Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Janice McNamara

Our associate Janice McNamara discovered that she's dyslexic over 20 years ago and has gone on to coach many neurodiverse people and writes about why Neurodiversity Celebration Week matters to her.

Are you curious about how we are wired?

I am.

How do we all experience and interact with the world differently?

I have signed up for Neurodiversity Celebration Week March 18-24 for a week of fascinating talks and insights.

My wiring had no name.  Born in the 60’s, poor skills in reading, spelling and memory, my school reports said, 'Janice must try harder'. I tried harder and was told I was lazy. Despite good social skills, anxiety would kick in when reading out loud or writing.

Reading was a challenge even if the subject was interesting. I looked for books that had pictures, short chapters, few characters, and the least pages.

I chose a fine art degree for its 20% written work; I soon noticed many fellow students were equally challenged by that 20%. It hung over all of us for three years.

More qualifications and jobs followed, always including report writing. Embarrassed to the point of fury by my errors and humiliated when they were pointed out to me, my anxiety increased.

I was angry and defensive when, in my 40’s my husband suggested, I may be dyslexic. I did eventually consult Sue Bell of Chorlton Workshop - an educational charity. She took me through my assessment.

A highly emotional experience for me, however, she helped me recognise my coping strategies and she talked about dyslexia and anxiety and gave me a new perspective, realising that I had been fighting myself and my wiring.

I now coach Neurodiverse individuals in management roles who are consciously navigating their neurodiversity. Also working with a large workforce in other work settings with individuals who have not had their neurodiversity recognised.

Working alongside these individuals I am aware of the importance of curiosity above judgement, for me, a lifelong project towards an open mindset.

A key moment was when a coaching supervisor helped me understand the crucial difference between self-esteem and self-confidence.

Self-confidence is my interaction with others, fed by the response and engagement with them. In contrast, self-esteem is my view of myself and self-judgement.

The impact of dyslexia and my childhood has damaged my self-esteem and made it fragile. What to others constitutes a minor error [spelling/ dates etc] prompts my inner dialogue to deride me and confirm me as rubbish.

Recognising my dyslexia has been profound. Instead of fighting it and feeling a victim of it, it is part of me. I value my sensitivities and empathy for others, however, they are wired. I am kinder to myself, subduing my inner critic.

I need to learn more. How are others wired? What do others experience when they interact and react to the world? I have a personal insight into my own experience of dyslexia, what about others' experience of it and other types of neurodiversity.

So Neurodiversity Celebration Week March 18-24 is part of my continuing journey.

Read more about Janice here.

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