Workplace Allyship: Neurodiversity

Podcast Transcript

How can employers better accommodate neurodiverse individuals in the workplace? How do you navigate your career if you have autism, ADHD, dyslexia or any other neurodiverse condition?

In this episode of The Atelier, we speak to the Taylor Handsley. Taylor was diagnosed with autims in her 30's. She one of the original team at Refinery29 in New York, worked for Amazon in London as Head of Content on their Private Labels before moving to Amsterdam with Edelman and Hey Honey. She’s a guru of all things content and social and is now expanding her own business, Tailored the Agency.

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Read on for the transcript here:-

JG: Welcome to the Atelier, where we workshop your work life. Brought to you by Talent Atelier, the executive search business where we essentially act as a dating agency between businesses and people. I'm Jo, Managing Partner of Talent Atelier.

RSB: And I'm Rachel, Founder and Mother of both the business and my two kids.

JG: We focus each episode on a topic we're asked about frequently, pepper things with anecdotal experiences we've had over the years, and root around for letters in our mailbag.

RSB: Think of it as career therapy and this episode is all about neurodiversity.

It is a huge subject and we will only just be able to tickle the surface about what it's like being neurodiverse and how to make workplaces better for everyone. And as always with special subjects, we need a friend. And today’s is Taylor Hansley.

If you look her up on LinkedIn, the first thing she'll tell you is that she's a Mum and she's autistic. She's just laying it out there. But alongside that, she was one of the original team at Refinery 29 in New York, worked for Amazon in London as Head of Content on their private labels, spent some time in Berlin and then landed in Amsterdam, first of all with Edelman, then, Hey Honey. But now she has her own business Tailored, the agency.

TH: Yeah, that's right.

RSB: She's the guru of all things social and content. She's just been helping us out with our camera angles. Thank you. Welcome, Taylor. We are really lucky to have you here.

TH: Hi, guys. Thank you. Happy to be here.

RSB: Yay.

TH: That was such a good intro, by the way.

RSB: Oh, thanks. I do these last minute because if I try and do them too far in advance, I can't do them, I have to squish them.

TH: Was over here, like, so proud of you.

JG: So tell us a bit about yourself and a bit about what it was like to be diagnosed.

TH: Yeah, that's like two different questions. A little bit about myself... I think you kind of nailed it. I'm autistic, I'm a Mum. I think those two things define me pretty much, like, pretty well. But I'm also loads of other things. I'm a traveller and a reader and yes, I've lived in Berlin and Amsterdam and London. I'm from America, if you can't tell.

RSB: Whereabouts in America are you from?

TH: So I was born in Los Angeles and lived there for ten years. Then my family moved to Minnesota.

RSB: That must have been a bit of a change.

TH: It was wild. We moved from Los Angeles to this town of 10,000 people, and I had, like, a shaved head and wore Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirts and Dr Martens and people thought I was crazy. So yeah. That's probably when my neurodivergent journey started, but I didn't know that until I was in my 30’s. So that's the second question. Tell me about that. Yeah, I was diagnosed when I was 32. I probably wouldn't have been diagnosed if I didn't take control of that.

I was having a lot of issues with personal and interpersonal relationships. You know, I was… people constantly telling me I was weird having relationships fall out, that I didn't understand why, I was having loads of issues with work, I was getting fired all the time and jumping around all the time, and I just felt like something was wrong with me. I didn't know what it was, and I just kind of beat myself up about it for a decade.

When I was living in Berlin, it felt a little bit better because German people are very straightforward and they kind of appreciate that. So it kind of softened a bit there. But I was trying to date, and I literally was having German men tell me, you're weird. Like, what is wrong with you? And part of me could have been like, fuck these guys. I'm just going to be myself. But I felt like they were right. There was, like, something about me that was… what was wrong with me. So I went online, I think we talked about this earlier, and I looked at loads of things about mental health, and I'd been diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 16. I spent time in a hospital because I felt suicidal, all this stuff.

So essentially, I learned I was misdiagnosed. But yeah, when I was 32, I started looking online and doing the tests online, and they were all saying… I'm looking at these questions and I'm like, oh, my God. This is me reading about it, taking the online quizzes. And they ask the questions that they also ask you in official diagnosis and official sessions. So all of them were like, you are on the spectrum, you should talk to someone.

So I actually called a friend, actually an ex's dad who was a psychologist in Brooklyn. And I was in Brooklyn visiting my sister, and I called him up and I said, I need to talk to you, I think I might have autism. And he said, I've been waiting for this call for years. Because he can't really come out and be like... He wasn't my doctor.

So we just had a chat, and I was like, look, is this real? And he was like, yeah, you're definitely an autistic person. At the time, we were still using Asperger's, so he said, you definitely have Asperger's. Now we don't use that anymore, we just say we're on the autism spectrum disorder.

RSB: Okay, that's helpful.

TH: Yes.

RSB: Thank you.

