Melissa Sampson, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advisor: My journey of self-discovery – autism, ADHD, and Access to Work

Life has a funny way of unravelling its mysteries – often when we least expect it. For me, this journey began when my daughter was diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis that would eventually lead me down a path of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

This is my story of realising my own neurodiversity, seeking a diagnosis for ADHD at the age of 30, and finding the support I needed through Access to Work.

It all started with my daughter’s autism diagnosis. As I learned more about autism and its traits, something remarkable happened: I began to recognise aspects of myself in the descriptions and characteristics associated with autism.

I realised that the challenges I had faced throughout my life—social interactions, sensory sensitivities and a unique way of processing information—might be more than just quirks; they could be manifestations of autism.

Armed with this newfound awareness, I decided to seek a diagnosis for myself. It was a process that required self-examination and the courage to confront a reality I had long suspected but never fully acknowledged. The diagnosis confirmed what I had suspected all along—I was indeed on the autism spectrum.

However, the journey didn’t end there. During the assessment process, I was told that there was another piece to the puzzle: ADHD. The revelation that I had both autism and ADHD was both enlightening and overwhelming. It explained so much about my life, the struggles I had faced, and the unique strengths I possessed.

The diagnosis of ADHD brought a flood of emotions. There was validation in knowing that my difficulties with focus, organisation and impulse control had a name. Yet, there was also a sense of grief for the years I had spent navigating life’s challenges without understanding the root causes.

One of the pivotal moments in my journey was when I gathered the courage to apply for Access to Work. This government-funded program in the UK offers assistance to individuals with disabilities or health conditions in the workplace. It provides recommendations and support tailored to an individual’s needs.

The application process was a step into the unknown, but it was a step toward greater independence and success in my career. I had to articulate my specific needs, explaining how ADHD affected my work and outline the support I required. It was a moment of vulnerability, but it was also a moment of empowerment.

Dimensions has supported and guided me throughout the process of applying to Access to Work and have worked hard to ensure I have the right resources I need to do my job to the best of my ability. Our HR, IT and the EDI teams have all been fantastic at organising the many recommendations, and have worked collaboratively with the IT team to ensure technology is approved and installed.

My journey of self-discovery, from recognising autism traits in myself to being diagnosed with ADHD and seeking support through Access to Work, has been a rollercoaster of emotions. It has been a journey of acceptance, self-compassion, and personal growth. I’ve learned that understanding and embracing my neurodiversity is a source of strength, and seeking help when needed is an act of courage.

My hope is that by sharing my story, others may find inspiration and solace in their own journeys.