By: Victoria S.
My name is Victoria, and I am a neurodivergent employee at MOVIA Robotics. Working at a company that helps autistic individuals and their families, I hope to use my own experiences to foster an inclusive environment for the entire spectrum of neurodiversity within MOVIA and beyond.
First, what is neurodiversity? Neurodiversity refers to the wide range of differences in brain function and behavioral characteristics across the human population. Neurodivergence is the state of differing in neurological function from what is considered typical or normal. Autism, ADHD, and a variety of other conditions exist under the umbrella of neurodivergence. As we move towards a more inclusive society, part of that inclusion must extend to the neurodivergent population.
Autistic people and those with other types of neurodivergent brains can offer so much in terms of creativity, thinking outside the box, and otherwise being very genuine, kind, and interesting individuals. I believe that awareness of what neurodivergence really is must be the first step towards acceptance. I mean, how can society accept what it really doesn’t know that much about? Don’t get me wrong – it is great to know that autism exists, but learning from autistic individuals in recent years has illuminated so much about the autistic experience, rivaling decades of research in some cases. I hope to contribute to this awareness with a series of posts documenting my experience as a neurodivergent woman and employee at MOVIA. Let’s get started!
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I was found to be autistic and ADHD. It is quite common for women to be diagnosed with neurodivergence later in life, as they are particularly hardwired to fit in socially, mask (cover-up) their neurodivergent traits, and even be misdiagnosed along the way. Medical and psychological knowledge has evolved quite a bit since I was young, but the awareness of a rather distinct dichotomy of neurodivergent phenotypes between males and females still has a long way to go. Today, looking back on my childhood, the signs couldn’t have been more in-your-face than the flashing one welcoming you to Las Vegas.
When I was 6, playing with others wasn’t my forte, but I sure did like to have them hold the other Barbie while I fed them lines to have their doll “say”. My grandma found this amusing, wanted to come up with her own lines but of course, out of love, she played along. The kids in my class, though, not so much.
Growing up having acute sensitivity to sounds and textures, difficulty making and keeping friends, having a relatively flat vocal tone and facial expressions, and not enjoying hugs from my parents earned me the (endearing) nickname “robot,” with my parents chalking my quirks up to precocity and immaturity. I’d surely grow out of it, right? Well, not really.
Making and keeping close friends was like navigating the New York subway without a map while everyone else had said map. On the other hand, I excelled in school and in extracurricular activities, which were all structured and gave me boundaries within which I could succeed.
It was rather straightforward: If I studied for the exam, I got an A; If I practiced my karate form enough times, I would pass onto the next belt level; If I solved enough formulaic algebra equations correctly, I would get two new stickers for my Kumon sticker tree. When it came to making friends, it was a mystery to me why no other 3rd grader wanted to talk about Pokémon all. day. long. But, what 8-year-old wasn’t at least somewhat interested in those cute little creatures and their superpowers?
This is one reason I and many other girls flew under the radar, evading diagnosis for years and in my case, decades: many of our special interests are often justified as “normal” for young girls or teenagers. In high school, I spent most of my free time learning every detail about the fashion industry while learning German and Latin. I spent hours in the public library poring over archived issues of Vogue (names of models and designers Fashion and languages have been my longest-standing special interests). These interests stood the test of time, while others waxed and waned over the years. Oh, did I mention that I loved talking about my interests? I sure did but to the point of driving people away. Why didn’t she like hearing about the differences and similarities of the post-Soviet Central Asian nation-states?
I grew up, went to college, then to my master’s program, and then to medical school all while not having the right word or concept to describe who or how I was. Harrowing social experiences and time-tested rejection led to me adopting certain behaviors to seem more neurotypical – this is the masking I mentioned earlier.
Masking, if continued long enough, eventually becomes ingrained into the very fabric of who we are. It pays off in the short term, with small talk, conversations, and even professional environments becoming a bit less rejection-heavy, but the price is paid when we don’t feel like ourselves and get just plain exhausted. This is called “autistic burnout.” It is a real health hazard and can be lessened in severity and incidence with societal awareness and acceptance of autism and other neurodivergent states.
My goal with this series of posts is to help enlighten the lived experiences of one neurodivergent person. Hopefully, it can start the conversation and encourage readers to reach out to a neurodivergent person in their lives to hear what they have to say and what they wish for in the society we all share and yearn to be a part of. By asking with nothing more than genuine curiosity, you will likely receive an interesting and enthusiastically delivered story about what it means to be neurodivergent. For starters, stay tuned for the rest of this series by a late-diagnosed, autistic-ADHD, fashion-junkie, language-enthusiast sales support specialist here at MOVIA Robotics.
Sales & Marketing Development Specialist
Victoria S. joined MOVIA in 2021 as a Sales & Marketing Development Specialist, focusing on sales enablement, workflow, and outreach/outbound activities. Victoria studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California, Clinical Research at Stanford, and medicine at Quinnipiac. As a neurodivergent member of the MOVIA team, she also strives to build companywide awareness and tools to help foster MOVIA’s mission both internally and in the greater community.