Experiences of 2020

Lauren - Start Up Social Entrepreneur

My name is Lauren, and I’m a 29-year-old unemployed woman living in Glasgow. I was diagnosed with autism two years ago, after struggling with my mental health and social relationships all my life. I feel lockdown has given me the chance to recognise my personal strengths and driven me to help other autistic people to reach this stage. Our current circumstances, with limited social interactions and working from home, have allowed for the breaking down of societal ‘norms,’ and other autistic people have reported feeling safer and more comfortable. It’s given us a chance to stop fighting the battles we find so exhausting and see just how capable we are when we have the right amount of time and space!

Late diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common in autistic women, not only because a lot of early autism research focussed on male participants (yay for medical bias!), but because autistic women tend to use ‘masking’ more often and more effectively than male autistics. Masking means developing behaviours which hide our difficulties by creating strict rules for ourselves and avoiding situations where we might be exposed. Scottish Women’s Autism Network shares the analogy that autistic women are like swans - they appear on the surface to be gliding effortlessly, but there is a load of invisible work going on in the background.

But lockdown gave me a chance to find out just how capable I am! I joined Glasgow Mutual Aid (a group of volunteers supporting local community groups). As part of the dispatching team I quickly found myself developing protocol, writing policies and recruiting volunteers. I’ve applied for two jobs during lockdown, and already been interviewed for one. I have also applied to a casting call for a mini-series starring a neurodiverse actress. For a long time, I didn’t believe I was worth an employer’s time to make the adjustments I need to thrive in the workplace. Now that I know this comes from a lack of self-belief rather than a lack of talent, I’ve developed Oddities, a social enterprise which gives other autistic people the space and support to recognise their capacities. Lockdown has shown me just how wasteful it is of employers to overlook the talents of autistic people, and has given me the drive to show off just how capable me and my fellow auties are!