IN CONVERSATION WITH STORYTELLER SIAN
“I’ve done a few non-conventional things in my life, like having my son in my early 40s solo. I’ve also worked in a few taboo areas – supporting kids with HIV in Thailand to access life-saving medication, working in Aboriginal health, sexual health, and now disability.
I pivoted from teaching people about stress management and mindfulness to becoming an ADHD coach after finding out my son was autistic and we were both diagnosed with ADHD.
I work primarily with women, helping them to recognise that instead of feeling ashamed about who they are, they should feel proud of what they’ve achieved despite the challenges they’ve faced.
I work with many women who, like myself, are dealing with the challenges of their own disability, while solo parenting children with complex needs. Navigating intersectionality like this is so complex and men are rarely in the same situation.
I really want to blow the diversity conversation open to include neurodiversity. I know there is movement in the right direction, but it’s not enough – there is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding when it comes to invisible disabilities like ADHD and autism.
We need to shift the conversation away from deficits to strength-based contributions. If you want to include the amazing perspectives of people who have a different brain, then you also need to understand that the challenges we face are very real. These challenges are exacerbated by how our society is set up.
Attitudes, misconceptions and stigma very often cause more harm than the challenges we deal with day to day. I personally suffered from crippling anxiety and depression for much of the first 40 years of my life which is not uncommon for people with undiagnosed ADHD.
We know that different perspectives create the best outcomes. We also know many great minds of our time are neurodivergent – Grace Tame and Greta Thunberg are autistic and Richard Branson, marketing guru Seth Godin and IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad all have ADHD. But while there’s a growing understanding of the value of difference, there is still a disconnect when it comes to support in schools, workplaces and society in general.
These topics can be daunting and while we can’t all learn about every type of brain condition in-depth, we can all open our eyes and ears, tune in to the conversation and check our assumptions. We should all be considering how to include those with different ways of thinking to create more ambitious organisations and communities.
I hope that invisible disabilities will be more openly talked about so there is less shame. It feels to me like the last piece of the inclusivity conversation.
Coming to understand my brain and my son’s has been an incredibly hopeful journey. Once you know what you’re dealing with you can work with it – and finally, we’re well on our way to ensuring my needs and my son’s needs are being met. Systemic issues mean it’s still a work in progress but every person who tunes into the neurodiversity conversation is making a difference.”
*Interview and write-up – s p a c e storyteller, Sian Gooden