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Neurodiversity 2 min read

A neurodiverse home

While accommodations at home or work isn't as simple as the Golden Rule, team member Victoria shares how holding space for the other person's experience is what's most important.

I'm autistic and my partner, Jason, has ADHD, dyslexia and PTSD. For Disability Employment Awareness Month, I wanted to share some of the ways we've found to work together in our home.


“Accommodations” sounds complicated but when you see it in action, the most important part is holding space for the other person's experience.


For example, ADHD folks like Jason tend to use visual cues as reminders. What looks to me like an untidy collection of papers, post-its and water glasses on his desk is actually an improvised memory support system. The letter on top of the pile is there to remind him to address it, the empty water glass is an important visual cue to refill it and drink water, and the post-it stores vital details (usually scribbled down during phone calls) and serves as a reminder to follow up. 

If I suddenly took these things away, his cues would be lost. Jason's accommodation in our home is that I don't tidy his spaces. (However, I do hack his system by leaving brooms and vacuum cleaners out as a gentle nudge to clean.)

Meanwhile, I often experience discomfort from ambient noise or become overwhelmed from a state of mind I can only describe as “too many things.” My accommodation in our home is being able to retreat and find peace and quiet, sometimes very suddenly.

Managing conflicting needs

I have noise sensitivity and Jason likes to make noise. Jason has rejection sensitive dysphoria and I like to give blunt, direct feedback.

No one's needs are more important. When our needs conflict, we have to stop and negotiate. One of our most helpful accommodations is taking a pause. There is nothing so urgent that the other person can't have some time alone to process or calm down.

Another key accommodation is understanding impact and intent. We've each learned scripts to tell the other person what we feel is happening, in the most non-accusatory way we can, so they can confirm if that was their intent. But even if it wasn't, we still have to own our impact. We experience the world very differently and we've learned there's no use in scolding the other person, saying they “shouldn't” have received our words or actions as harmful because we wouldn't have felt that way ourselves.

 

A strengths-based approach

When you're in a neurodivergent relationship, you quickly learn to throw out your assumptions about what an adult should be able to do. There are days when I don't feel comfortable going to the grocery store. Jason has a hate-hate relationship with forms. I have a talent for mismanaging the simplest conversations. Jason is comfortable talking to contractors and technicians in our home, but if he had to make the appointments, they would literally never happen.

We could waste our time trying to hold each other to these standards, but it's much easier to just help each other out. That way we each get to play to our strengths and feel we are contributing in some areas even if we need more help in others. 

Accommodating anyone in the workplace is not as simple as the Golden Rule because people don't necessarily want or need the same things.

It's about believing people when they describe their experiences, being willing to examine and discard unspoken assumptions, and finding ways to celebrate each other's strengths.

 

Learn more

7 insights on accessibility in business from CWB’s Visible and Invisible Disability Advocates group