TH: Fun fact. Some people still use it because there's still a lot of misconception about what autism is, and they hear autism, they think Rain Man and non vocal and nonverbal. So, yeah, it's something that I've stopped using about four or five years ago and just said, I'm autistic, and yeah, after that, I can't even describe it was just like, this weight. I mean, people say that all the time. This weight was, like, lifted off them. But I truly all of a sudden was just like, oh, my God, I'm just an actual person.

JG: Did it feel comforting having something to attribute certain behaviours towards?

TH: Yeah, because I think you carry a lot of shame with those behaviours, and you're like, Why can't I be normal? I'm saying that with air quotes. Why can't I be a normal person? Why can't I function the way other people do? And then finally being told, actually, this is who you are. You are normal. It's just you're a different normal.

RSB: You've always worked in such high pressure environments, though. Because creative… one of the things I wanted to ask you about was creative changes all the time. There's no clear direction whether you work in house or for an agency. People think they're being clear, but they're not. And everything is exhausting for people that aren't neurodiverse. How are you still sat here? Because I was saying to Jo before you arrived, I wondered if coming over… and you mentioned it earlier… coming to Europe, where we are more direct and straight talking helped because…?

TH: So I actually had loads of issues working in England. Okay, so when I worked here, because people... How do I say this?

RSB: No, be blunt with it. I'm interested. Like, what do we come across like?

TH: People are, like, fake nice here.

JG: Veiled politeness.

TH: Veiled politeness, yeah. Because part of that so I almost had to work harder because people would say stuff. And my first couple of years here, I was like, oh, no, they said they and even had that issue with family members. I remember something happened with my mother-in-law, and I was like, oh, yeah, but your mom said she was okay with that. And my husband's like, she's just nice. She's not. I'm like, oh, so that took a long time. My husband's British, so at least I got to work through that in that safe space. But yeah, it was so hard for me to work here in England. But in terms of creative, it's funny you say that, because it's, like, both a superpower but also the worst thing. So within creative, I really rely heavily on my team because they're the ones who can kind of roll with the punches a little bit more.

I have a tendency to come in and be like, this is how we're doing it. Boom, boom, boom. And it's like, that doesn't necessarily work that way. But I'm also very structured, and it gets me in trouble a lot because I want to follow a framework that makes more sense and makes the most sense. So I need to have the data, and I need to have the timeline, and this that and the other and it's wild to me that other places don't do that.

I'll be working in a big organisation or for a big organisation, and it's so chaotic. I'm like, how do people do this? But when you talk about it in the framework of creative specifically, it actually makes it better when it is more structured, and people just don't realise that. So I feel like I'm teaching them things and they're also teaching me things. But yeah, I guess how do you do that? I don't know.

RSB: Brilliance can come from when you're pushed to your limit. And I think with creative there's a lot of that people will leave it to the last minute or will have to work through the night or something until they're almost dry.

TH: And I can't do that.

RSB: However, you must pair up quite nicely, because if you've got someone that is that kind of effervescent always coming up, like needing to be in this kind of weird chaos, but you're then the metronome, giving the support and the structure.

TH: Well, yes, I didn't start out as a junior creative, I guess my career was very weird. So right away when I started being called a creative, I was at director level already, okay? So I've always worked in the creative industry, but I was always in different roles. So by the time I became director of creative, that just kind of was a natural thing where it was like, you're kind of working in this anyway, so I could kind of just scoff off that response. Not scoff off, but that responsibility was always on other people in terms of doing that, exactly what you said, but also as a leader, because I would have a burnout really easily. I'm very cognisant of the people that I work with. And I'm always like, when we stop working, don't work. I'm like, it's five or it's six, stop working.

And that's not how creatives work. Right? They need this like, oh, I'm the most creative at 11 o’clock at night. Whereas I'm like, Why would you do that? But I have to give them the space for that. So then it started to work where it was like, okay, if people are going to give me accommodations, I have to give them accommodations. So even my employees that weren't neurodivergent, it was like, yeah, if you needed to take a few hours off in the middle of the day to just go skateboard or something and think, go ahead, or you want to come in late, fine, I don't care, as long as the work gets done. Doesn't bother me where you are when you do it, just don't text me at eleven because I will lose it. But when we're even in a heavy pitch process, I'm very structured with time.

I'm like, guys, I'm here at nine, I leave at five, make the most of our time when we're there, and I will contribute at that point, but then if they need to go home and do stuff afterwards, that's fine. But, yeah, I just have to be really cognisant of that, otherwise no one else really is and I will just burn out and lose my shit.

JG: In a client environment, because you're quite client facing all the time, and you have when you were at Refinery29, how does your social battery come into play and disappear quite quickly, if that is the case for you?

TH: Yeah, it's funny you asked this, because this was one of the things… and I still question. So I have a therapist who's actually, she lives in New Zealand, so we have sessions, like, very late at night, and it's very early for her, but she specialises in women with late diagnosis autism.

