Overcoming adversity – Siraj’s story of his neurodevelopmental condition
Category: testimonial, Neurodiversity, Government, Career and Talent Development, Jobs in Government, Career Development, Staff Testimonial, UK Government, ministry of defence, MOD, Neurodiversity Network, Neurodiverse colleagues, Neurodiversity research, Professional and Career Development, Army Civil Service, Neurodiverse, Neurodiversity in the workplace, Army’s Civilian Workforce, Neurodiversity awareness, Neurodiversity ambassador, Neurodiverse people, Reasonable adjustments
Hello I’m Siraj. During the early phases of my school life, I significantly struggled with adapting to change and took much longer than my peers to adjust. During my first year of primary school, I was still playing in the sandpit whilst others were listening to stories. Something wasn’t right. I was subsequently diagnosed with receptive and expressive language disorder, now known as developmental language disorder. This meant I found it difficult to process information and had poor auditory working memory and word finding difficulties.
A statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) was issued to me which set out the additional support I required which was a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) and a Learning Support Assistant (LSA).
I knew I had to work ten times harder than most of my peers to get through my GCSEs. Through hard work, I became more articulate in my verbal and written communication. Finally, I passed my GCSEs and A Levels. It felt amazing to see tangible results of hard work and receive the incredible support from everyone around me!
I left school and joined the Ministry of Defence through the Civil Service Finance Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme as an Executive Officer in September 2015. Sadly, I struggled with my first ever job in the Civil Service, and my performance fell below the expected standard. My line manager assigned me a ‘buddy’ who created numerous guides to help me grasp the work processes and set up frequent meetings to routinely ‘check in’.
My line manager also helped me set up an Occupational Health Assessment with trained practitioners who offer assessments and provide formal guidance on reasonable adjustments. Unfortunately, I had to leave but I learnt of the breadth of opportunities in Defence and was ‘sold’ on the incredibly supportive culture.
I saw an opportunity to re-join Defence through a PA/Administration bulk recruitment campaign. My mind was filled with anxiety/ worry over how a long-term career might go, but I applied and subsequently returned as an Administrative Officer in September 2017 as PA to an RAF principal at Air Command.
This was the role where I felt I could see a path to progress in Defence, building on the knowledge I already gained in my previous role which provided me with the confidence to develop my networking and communication skills. I was in a privileged position, as a PA, to see how Defence was led at 1* level, this helped me to shape my own ambitions.
I was promoted in March 2019, working as an Assistant Business Manager at MOD Main Building and had the opportunity to develop on my previous experience and learn more about Defence. This provided the perfect platform for further promotion in November 2020 which was a milestone achievement for me at the age of 23 – this is thanks to everybody who has supported and mentored me.
Now, 25, looking forward, I don’t want to stop there and have further ambitions to progress. Whether you’re reading this as someone with a learning disability or somebody you know has a disability, it is imperative to note people with a learning disability are just as capable as those who don’t and can have a successful career.
Reasonable adjustments are likely to vary between individuals and it is vital we give each other the opportunities to thrive.
I learnt there is a place for all of us in Defence irrespective of our backgrounds and skills.
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