Autism + ADHD = CEO
I am so over the idea of autism awareness, and half the time? I don’t even care about autism acceptance. What I’d like to see is some autism AWE. Because for every myth and straight-out lie that says what autistics can or should do, there are a heap of actual, real-life, blood-filled human autistics can-ning and should-ing across the globe.
Here’s the thing, Autistic World Domination is now. We are everywhere, and we are quietly (and loudly!) making the world our own!
Your world, your way.
Okay, so get ready to meet Cherie Clonan, CEO. Killing it in business (and life!) with neuroaffirming, people-centred leadership. You can check out her Autistics Assemble profile here with all her linky jewels. My interview with her is below 🙂
Humanness: I’m an Autistic woman [she/her], to x2 neurodivergent children. I’m a creatively-oriented CEO of a digital marketing agency in Melbourne/Naarm. I’m a really proud servant leader, who loathes hierarchy but accepts that it does have to exist in some ways within my role as TDP’s CEO. I’m a humanistic and encouraging person, who gets legitimate Autistic joy out of performing random acts of kindness [as well as regular acts of kindness].
Passions and expertise: Before I knew I was Autistic, I thought it was entirely normal to see everyday scenes play out in front of me, and go full “cinematic production” on them, i.e if a kid was kicking a ball on the playground? I’d see a full cinematic experience, complete with narration, and cinematic [emotive] music, and drama, and entertainment. My role in these scenes was always to write what I saw, and now … I’m a really good writer. I always have been, and I imagine I always will be. It just comes so naturally, because what might be twenty shades of green to a neurotypical eye? … is two hundred shades of green to my creatively-oriented Autistic eye. And this competitive advantage helps me to write really well. Now that I’m all grown up, I’m acutely aware that what I’ve just described to you isn’t “the norm”, but is very much so a [big] part of my Autistic lived experience. And I’m grateful that it is.
Autistic joys: I love stimming over a current favourite song and listening to it on repeat [no exaggeration? I can do one song, two hundred times consecutively. #lol] until I’m sick of it … and move on to a new “favourite song”. I love buying Cadbury ‘Snack’ chocolate, and sorting the flavours from least favourite, to most favourite. When I get to the final x2 flavours [the best ones: orange, and pineapple], it is peak Autistic joy to me. I love random acts of kindness, and I love thinking that I might be the reason someone’s sh*t day became a good one [e.g tipping an UberEats driver with a really high tip, just ‘cos]. I get a lot of Autistic joy from seeing justice prevail [e.g taking on an ableist Principal at my son’s former school, and winning]. I love inclusivity. And community. And bringing people together. And I love animals [they’re so much better than humans].
Sensory specialities: I’m a 300%’er. I can go really hard, and really fast, and get a lot done in a hyper-focused way … and then I fizzle out and need a one week recovery period where I operate at 40-50%, and that’s a-ok … because my 300% is the stuff that productivity [and capitalistic. #lol] dreams are made of.
The ideal world: My dream is that mainstream school settings will serve neurodivergent students significantly better than they currently do, but I have to be honest with you, I don’t think I [or my children] will experience this within their lifetime[s]. That said, I believe my children’s children will … and I just cannot wait to see what’ll happen when school settings stop legitimately traumatising ND students the way they currently are. I can’t wait for a system to exist that neither traumatises nor discriminates, and instead celebrates differently wired. We’ll get there, we absolutely will, but I don’t know that it’ll be in my [or my children’s] lifetime[s].
Your autism journey: I was formally identified [I don’t refer to it as “diagnosed”, as I’m big on not pathologising my Autistic culture and identity, wherever possible] in 2019, right after my son was [and around the same time as my Dad]. We all got our expensive pieces of paper at exactly the same time [ha!], and nothing changed [and yet everything did, simultaneously … if that makes sense].
Tips for the newly diagnosed: I share this with any friend when they learn about their differently wired brains, but I think the best thing I did [initially] was to sit in silence for 12’ish months following my formal identification. Reason being? Had I “come out” in those very early days, I’d have hated the language I’d have used. I’d not have known anything about the more neuroaffirming language I can use when describing my Autistic culture and identity. I’d have used words that could have been damaging, and given that I have a humble [but still influential] social media following … I’d have hated that in my early days of unpacking that identification [and the subsequent internalised ableism], I could have been influencing folk [and negatively so]. To those who are newly identified? Sit in silence for a bit. Take your time. Educate yourself. Empower yourself. Learn as much about neuroaffirming language as possible. Unpack your internalised ableism. And when you’re ready? Then you can get LOUUDDDDDDD! ha!
Favourite autism-hacks and tips: I’m a [recent] big fan of saying “no” [lol]. I’m a deeply introverted PDA Autie who gets absolutely overwhelmed by excessive demands placed on me. And what might be a “demand” to me, could be everyday to another person [e.g cooking a family dinner, going grocery shopping, meal planning, blardy blah blah. lol]. For me? I’ve just learnt to say no. Unapologetically so, y’know? Like, “no. I’m not up for cooking dinner tonight, because I just business owner’d for x8 hours straight and managed a team of 20 people … and I’m not up for making a main dinner with a side of potato gratin tonight”. Or “no, I can’t come to this event, because I’m still wiped out from a social event I went to last fortnight”. Or “no, I haven’t got enough spoons to do that grocery shop. Now, or ever. So we either Coles Online it, or you go” [to my neurotypical husband, who can smash out a spoon-filled grocery shop, to my spoon’less one] 😉
Autistic hero: My Autistic Dad, Shane. He solo parented me from age 5, and gave me the actual best childhood. He didn’t know he was Autistic, nor did he know I was … but he made our home so neuroinclusive [advantages of being raised by an Autistic with a similar sensory profile to me]. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times over, “if neurodivergent kids were all raised by my Dad, there’d be significantly less traumatised kids out there” … because a childhood doesn’t get more neuroaffirming, than what my Dad provided for me.