She was here. She was in the UK when I was living here, and then she moved, and I was like, I can't lose. Yeah, we make it work. I think I'm, like, her only therapy client now because she does loads of other stuff, but I think she's like ok I’ll stay with you.

Yeah. So it was something that I really had to talk to her a lot about because there were things, I go, I can go in a meeting with clients and get through it and be brilliant at times. And I'm like, but so am I actually autistic? Like, I don't understand. I can look people in the eyes.

Even now, like, six years in, I'm still like, I don't know if this is autism or this is something else. I don't know. Am I autistic? And she's like, yes, you are. But because you were diagnosed so late in life, you've learned to mask. So with clients, it's like, if I'm prepared for it, I can be prepared for it. And it's like that social battery doesn't drain as quickly. Does that make sense? Yeah, it's a show and my personality is a little bubblier than most people, but, yeah, after that, I have to just completely shut down.

And so it's something I work with my husband on. He knows if I'm on a client meeting, when I get home, I'm upstairs in our bedroom, just lying in the dark for, like, 30 minutes to an hour, and I just have to lie there and think. And sometimes I analyse what I said and what I did. Did I do this ok? Was it all right? He carries on with the parenting and everything, and he just knows that I have to just decompress and drain for a bit. So that's very important, having a partner that understands that.

RSB: Had you been diagnosed when you met your partner?

TH: Yeah.

RSB: So you went in and were like, okay.

TH: Oh. It's like the first thing I said to him, actually, when I met him, it was like in a social setting with friends. And I had just recently been diagnosed and then had lost a friend. So it was like we were having this very personal, in depth conversation with this mutual friend of ours. So it was like, okay, really intense. And surprisingly, he just was still interested in me and still wanted to hang out.

RSB: Maybe because you were being your authentic self.

TH: Yeah. And I actually feel like my friendships got stronger after that. I got diagnosed and then was still trying to date for a few years after that. And then it was actually like when I met my husband, like three months prior to that, I was like, I'm drained. I can't do this anymore. I'm just done. Maybe there isn't someone forever one kind of thing. I'm over it and I'm not doing it. And then I met him and it was like, okay. And I wouldn't say he knows a lot about autism, he's learning, but I'm still learning too. So sometimes he thinks he's got a grasp on something and I'm like, oh, actually that's not right, or things are changing, so we're kind of learning together.

RSB: So cultural fit, it's something that's really really important for businesses. They always talk about drinking the kool-aid and just really being part of the culture, but obviously in an interview process sometimes that can really throw people who are neurodivergent off because there are so many things that you have to do in that. And then also you get the job, you land in the business, and you're meant to instantly be a part of the community there. I'm really interested in how you've kind of coped with that and also any recommendations that you have for businesses with their interviewing as the opening of the doors to their business.

TH: So I want to say what I actually feel about this, but it might be some verbiage that people are going to hear and be like, oh, my God, I'm not that. I inherently find practices like that ableist and racist and sexist just immediately. And the reason for that is you're looking for people who, when you say cultural fit and I'm saying with air quotes, are just like everybody else in your organisation, I think. And so when you sort of let go of that, you can actually expand a little bit more and be a little bit more diverse, I think. And everyone kind of throws that word around, let's be more diverse, let's be more inclusive, but they don't really know what that means. And also, I just had this conversation this weekend, if you're an organisation that isn't that you're putting the onus on that first person that comes into your organisation to do that labor and to hold that for everyone.

And it's fucking exhausting. Whether or not that person's disabled, whether or not that person's non white, or whether or not that person is queer. They're the ones who are going to be the ones who are being asked constantly about these things. And that's exhausting. They shouldn't have to do that. So when you create an environment like that, obviously I can only speak for it in the framework of a disabled woman. It's just difficult because sometimes I don't want to come to work and have to answer these questions about what it's like to be autistic or what do you need or is the lights too bright? I kind of just want you guys to know or have listened to me in the amount of time I've been here. So it can be very difficult. It's something I'm super cognisant in my personal hiring practices.

It's like I've had conversations where I'm trying to hire the first black person into an organisation and I'm very frank with them. And I have what do you need to feel comfortable? What do you need to not feel like you're carrying that labor for us? And I also feel like that is something that disabled people and neurodivergent people aren't necessarily asked. It's still very forgotten about in the framework of those conversations, if that makes sense.

RSB: So you're really open with having a disability and you call it a disability openly. And I'm sure there's quite a lot of onus on that. Do you tell people on your CV?

TH: Yes. Okay, so there is a lot of onus of that. I think we've talked about this before, about… I sometimes feel weird saying I'm a disabled person, not because I'm ashamed of it, but just because I don't look disabled. So it's an invisible disability. Neurodivergency is a disability. It's classified as a disability in the UK. It's classified as a disability in the US. In a lot of countries. In some countries it's not. And in itself, that is a form of protection for people that are neurodivergent to give us a little bit more space to be disabled, I guess. But, I still feel like organisations and companies have a lot of work to do because it's almost if you have a visible disability, it's like right there in people's faces. And if you don't, people forget or they pretend it's not real. I had a manager at somewhere that I worked once, say, I don't believe you have autism. I think you're just using that as an excuse. I won't name the organisation, but you've all probably spent a lot of money there.

