Personal Stories, Autism, ADHD

Autism & ADHD in the army

This week I had an online chat with someone who was diagnosed as autistic and ADHD, after joining the army. Before their diagnosis they felt that they were scraping by, but their diagnosis provided them with new personal insights and helped them to eventually go on and pull off an international cyber event which gained public recognition.

This is their story.

What was school like for you?

I was always a geek, never one to fit in.

In primary school I was advised that I wouldn’t get through my GCSE’s due to my dyslexia. I was lucky with some supportive parents and a very good school, which pushed us towards uni.

I scraped through (C’s at GCSE, C’s at A level and 2:2 at uni) and ended up joining the army,  however I did love computers / technology and puzzles.

What was it like when you joined the army?

As well as the camaraderie that the forces give, its a lot more practical and fact based.

Anyhow - for a few years, I twigged something wasn’t right and sought advice from the medical staff. I’m always moving - never able to sit still. My IQ is in the top 2% percentile but I was consistently scraping along.

I got a diagnosis of ADHD / Autism. That wasn’t easy to determine but once done - was a eye opener.

What self-awareness did your diagnosis give you?

It completed a puzzle and then I saw a picture of how to improve my performance. Something didn’t fit, it does (almost all) now and I’m more effective because of it.

I need to slow down - medicate- get more sleep. I work with logical issues so need to avoid the implied.

How to facilitate the traditional storming and norming that a team does, but more quickly.

Did you change your approach after your diagnosis?

I still struggle with jokes and know people who hate me for being me, due to my mannerisms.

I now do complex tasks in an area I won’t get distracted, and when medication or alertness is at its lowest level. I use more frameworks SWOT, RACI etc

There are a number of online recommendations that help.

How did your boss support/ facilitate you?

He provided clear unambiguous direction, backed me up - trust, and let me try to explain in my own way.

I’m good at red teaming / concept development, just articulating can take a while. It wasn’t perfect, but I eventually it got out and he saw other options for him to take into account.

What happened after you got your diagnosis?

I have since managed to get - my MSc (merit) and CENG - not bad for a C grade at GCSE. I also completed various demanding cyber courses - CISSP etc

Then recently I pulled off a national/international cyber event for which I received significant public recognition.

To have been able to achieve as much as I did -  I credit that to my Neurodiversity, self awareness and a boss that supported / facilitated me

What skills do you credit to being Neurodivergent?

I can take in complex large amounts of data and spot trends / opportunities.

Lateral thinking - so it’s not what it is / it’s what is it not. Your then left with possibilities of what could it be

I love being busy / high pressure - people can’t keep up.

How open are you about your diagnosis?

I limit who I tell. Mental health has a stigma and I don’t need any more gossiping - those who I feel should know, do.

Any final thoughts?

Anything is possible if people apply themselves.

Society needs to change to embrace Neurodiversity like we are doing to combat discrimination. It’s about cost-effectiveness, and gainfully employing people so they can contribute to society.

If you are autistic, dyslexic, dyspraxic, bipolar, Tourettes, OCD, ADHD, ADD, or Neurodivergent in another way, and would like to share your story and thoughts then please contact me.

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