My name is Lucy Hilary and I have been a member of the research team at Barbour ABI for the past 2.5 years, recently promoted to Senior Researcher and I have been the top performing researcher for just over 1 year. I am 35 years old this year however, at 31 I was diagnosed as being autistic. I have been autistic all of my life and always knew I was not the same as everyone else. I felt like I just never really fitted in and really struggled socially to connect with people in a meaningful way.
The official definition of Autism also known as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or more commonly in the community ASC (Autism Spectrum Condition) is; ‘Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world’. The way I would describe being autistic is, its like my brain has more wires. Some are like dial up, those are the communication wires and it takes me longer to process verbal communication. However, other wires are like superfast fibre, I get information so fast it can be overwhelming.
It is really important to note that once you meet one autistic person you have met one autistic person. By this I mean my life experience being autistic could be completely different to another autistic persons. This is because it is a spectrum and every autistic person will fall different within that spectrum. So I am not too affected by lighting but massively affected by sound, another autistic person may be massively affected by lighting but OK with sound. Therefore, despite having the same condition our needs are completely different.
When I was diagnosed autistic, I was relieved as I automatically assumed that with my diagnosis I would finally get the support I needed both in and out of employment. However, my expectation vs reality was polarised. By this I thought on diagnosis my employer would have knowledge or a list or anything really to help me. However, in reality they didn’t and being newly diagnosed with no knowledge of how I could get support one of the hardest things for me was to open up about my struggles and it was on me to explain what I needed with no help from my employer. I realised because I had worked there for 5 years before I was diagnosed I needed a fresh start. I just thought because it was a small company they didn’t have the experience to help me.
I taught myself about my rights. I learnt about the equality act of 2010 and what reasonable adjustments were. I decided I would only accept a job if I felt comfortable and confident that my new employer would be able to support and help me. It is on me to disclose my disability to obtain accommodations at all levels of job searching. This can be intimidating and scary. I did test the waters with my job search and was offered one job on disclosing but they could not offer me the one accommodation I don’t necessarily need but need to know I have the option just in case so I turned it down.
I am 34 and have worked since I was 16. I am at a stage in my life where there are certain things that have to be right for me to work somewhere. My mental health is sacred to me. The problem is, a lot of autistic people suffer in silence because the fear recrimination and judgement so end up getting burnt out, disciplined, sacked, or bullied.
So for autism acceptance week I want to open up the conversation about reasonable accommodations and what I feel businesses in general could do to help people with autism or any other neurodiverse conditions and disabilities feel more comfortable and confident about advocating for their needs. Please follow us for more information and feel free to comment any tips or suggestions that you may use along the way.
As well as talking about reasonable accommodations there will also be links to my own personal pages and YouTube channel to provide you with more information on how I manage being autistic, some tools and tips I have learnt and also the struggles that can occur.