At that particular place I was very open about being autistic in every round of interviews I did with them. I've also not told people I was autistic interviews just to kind of see the difference in things. To be honest with you both ways, I've experienced the almost exact same reaction and the exact same outcome. So it's hard for me to give people advice on how to have, whether or not you want to disclose or not. If you feel comfortable, disclose. If you don't, dont. If you feel like people are going to treat you differently and you're just not ready to do that yet, then by all means. I sort of feel a responsibility to be the voice for some people and an ally in that sense, because I know some people can't do that or be that, and because I'm in a very lucky position, being a leader. You know, 81% of autistic people are unemployed.

JG: Yeah, I was just reading that 22% of autistic adults are in any kind of employment. So that's from the National Autistic Society.

RSB: I was just going to say, I wonder if to level the playing field out a little bit more in the kind of first stages of an interview, if it could, it's not common practice for me. It is for some businesses, but to say, like, to every single person, thank you for sending your CV in, we'd like to invite you for an interview. What can we do to make your interview process great? Let us know if you prefer it on the phone or on zoom or like, things that to every single person.

TH: People have started doing that, right?

RSB: Well, yeah, but not enough, I don't think. My husband was telling me this morning I was sending him some of the articles and he works in tech and there's quite a lot of neurodiversity in tech and it's very open and talked about. And he was saying that one of his friends had interviewed, who he works with now, had interviewed for the same job that they have to live code in front of other people. And it literally his friend has ADHD and completely caved and was like, I can't do this.

TH: But is probably like a brilliant coder.

RSB: Yeah. And he sent them an email and sent them whatever it was. I don't know. I can't understand what my husband does. It's lots of screens and then they were like, oh, my God, you're brilliant, please come on board. Thank God they were open enough to do that. But the live coding and any kind of role play for quite a lot of people is difficult, but particularly if you're neurodiverse, it must literally be like, take the wind out of yourselves.

TH: I think it's difficult too, because a lot of people don't know much about it. So you ask for an accommodation and they don't quite get it right. The interview process at Amazon was five interviews in one day, 45 minutes. It was intense and I was prepared for it. I told them, I'm autistic, I might need to take a break. But they're very specific, like, you've got this much time and they tell you they ask you a question and you're answering and they say, you've got 25 seconds left to finish this answer.

I don't know how I made it through it. Now, when I think about it, I'm like, what the fuck? How did I do that? Because now I would be probably a little bit more confident, because that was when I had just recently been diagnosed. Now I think I would be confident enough to be like, that's not going to work for me. So if you guys want to have this interview, it needs to accommodate me, and I can't do five interviews back to back, 45 minutes over the course of a day. It's not going to happen. You're not going to get the best out of me.

And Amazon was also a place. It's like, oh, we have a lot of autistic people that work here. Yeah, they're all engineers, so it's like, they're hiring me for a role that is not an engineer. And I think a lot of companies kind of say that, too, or think that, oh, yeah, autistic people are really good at doing this thing, and it's like, yeah, but then we really get pigeonholed into this. And then you meet someone like me, who you're like, oh, how are you a Creative Director or Managing Director or whatever, and you're autistic. How do you manage people? And it's difficult. So I think just educating yourself on things and even just doing a course in autism. I do the course at the agency I was at previously, where I taught everyone about autism. Obviously, it was just my autism. I can't speak for everyone. And there are different traits.

JG: Again, that's your labor.

RSB: You're constantly having to do this. We just did a podcast with our friend Allegra, who's trans, and she is always having to educate and she just gets completely exhausted with it.

TH: So it must be. I'm very open now. I just had a situation where before a meeting, I said, look, this is a fact finding meeting. I'm going to ask you a gazillion questions. They're going to sound very blunt and forward. Please don't take it personal. It was with three British people, an hour long. And of course, afterwards I get a call being like, hey, those questions were really aggressive. And I was like, Look, I can't control that. I told you guys in the beginning. One of my traits is that my tone, it can be very negative and read very abruptly. I'm just trying to get the words out. And that's what I'm focusing on through that, you know, it was very like, oh, I think these people think this, and that's why they reacted this way. It was like, I can't control how people think when I ask them a question, which is, where is this document?

And this is why I struggle a lot in Britain. Working here is like, instead of saying, where's this document? I'd be like, hey, love, I hope you're having a great day. Just wondering if you could send me that document. I don't remember that stuff. I'm just like, where's the document? And I wrote about this on LinkedIn. I asked, I said, what does this guy do all day? And I meant, what does he do all day? Because I have to take over some of his tasks.

RSB: But it came across as, what the hell does he do?

TH: Yeah. And the person was like, what do you mean? It doesn't matter what he does all day? And I was like, well, it does, because I'm going to have to do it. So, can I just ask you this question? And you answer like, I don't know.

