offer supporting software and allocate extra time to complete tasks for those that may need it.
When asked what he would say to a young person with neurodiverse conditions, Jonathan said:
“The main thing for young people is to get as much help as you can. I got help from year two in my school career and I know people who are struggling with teens who haven’t had help before. I would go to the best school you can to get support and get it as early as possible as it helps you develop for later life.”
And finally, what advice would you give to employers looking to take on neurodiverse staff?
“Get as much education and training in how to manage neurodiverse staff as possible. It’s getting the awareness out there and giving the opportunities in the recruitment stage. Writing an application and having an interview with a new person is hard. Sometimes I know what I mean to say but I don’t get it written down in the correct way and because I’ve not been able to convey it in writing it hasn’t got me through. Try and consider that people aren’t writing best but perhaps they can say their ideas better in an interview.”
Thank you, Jonathan, for taking the time to talk to us.