Upon receiving a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of 19, I discovered a community of individuals who shared my particular outlook on the world, which I now refer to as neurodivergence . Moreover, I also met individuals getting a correct diagnosis. These communities have been an incredibly valuable source of support, and among the friends I have made from them is Todd Simkover, who encouraged me to write about my experience publicly for the first time. I’m therefore grateful to have the opportunity to be the first contributor of his relaunched blog, which I’ve helped to re-name!
Discovering the neurodiversity community has meant I have found others that share the same struggles as me — things like anxiety, panic attacks, learning disabilities, and sensory sensitivity, — and have given me tips and tools I now use to make these things have less of an impact on my life. Neurodiversity proponents like Dr. Temple Grandin, a high-profile writer, speaker, entrepreneur and academic on the autism spectrum, have given me new insights on the highs and lows of being neurodiverse, and helped in the process of learning the unique set of skills I have developed over time. The friends I’ve made within the community have expanded my knowledge of how neurodivergence impacts people in different ways and taught me how to advocate for the things I need in my life.
Understanding what my own needs are and learning to advocate for them has been a vital skill I have developed. It has made a dramatic difference in the progress along my journey to diagnosis, namely access to services like specialized therapy groups and specialist doctors. These professionals have helped me in the process of acquiring more descriptive language to understand my needs, and accommodate for them so I can once again participate in my own life.
Descriptive language is not only a tool for advocacy, however. Not having a diagnosis is isolating and has fuelled my fear about my future, and the descriptive language I’ve learned throughout my journey has unlocked communities of people that understand what my life is like. It has brought both friends and mentors alike, whose wisdom and support has been an invaluable lifeline during difficult times. Some of my closest friends are ones I have met through these communities, where we found a shared common interest or hobby.
I have moved several times for better educational and career opportunities, two important ones being to Toronto and then to Edmonton, where I currently reside and also grew up in. In doing so, I’ve faced huge struggles trying to find support and understanding of people like me, who have both learning and physical impairments. I often hear that people like me aren’t seen often, and thus it has taken dramatically longer to find proper help and support even when advocating for my own needs. In the process, I have become more and more interested in helping those with both medical and mental health challenges. I’ve altered my education path to reflect this, with the dream to research how neurodiverse people are affected by medical and mental health challenges. In my own search, that type of research is nearly non-existent, and therefore there is a critical need for future studies within this area of focus.