RSB: I honestly thought that we were quite straight talking, but I suppose that…

TH: Wait, when you say we, do you mean English people?

RSB: I'm collectively talking about the whole of the UK, but actually, no, there is a lot of farting around and people not saying… We actually even talked about it, about various different people that we know who will never say what they want. So, this is completely because I always thought I'm quite a straight talking person, but maybe no, I mean, you might be, but there's a lot of like, you all right, blah, blah. Can you just because I don't want to upset you about something, but actually for you but it is your worst nightmare.

TH: It's also being a woman, right? We can't just ask for things.

JG: You have to qualify.

TH: Yes, we have to vilify ourselves and qualify. And like, oh, I'm asking this because of this.

RSB: Do you find slack and things like that easy to communicate on or harder?

TH: It's funny you say that because I think it's easier…

RSB: Because you can be direct, but then people are like, oh my god she said this.

TH: Yeah, I've gotten commented on about my tone on slack. And I'm like, what are you fucking talking about? Sorry. Can I cuss?

JG: Yes.

TH: I'm like, it's just work. In fact, my first job at Refinery and like, bless, I loved it there. They were so nice about things. I didn't know I was autistic. I did get a talking to about my emails being too blunt. So I was supposed to add smiley faces and exclamation points on.

JG: Kisses at the end.

TH: Yes, kisses at the end. So now, like, stop myself from doing it because I'm like, and then I remember Christine, my Editor-in-Chief, said, only boring sentences need exclamation points Taylor and I was like, thank you. I'm not going to use them anymore. But it's still a thing. I'll just throw a smiley face in on slack and then it's like, oh, no see, I was being nice and I was being just chill, even though I'm pissed because you haven't sent me this thing I've asked you for 50 freaking times.

RSB: I find people that can't make a decision infuriating oh, it's infuriating. Like, I get really annoyed about it. Joe hears. About it. You don't like it either, do you?

JG: No, I'm a direct communicator.

TH: I just can't do it.

I'm relaunching my agency in September and I have two investors for this, so it's going to be cool. But one of my investors is German. So immediately he and I just get along very well. And he told me in the beginning I have a sheet that I give to people of the do's and dont’s of him that he says yeah. So he's like, because he runs businesses, he's an investor, he said if I ask for something, just that there's no hidden agenda with me. So that's great because for me sometimes too, I'm like, just meant to think that way because as a neurodivergent person I try to think the way a neurotypical person would sometimes. But because he communicates the same way I do now, I know he doesn't have like a hidden meeting or a hidden agenda. It's so good for us.

Sometimes he'll text me like, that doesn't make sense. And I'm like, oh, sorry, I know he's not pissed at me. He's just telling me this doesn't make sense. Say it again. Yeah, it doesn't make sense to him. He just needs me to rephrase it. So it's so good. I have actually taken that from him as my new thing. So the ins and outs of Taylor, working with Taylor, here's the thing. So mine is, hey, my tone is actually not negative. I'm not pissed. You'll know if I'm pissed, I'll tell you I'm really angry and I'm going to tell you why. But I think people can get very, they get nervous, especially within work situations. You just constantly feel like something bad's going to happen and it's like, don't assume that about me, I guess.

JG: On that note, do you think that it would be helpful if everybody had a crib sheet? Joining a business about how you communicate and off the back of that, how do you feel people could be an ally to anybody neurodiverse in the workplace?

TH: I think the first thing is if you know somebody's neurodiverse… Yeah so this is a tricky one. I had an ADHD employee a few years ago and she told me she had ADHD and I said, great, let's work on some accommodations for you. And she said, no, I don't want to be treated differently than anyone else. And she actually at one point went to another Director in the agency and said Taylor… because some things would happen… I'd say, I know this will be difficult for you, but what can I do to make this easier? So she went to another Director and said, taylor always talks to me about my ADHD and I don't like it. I was like, oh, okay. I kind of thought you were disclosing so that I could help you because, you know, I'm autistic. But she doesn't want… but I also feel bad knowing someone's neurodiverse, and I'm supposed to just treat them as if they're not. That's like a weird thing for me.

So I think within the workplace, the first thing would just be asking them, do you need a comp? First of all, if they know they're neurodiverse, are you out? Yeah. Is this something that you want other people to know? Is this something that you want me to keep in mind? I do think it's difficult, and it's sort of like uncharted waters of this like navigating the workspace as a neurodivergent person. And it's very very hard because the spectrum is the spectrum. Some people can look other people in the eyes, some people can't. Some people can talk in a very neurotypical way, some people can't. It's like you don't ever know. And it is hard for some people, I think, to navigate that. It's even hard for me, and I'm neurodivergent, so I get it.

JG: For some people, it might be like you're putting a costume on every morning, you're doing your Cosplay and then you're like coming home and they can crack on with that.

