Embracing My Neurodivergent Mind by Barb Cook

Most people know me through my advocacy work around the autism spectrum, but very few people know about what truly moulds me. I have been very out and proud about being on the autism spectrum for nearly 10 years, but recently felt I have been denying a part of me that also deserves the same badge of honour I wear with being autistic. That is of being dyslexic and having ADHD. These two facets of my neurology also make me the person who I am.

My neurodivergent mind allows me to think differently from most and I often think to myself, damn I love this brain of mine and would never change it in a million years. I love how supercharged my thought processes are when I hyper focus on something I am passionate about. Having the combined type of ADHD, I also have the added dimension of being lost in my thoughts and tuning out from the world. Living inside my head can be incredibly pleasurable, especially when I am imagining multiple outcomes and ways to tackle a new idea or project. I love how my mind sees patterns in everything, and finding connections in pretty much everything that often leaves people wondering how on earth I came to that outcome.

Now, being dyslexic was something I rarely spoke about as I couldn’t see how it was benefiting my life until recently when I came across a fairly new website called Made by Dyslexia. The people in this community also embraced having dyslexia as many of us do with being autistic and ADHD. People who are dyslexic also have incredible minds and look at things very differently. I had always been made to feel this was the defective and broken part of my neurology.  Even though my dyslexia provides challenges to me, on reflection I realise just how much I had developed my own way of learning and understanding. It also shaped my determination to be an editor, to be a passionate reader and eventually to be an author. It may have taken me years as a child to actually understand and comprehend what words meant and how to read properly, my stubborn and driven mind eventually found a way outside of the system, that allowed me to learn differently, just like my thinking.

So, from now on, my passion and advocacy work will not just be around autism, but also ADHD and dyslexia. I don’t deny the challenges I have faced, especially through my younger educational years. But I do now realise, my brain was never designed for the outdated and rigid model of learning, that I was seeking employment in places where my mind was not used to its potential, and worse still, it wasn’t embraced for its different way of thinking.

Finally, for the first time, I can truly embrace completely who I am, my neurology and how I perceive and learn. And that is a damn good feeling. The words “we are not defective or broken” have never rang more true in my life until now. I stand here empowered, knowing that I learn differently, I see and process the world differently, plus it also allows me to challenge the world around me. It gives me the opportunity to say that there is no one right way and to embrace neurodiversity. Different thinkers are the people who change the world, and moreso, for the better.

Do I view being on the autism spectrum, having ADHD and dyslexia as a deficit? Hell no! My neurodivergent mind allows me to think differently, perceive the world differently and best of all, it allows me to challenge your way of thinking…  Barb Cook