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Neurodiversity at Work

A personal journey of discovering and embracing ADHD as a neurological condition, the importance of neurodiversity and inclusion at work, and how it can help individuals with ADHD to utilize their strengths and overcome their challenges.

The author of the blog post on neurodiversity chose to remain anonymous to create a safe space where she could share her personal experiences without fear of being judged or misunderstood. We believe that everyone should feel comfortable being themselves and expressing their thoughts and feelings, particularly those who have neurodivergent conditions. Embracing neurodiversity means celebrating and valuing the diverse perspectives and strengths of all individuals.

"She is a little firecracker!"

This is a direct quote from my English teacher at my Freshman year parent-teacher conference. To this day, it is still one of my mom’s favorite ways to describe me. I have always known I was a little bit quirky but I could never quite figure out what made me that way.

I think to most of the outside world, (except for my perceptive teacher of course), I was seen as “normal” to some extent- I had good grades, lots of friends, and was organized and upbeat. It’s true that I achieved good grades, built great friendships, and had organization skills but those things took work- a lot of EXTRA work. Little did I know, my entire life I have been implementing coping mechanisms for something I didn't realize I had – a neurological condition called ADHD.

Having three ‘neurotypical” roommates in one tiny dorm room in college made me realize that one of us is not like the other, and the other was me. Some of my first-year revelations:

  • Wait, you don’t have lists and sticky notes for every little thing you intend to accomplish in life?
  • Oh, so to prepare for exams you guys just read the chapter once, and your good? You don’t make 500 flashcards and bring them everywhere with you for a week?
  • You can study with the TV on in a cluttered room??
  • You can stay awake? Like the whole class?
  • You don’t love a good, concise bullet point??

On a quest to figure out why I felt different, I did a series of tests when I was in college, but all came back negative. My doctor determined that my inability to stay alert and focused in class was likely due to EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness)- a common wakefulness disorder. As a solution, I was given an off-label prescription for medication commonly given to people with ADHD. This was life-changing and noticeable for all those around me. It’s like a light turned on, and all the things that were unreasonably hard were now manageable.

 

After school, I went off medication and lived my life without it for the past 13 years. After the birth of my second child, I got curious again and wanted to do more investigation. After talking to a few specialists and taking a Quantified Behavioral Test (QbTest) and receiving very humbling results, I realized that I didn’t have a sleep disorder- I had what’s called inattentive presenting ADHD. This was the biggest ah-ha moment of my life. For the past year and a half I have been researching thoroughly, listening to podcasts, reading any book, (let’s be honest, listening to any audiobook) I can find on the topic. It was fascinating to me to look back on my life with this new perspective and understanding of who I am.

 

As luck would have it, coming back from maternity leave, I was placed under a curious, inclusive, and supportive manager. This allowed me to feel comfortable sharing my diagnosis and how it impacted me personally and professionally. It felt good to kind of just say it – since it’s out there, I can now be open about how it impacts my life. Together we can focus on utilizing all the strengths that come with my experience of ADHD – hyper-focus, creativity, problem-solving, enthusiasm, etc. and we can strategize to move past the imposter syndrome and find ways to maneuver around the executive dysfunctions. This is definitely a new journey for me, I almost feel funny even writing about my experience with ADHD because I feel like I still have so much to learn about myself, but I know the importance of getting our stories out there.

Speaking of sharing our stories, this year I joined the Neurodiversity ERG here at Arm and it’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience. I had this overwhelmingly inspired feeling of looking at all these brilliant people who have similar world views, stories, and experiences. I have learned so much from this group and am motivated to find ways to encourage Arm to celebrate our strengths and differences. I feel lucky to work for an organization that puts DEI, mental health, and support at the forefront. I think there is so much to build from with the Neuroscience of Inclusion video we all watched last year, and believe there is a real opportunity for us to advocate for ourselves at Arm. Perhaps I will pass on some of my long lists and sticky notes of research so that we can communicate our needs and inspire Arm to form neuro-inclusive workspaces, events, and meetings. I am finding with some accommodations, a little bit of awareness, and management support, many of us can thrive and focus on “being our brilliant selves”.

 

If you’d like to find out more about diversity, equity, and inclusion at arm please follow this link:

https://careers.arm.com/Arm-DEI

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