TH: And that’s ok. I think that's one thing that we also have to be accepting of, and that's called masking, by the way, if anyone needs to know what that means. We, meaning neurodivergent people, autistic people, specifically, because we try to fit into social situations, what we try to do is mask what other people are doing. So that makes us fit into social settings a little bit better. For a lot of women who were diagnosed later in life, specifically within women, because they never studied girls. They only studied young boys, specifically, young white boys. We didn't know we were misdiagnosed as depressed, or you have really bad anxiety, or you've got nerves.

JG: Hormonal

RSB: I mean, it’s hormones and all these things, it’s a soup of stuff.

TH: So we had to pretend, and we had to put on a costume, and mine was I think it is, I'm still kind of figuring out what if this is my personality and what isn't? I do kind of become this comedian in social settings, and I think it's because when I do unmask around some people, they can kind of be like, oh, she's a bit of a….

RSB: You know that you're doing it? Is it like your superpower? You go like, you know what? I can switch off now. Like, when you get home with your husband.

TH: Yes. And with certain friends. Yes.

RSB: Because I imagine you're masking now because we're recording a podcast and you're kind of like…

TH: Yes and no, because I knew were doing this. And I know you guys because I didn't just meet you today. If I just met you today.. Yeah. And so I feel like, when I know people but if you guys see me with my friend that I was with this weekend. So when I told my friends who have known for 20 years that I was autistic, she was like, wow, yeah, that makes sense. So she maybe would have suspected that in the past, but it was I don't know. You don't ever want to tell somebody like, oh, you might be neurodivergent.

RSB: No, you need to figure out yourself.

TH: Yeah. Now, actually, I think because I'm a bit of a like, I'm out about it, and I talk about it a lot. People come up to me all the time and they're like, do you think this is it? Do you think? And I'm like, yeah, it sounds like but…

RSB: I think what you’re doing is really amazing because there must be so many people who are living this life of being completely exhausted they don't even know they are, and just feeling, like, awkward and not quite connected to the job and not quite connected to the people and getting fired or just feeling like, oh, my God.

TH: Getting fired part. And the shame.

RSB: Yeah, the shame because shame is part of autism, isn't it? And you just feel, like, awful all the time.

TH: I'm shaking my head, yes, by the way.

RSB: It's part of it, isn't it? And so just feeling, like, ashamed of yourself constantly just must be just the saddest thing. So I hope that because you're so out and talking about it all the time, more people, particularly on LinkedIn, because you're very active on LinkedIn. Lots of people see you and are like, oh, actually, there's a super cool person who has a really great job who does really interesting things. She's not a nerd that sat there doing one particular type of job because that's what pigeonholed anybody that's neurodiverse to do. She's doing something incredibly creative. She's talking about it. I would love to have a drink with her. She seems like someone I'd be pals with.

TH: It has given people that confidence. Right? And I have so many people come up to me, and they're like, I even have friends I've met, friends for years, and they're like, Stuff you post. I'm like, Wait, that's me. And I think we had this conversation earlier, like, everyone's a little on the spectrum, which I commented that is a very ableist no, but it's okay because it's true. Everybody has features. We all have traits of things that fit on the spectrum. A lot of people have these things. It's when you have a plethora of them. It's when those things affect your life so much that you can't just do something that we've deemed normal. And it's really… on that topic, it's very funny because this conversation all the time on LinkedIn with people where it's like, actually neurodivergent people are normal. We're the ones who communicate very clearly.

It's neurotypical people that speak in code. Yes. And it's like, what the heck? Why are we the ones that have to learn to code and learn to find hidden meanings in things? It's very strange. I had a situation with my sister once where I was visiting her, and she was like, oh, my God, my house is such a mess. There's just shit everywhere. And I said, do you want me to help you clean it? And her response was why? Because I'm a disgusting fucking pig? Is that why? And I was like, no. I literally just said, do you want me to help you clean your house? You literally just said it was messy. And I was like, do you want me to help you organise?

That is a conversation I constantly tell people that's what it's like to talk to a neurotypical person. Sometimes I say one thing that is exactly what I mean. And people my husband does it sometimes, too. When we're arguing, I'll say something and he's like, oh, you meant this? I'm like, I literally didn't say that, though. Yeah, I said exactly what I meant. And he goes, oh, right, okay. He'll sometimes forget that stuff. So it is very difficult. I say stuff all the time. If people get so mad at me because they think I mean something else, it's like, okay.

So just that in itself is very hard to just communicate with people. And we talked earlier about just ending friendships, and it's like, that's a very… you know autistic people would have…

RSB: I loved that story where you'd literally just dropped out of something because I didn't help you move something really heavy.

TH: It was, and I got into this very depressive moment, and it was like, I ran into that friend ten years later, and he was like, where the fuck have you been? And we've been friends since then. He was just like, what the hell? Yeah, but yeah, you do kind of like… because I think also that was pre diagnosis so I felt this shame of being this weird person. So when somebody wouldn't help me do something, I was like, oh, they don't like me. They think I'm weird. And it's like, no, he's probably just busy and didn't want to help me move a chair.

