For as long as I can remember, I was ‘different’: from my family, my friend group, from even my small Christian college campus. ‘Different’ was not always bad though. My mom called me unique, but I grew up with the belief that unique just meant to be funny or a great writer. I had a small group of close friends and I put my brains to good use on the Speech Team as a debater. But with all of those strengths, I found myself frustrated at my inability to succeed at math, the difficulty I faced in learning how to drive, or how initiating friendships was a struggle. I came into adulthood accepting these flaws, yet I still wanted answers. After a visit with a health
professional, what were stereotypical behaviors that girls are raised to believe they are not going to excel in turned out to be something else: Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, a spectrum disorder.
I am an individual with high functioning autism.
It took time to accept the label, but it didn’t change who I was. It just led to an awareness of my deficits and how to work on them, which has become a gift. Many non-diagnosed individuals struggle with their own setbacks but lack the impetus to fix them. That peek into who I am deep down has saved me from personal pain but has also been an asset in the workplace since it objectively sets boundaries and highlights the areas where I really shine. Marcie Ciampri, an autism expert, has argued that companies “should look into bringing on an autistic as a community manager (or similar job title), to serve as an autism expert during company-wide meetings, managerial sessions, and/or monthly newsletters” (ERE Media, 2018).
IdeasUnlimited has empowered me to take my experiences and develop full-fledged company-wide projects aimed at recruiting individuals with other mental and developmental health concerns. I have been able to lend immediate diversity within my work environment and dramatically alter the conversation since “hiring a neurodiverse workforce involves not just understanding commonly known aspects about autism but knowing the possible reasons behind the facts” (ERE Media). My methods may be misunderstood, but they are also innovative. Within IdeasUnlimited, I have developed a sense of purpose without having to sacrifice who I am.
IdeasUnlimited is a progressive company that is not only having a conversation on mental health, but we are living it through actions. By educating our staff on disabilities and placing a priority on recruiting individuals with disabilities, we are following HR Management best practices and investing in the global community. I have personally seen an investment in my own life as I have been tasked with the responsibility to lead over numerous projects. Many autistic individuals get pigeonholed as the ‘techie’ in the workplace, but “they are as unique in their skills and aptitudes as any other human being” (ERE Media). I love administrative-type duties, and to utilize my creative writing skills and I get to do that every day. I get paid to play, and not everyone is blessed to say that. We work hard every day at IdeasUnlimited to create an inclusive, adaptive environment where our expectations/values are clear so that any candidate could jump right in.