Interview: Helen Needham: Founder of Me.Decoded
In the last few weeks, and quite by accident, I found out that I am #ActuallyAutistic. When I diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum so much made sense to me. I realised that there was a reason why I struggled in certain situations and with certain things, although I have done very well to mask all this during my lifetime!
During some time spent researching my condition online I came across a new platform dedicated to neurodiversity called Me.Decoded. I am contributing to it by way of sharing my story and how I was diagnosed as being #ActuallyAutistic, and I’m delighted that the founder of the platform, Helen Needham, has agreed to give an interview about Me.Decoded for “Cyber Geek Girl”. Thank you Helen!
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what you do?
Hi, I’m Helen and I was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 41. I am a mum of two, wife of one, and a management consultant in financial services. My passion is advocating for neurodiversity, as I want to see a change in how people who process information differently are supported and empowered to succeed. Recently I launched a new platform dedicated to neurodiversity, called Me.Decoded.
What did your diagnosis of autism mean to you?
It meant so much for me. I have spent much of my life feeling like I am on the outside looking in, and been struggling with feeling I had to become more socially adept in order to succeed at work. My diagnosis gave me the self-confidence and insight that I didn’t need to change who I am, I just needed to find new ways of working with the people around me. It paid off.
Did you suspect that you may have autism before you were diagnosed?
Yes, I suspected for almost 2 years. My son was diagnosed 3 years ago and the more I learnt about autism, especially in women, the more I felt that I fit the profile. For a year, the thought of being told I wasn’t autistic held me back as I thought if I am not autistic then I am just difficult.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering seeking a diagnosis of autism as they might suspect they have it?
Chat to other autistic adults, and try find people who can support you. There are a great number of online support groups, it is easier when you don’t feel you are facing it on your own. The wait for a diagnosis can take a long time, so be prepared to wait unless you can afford to go privately.
What is Me.decoded and what is it all about?
Me.Decoded is a platform for bringing together Neurodivergent thinkers, saying this is me and this is what I need, and allies to highlight what is needed to fully embrace Neurodiversity.
This includes autism, ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, bipolar, OCD, SPD and other neurodevelopmental differences.
I am looking for people to share their stories and insights, as their is power in our voices. The more we speak out, the more chance we have of being heard.
What inspired you to found Me.Decoded?
I struggled with chronic anxiety at work, believing that I needed to become more socially engaging with others in order to succeed. I also struggled to find the right support for my son at school, and he was asked to leave two schools in 6 months.
For both my son and I, a change in the perception of our behaviours and a change in our approach to education / work has transformed our ability to be successful. He is now doing well at school, and I have been promoted at work.
We achieved this through a greater understanding of who we are and changing the approach to getting things done, rather than changing who we are.
Too many people have not been given this opportunity, and they are struggling because they are not supported to be themselves. I want to change that.
This is why Me.Decoded is so important to me.
How important do you think it is to unite those who are neurodiverse?
I think it is critically important for us to come together with a collective voice calling for change. The more voices we bring together, the louder the call for change. I recently read that in a survey, Neurodiversity is only on the agenda for 10% of UK companies. This is nowhere near enough, but I believe that together we can change that.
How can others contribute to me.decoded and get involved in it?
There are many ways, from doing a Q&A interview with me over email to becoming a regular contributor to the site. I am looking for personal stories (challenges & successes), strategies, tips for neurodiversity, and celebrations of companies who are already embracing Neurodiversity.
People who are interested can contact me at https://www.medecoded.com/contact-me/.
About Helen Needham
Helen is a mum, wife, management consultant, and founder of Me.Decoded. She is also autistic. Diagnosed in her 40’s after a lifetime of feeling like she was on the outside looking in, she is starting to make her space in the world. Helen is on a mission to get more people and organisations to embrace Neurodiversity, and is looking for people to join her on this mission as they share their stories on Me.Decoded.
Helen’s site is https://www.medecoded.com/
Helen’s facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/MeDecoded
Helen’s twitter is https://twitter.com/MeDecoded
Helen’s YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrOWQe6abvNFva-Xjwv2dPg