RSB: A chair shaped like a shoe.

TH: Shaped like a shoe. That's a stopper shoe. Yeah, I bought from a sex worker who was an incredible human being.

JG: That you then fell out with.

TH: No, still friends with her.

RSB: Don't have the shoe anymore.

TH: I don't have the shoe anymore. But I'm still friends with her. Yeah, no, it was actually now that I'm thinking about it, I really missed that chair. It was shaped like a high heel.

RSB: Like Dita von Teese vibes.

TH: Yeah, no, like, literally, it was a Dita von Teese vibes. Yeah. So I think it's difficult because you feel like then once you kind of know you're autistic, you're like, actually, I'm just like being myself, and somebody's getting frustrated at me for just asking a question, and I think that's the biggest thing. And for a lot of people, it's just like, I can't fucking be bothered. I just can't be bothered. So I'm just not going to do it.

RSB: Yeah, it's really fascinating. I could talk about this for hours and hours. Is there any resources or anything that you think people should know about that we should put in our show notes? Because obviously, if you are feeling like, actually, that could be me, or you are working with someone who you may need some support with, it would be really helpful to know.

TH: There's a lot of Instagram pages. So there's like, Oh My God Autistic AF and Actually Autistic, and a lot of these really cool… they're very easy to find if you just search them… that do really great research, not only on little traits about autistic people that just… I learn stuff about myself every day. I'm like, oh, I do that. I have to have a very specific seat at the theatre. I didn't realise that was… I'm learning things almost every single day that I'm like, oh, that's part of autism. And so they're great resources for that. And then also other channels that talk about autism from a more clinical perspective. So things on what that means and how to sort of ask for accommodations for yourself, or if you're a neurotypical person working with an autistic person, things that you can start to look out for.

There's a psychology handbook called I probably shouldn't even mention this because I feel like it's a bit polarizing, but I think it's called the DSM Guidelines, and that's kind of what is used to diagnose someone. Okay. I haven't read it myself just because it's, like, a very clinical book, and there's a lot of people now that are kind of pushing back on it, being like, hey, there's some people now that are studying whether or not ADHD is part of the autistic spectrum.

RSB: It's so big isn’t it. We'll put links to the Instagram things and stuff that you've mentioned.

TH: Yeah, I'll send you guys all the handles and then yeah, there's a lot of people that are very vocal about it on LinkedIn. I personally would recommend finding, if you can specifically just like, non white, CIS het people that have accounts, which there are a lot out there. One of my favorite accounts, I can't actually remember his handle because I don't pay attention to that stuff, but he's like a queer autistic guy that lives here in the UK. He's got, like, really long hair and wears eyeshadow all the time. I'll send you his account. That's a whole other conversation, which is that autistic people… gender is such a weird thing to us. Like, the fact that people are like, there's two genders. We're like what? So a lot of autistic people are trans or non binary or pansexual or asexual or bisexual, because it's just these rules and constructs that society has put into place, we just find so fucking mind-blowingly odd. We're like, but you know, that's not real. It's completely made up. So cool. Have fun with that. We'll be over here not doing that. So you will find a lot of autistic people that are also speaking about those issues within their advocacy.

But, yeah, I just think making sure that you're looking at people that aren't just a reflection of you, because you'll learn more. And I think everybody's autism is different. Everybody's ADHD is different. There's a lot of things that are very similar, but there's a lot of stuff that's different. And we talk about looking people in the eyes, or the things, when I told my mom was autistic, she was like, yeah, but you can have a conversation and look people in the eyes. And I'm like, yeah, because I taught myself how to do it for 35 years, I forced myself to look at people in the eye, and it's so uncomfortable.

RSB: In Amsterdam, the Dutch really have an eye contact thing.

TH: It's really uncomfortable.

RSB: You must have found that…

JG: Let's talk more about the communications crib sheet if you think that would be beneficial for everybody in the business to maybe have one and what we think could be on there.

TH: So, yes, I'd never heard of it before until Tilo said that this is a thing he did. And then I was like, this is genius, I'm going to do this as well. I think it's really helpful for not only neurodiverse people, but also neurotypical people, because I think sometimes the reaction neurotypical people have to neurodiverse people can be… that in itself is like, that person kind of needs an accommodation for that as well, so respect those. But knowing people's, I guess just communication styles, whether or not it's in person, for me, a big one, will be my tone. Like, in meetings, my tone always, and it's wild because I feel like I'm being very in my head, I'm like, yeah, you're being really chill and cool right now. And then afterwards, people are like, Whoa, are you okay? I'm like, what do you mean? They're, like…

JG: Got really intense.

