Emily Lees: what it is like to be an autistic speech and language therapist
What would be the challenges and benefits of a clinician when it comes to working with young people if they themselves have a diagnosis of autism?
Emily Lees is a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) at one of our specialist schools, Inscape House School. However, what makes her stand out is that Emily shares the same diagnosis as the young people she works with. We had a chat with Emily about how being autistic complements her in the workplace, job interviews and her mission to change society's approach to autistic people.
At Inscape House School...
Emily joined the Together Trust in January 2020, and even though this is her first job as a speech-language therapist, she is well-aware of what living in a neurotypical world is like and considers her diagnosis a strength rather than a weakness:
"It gives me unique insight into my students, and I can understand some of their struggles better due to my lived experience as an autistic person. And what helps the children, tends to help me too."
As Emily shares, there are loads of things that benefit her practice. What's more, because of her own sensory and executive function difficulties, she is often able to pick up cues other people miss and understands the struggles of living in a neurotypical world:
"Especially when it comes to common special interests, repetitive behaviours and intense passions, I encourage some of these, as long as they are not harmful. Because I have them too."
Neurodiversity at the workplace
Although employers are gradually getting better at recognising the value of including neurodiverse people in their organisations, it seems most of them still have a long way to go. Emily's job-seeking experience before her current role, unfortunately, proves it, as she admits:
"I have encountered so many obstacles, and I feel like I have been discriminated against my whole life really. For example, when I was attending interviews for a speech and language therapist, I was interviewed by clinicians and many of the difficulties that I had are the type of difficulties that they themselves as therapists are helping people overcome. So, what often happens is, employers might be giving these accommodations to clients, but they are not giving them to colleagues or potential employees. And I find this very, very contradictory."
Despite the, as Emily calls them, "excruciating experiences", she has always been advocating for autistic people to accept their neurodivergence.
Equality and diversity is an important topic in every workplace all over the world, including our organisation. The Together Trust is committed to eliminating discrimination and treating all individuals fairly and equally in all aspects of its work.
We are proud to have neurodivergent colleagues such as Emily who not only highlights the strengths of being autistic but acts as a role model for the autistic community.