Neurodivergent Stories

CLAIRE BARNETT Nashville, United States

Neurodiversity is my Strength

« The thing I need most to be successful is understanding»

I’ve always been neurodivergent, but I haven’t always known it. I didn’t know I was autistic until I was 19, and I didn’t know I had ADHD until I was 22. These two bits of knowledge help make sense of my world – they explain why I’ve always had sensory differences, difficulty with executive function, and trouble making new social connections. It also explains why I am so skilled with pattern recognition, visual thinking, and unwavering persistence on projects of interest. My job today is in communications and advocacy at Vanderbilt’s autism and employment research center (the First Center for Autism and Innovation). I have previously interned at the White House and for former US Senator Lamar Alexander. I have worked as a freelance photographer, a part-time retail manager, and a resident advisor in college. I have experienced challenges related to my neurodivergent way of thinking, like miscommunications with coworkers and difficulty planning/ completing multi-step tasks. But I’ve also had successes, including giving a TEDx Talk and building successful social media and website advocacy platforms. The thing I need most to be successful is understanding. I need my co-workers, supervisors, and company to learn about neurodiversity and intentionally help me utilize my strengths. I also need them to appreciate and celebrate the delightfully unique way I interpret the world.

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