TH: Luckily, the agency I just was previously at, they knew that, and they were super chill with that. And sometimes I would have little meltdowns in front of them, like autistic meltdowns, and they just let it happen, and they didn't ever hold it against me. So that was so great to be in that environment. But there's situations where on Slack I'm more of a person who's just like joking at things and I'll respond to funny things and stuff. But if it's something really serious, I need it kind of in person or I need it in Asana. Like in a task very clearly out in bullet points. I think also just understanding, like you said, having a co-worker who also when you're a parent. So not only am I neurodiverse, but I'm also trying to parent my toddler who's screaming at me and hanging off me. So yeah, on Slack, I'm just going to shoot stuff over, even on text. So it's like I'm just getting that info out. And I think that was really helpful to hear from Tilo, my investor, because he was like, don't read into anything I say. And I feel like once you tell people that's on them.

RSB: I think this is a new thing. If everybody you meet for work has some kind of crib sheet so you've got an idea of how to handle them. Like when you're hiring for your business, you can do this, can't you? You can be like, I'm Taylor, this is all about me.

TH: Yeah. Or you can have pre made questions for them to answer.

JG: But beyond that, if you're communicating and you've had this crib sheet, it's their responsibility to expand on a point if they meant something else, right?

TH: Yeah. And I think too, that's a space to ask too, like, what are your pronouns? How do you like to be referred to? Put all of that stuff in like… everyone has their own little manual. I think it's super helpful. And also if it's for everyone, it's not just singling out neurodiverse people.

RSB: I'm going to chat to our HR pals about that. We could do like an example one.

JG: I'm sure some businesses do it..

RSB: I’m sure, but yeah, I think it's a really positive idea though, isn't it?

TH: I also think a lot of it's very difficult to sort of pinpoint specific things about neurodiversity because it's such a spectrum.

RSB: Also, I suppose you might end up with people really going on an ego trip on them or being like, well, I said this, so you have to do this.

TH: But I think if you have pre made questions that maybe would fit but.

RSB: Maybe experiment, I think we should all do that at work.

TH: I have to take that onus on myself. Before every meeting, I'm like, hey guys, just a reminder, I'm autistic. My tone is going to make you feel really uncomfortable sometimes. Don't take it personal. I'm going to ask very direct questions. And it's like it's just exhausting having to do it with the same people every like they'll forget sometimes or people just go, oh yeah, you're autistic. And then they don't know what that means. They don't look into it. So I have to just keep reminding them.

JG: Keep educating.

TH: Yeah. Or they're like, Taylor's a bitch. It's like, I mean, I am a bitch

RSB: But that work was really awful. She’s really hacked off.

TH: A lot of my therapy sessions start with, I don't know if this is the autism or I'm just a total asshole. My therapist is always like, It's the autism, Taylor. No, it's the autism. And you know what? That's also like my sister once said to me, too, I don't think you're autistic. I think you're just an asshole. Funnily enough, she got diagnosed, like, a year after. So I was like, welcome to the club. We don't get along very well if.

JG: Who’s the asshole now.

TH: Yeah, no, she got diagnosed with ADHD, and then she was like, now she's joking about it all the time. I'm like, I really you sat there.

JG: Filing your nails, going…

TH: We have two in the family.

RSB: What did your mom think?

TH: My mother is also undiagnosed ADHD, and she has no idea. Wow. Well, it's like when you have it, you start recognising it in other people.

JG: If you spot it, you've got it.

TH: Exactly. My Mom, we tell her all the time. We're like, mom, you got ADHD. And she's like, I know, but she just doesn't… she’s just like I am who I am.

RSB: It's quite hip to have ADHD now. TikTok has made ADHD like a hip new thing.

TH: I think there's two parts to that. So I think it's hip in a sense of more people are talking about it, but also more people are being diagnosed because more people are being listened to and heard. Okay. Yeah. And I think also it's probably more typical and common than we think it is, but yeah, I think also a lot of people talk about self diagnosis versus official diagnosis. Caveat, I'm a massive advocate for self diagnosis because people just don't have access to those resources and being able to they cost so much money in the States, for example, it's just like, people can't afford it, so forget it. But yeah, I think people are on… some people think, oh, maybe autistic. Right now, I'm actually trying to discuss if I have ADHD with my therapist. That's one of the things we're kind of working on.

And people think they have one thing. I have a friend who also is with my same therapist. I referred her to her, and she thought she had OCD for so long, she's like, five minutes into my conversation with my therapist, my therapist was like, you're autistic, it's not OCD. And she was like, okay, great. Because it was like she was constantly battling this OCD thing, and that's not actually what it was. It was autism

JG: and she just needs to to welcome it into her life

TH: Yeah, and so now she can actually move forward in that journey.

RSB: Cool. That’s great kids. Thank you so much, Taylor. It's a pleasure talking to you always. And this has been really interesting. We will be putting bits and pieces into our LinkedIn to kind of talk about this, and then we'll post the extra bits and pieces in the show notes as well for you. But if there's anything any of our community want to talk about, then please drop us an email on We've also got lots of articles on our LinkedIn and we have a wealth of kind of little mini articles on our website as well, which is Signing off for now, though. Thank you so much. Bye

JG + TH: Bye.

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