Entrepreneurs + Neurodiversity: Sophie Thomas on Coaching via Autism, ADHD and Dyspraxia
We are thrilled to be joined again by the makers of Skylight CALENDAR Enjoy this podcast knowing that we used it to get this one to you on time! 🙂 You can order yours by going to www.skylightcal.com and using the discount code PETER for 10% off of this 15” device up to $30.
Having ADD or ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Hear from people all around the globe, from every walk of life, in every profession, from Rock Stars to CEOs, from Teachers to Politicians, who have learned how to unlock the gifts of their ADD and ADHD diagnosis, and use it to their personal and professional advantage, to build businesses, become millionaires, or simply better their lives. Our Guest today in their own words: Sophie is a neurodivergent mother of three, late diagnosed with autism / adhd / dyspraxia 18 months ago, as was her now 9 year old son. She lives in Dubai, and until 18 months ago had spent 20 years in the corporate world of strategy consulting and professional services. She’s moved from client facing strategy work internally to set up her firms strategy and projects team, before being asked to step into the technology leader and then the human resource leader roles . She’s since set up her own company The Growth Pod, which helps passion and purpose led entrepreneurs harness their creativity and their uniqueness to create successful growth strategies or their business. Today we learn how this neurodivergent Mother’s is thriving as she advocates for more balanced neurodiversity in the corporate world. Enjoy!! 🙂
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00:04 – Skylight calendar makes chores and scheduling easy. Use the code “PETER” for a nice discount!
00:40 – Thank you again so much for listening and for subscribing!!
01:47 – Introducing and Welcome Sophie Thomas!
04:34 – “If you look at my professional success, it hasn’t been a hindrance to me! I did well because of it.”
05:13 – On talking with her son about being neurodivergent
06:17 – Grief and self-discovery led to transformation.
07:00 – On the Importance of supporting neurodiverse students
09:36 – On making accommodations in the classroom
11:40 – Inclusion challenges and gender challenges in the Middle East workplace.
12:05 – On lacking Mental health and neurodiversity support/discussion of sexuality due to illegality. The region is far behind the world in celebrating neurodiversity, leaving them absent of utilizing super-powered skill sets from our global community.
15:30 – On breaking the Rain Man stereotype
16:05 – How can people find you?
Socials: @ Growth_Pod on INSTA
17:00 – Thanks so much for enjoying “Faster Than Normal” just about every week!! We appreciate you and your hard work so much! Onwards! Please join us again very soon!
OH! And… If you haven’t picked up The Boy with the Faster Brain yet, it is on Amazon and it is a number #1 One bestseller in all categories. Click HERE or via https://amzn.to/3FcAKkI My link tree is here if you’re looking for something specific. https://linktr.ee/petershankman
TRANSCRIPT via Castmagic.io and then corrected.. mostly but somewhat.
You’re listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast, where we know that having Add or ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Each week we interview people from all around the globe, from every walk of life in every profession. From rock stars to CEOs, from teachers to politicians who have learned how to unlock the gifts of their add and ADHD diagnosis and used it to their personal and professional advance edge to build businesses, to become millionaires, or to simply better their lives. And now, here’s the host of the Faster Than Normal podcast
If you haven’t picked up The Boy with the Faster Brain yet, it is on Amazon and it is a number #1 One bestseller in all categories. Click HERE or via https://amzn.to/3FcAKkI My link tree is here if you’re looking for something specific. https://linktr.ee/petershankman
TRANSCRIPT via Castmagic.io and then corrected.. pretty-much.
You’re listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast, where we know that having Add or ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Each week we interview people from all around the globe, from every walk of life in every profession. From rock stars to CEOs, from teachers to politicians who have learned how to unlock the gifts of their add and ADHD diagnosis and used it to their personal and professional advance edge to build businesses, to become millionaires, or to simply better their lives. And now, here’s the host of the Faster Than Normal podcast to simply better their lives. And now, here’s the host of the Faster Than Normal podcast, the man who booked a round trip flight to Tokyo just to write a best selling book, Peter Shankman.
Peter Shankman [00:00:04]: Hey, everyone. I want to give a shout out this week to Skylight Frame. You can check them [email protected]. As always, they’ve been a great sponsor for the past couple months. They’re still here. A lot of you have gone out and bought the Skylight Frame, and it is pretty awesome. It’s a full calendar that sits on your wall, connects to Google or whatever calendar service you use, Apple calendar, whatever. And then it tells your kids what they have to do. You enter in all their chores. They can look at the screen every morning. They click on what the have to do and they do it. And it has stopped the arguments in our house from Jessa, have you changed the dog’s baby pads to have you cleaned your room? She simply knows. She goes looks chores, cleans them off, does her chores, and then clicks them on the touch screen. When the touch screen is not in use, it shows beautiful photos that you can upload right to its server. So I love it. Huge fan. You can get up to $30 off with the code, Peter, if you order [email protected]. Okay. Thank you, Skylight.
Peter Shankman [00:01:47]: Peter Shankman. Welcome to another episode of Fast Than Normal. Do you know what I found out? I found out last week in pure, typical ADHD fashion. Apparently we’ve come across 300 episodes. Apparently last week’s episode or a couple of weeks ago was our 300th. And I had no idea. I wanted to get a cake and eat the cake during a podcast. And someone sent me an email, hey, congratulations on hitting 300 episodes. And I went, oh, yeah. Okay, cool. Thanks. So that’s the beauty. One of the beauties of ADHD. Totally blew that one. But hey, we made it through 300 episodes, which is pretty cool. I think less than one parent of all podcasts ever make it to 300 episodes, so feeling pretty good about that. Anyway, I want to talk today to a woman named Sophie Thomas. Sophie Thomas is a neurodivergent mother of three. She’s late diagnosed with autism, ADHD dyspraxia. So apparently she did nothing for the first, like, X number of years of her life and than when her nine year old son got diagnosed. She’s like, oh, look at all these things I have. She lives in dubai, which is pretty cool because you know me and how much I love Dubai and until 18 months ago had spent 20 years in the corporate world of strategy consulting and professional services. She recently moved from client facing strategy work to set up her firm’s Strategy and Project Team before being asked to step in as technology leader and then do a human resource role. Realizing that she loved human resources, she set up her own company called The Growth Pod, and that helps passion and purpose led entrepreneurs harness their creativity and their uniqueness to create successful growth strategies for their businesses. Many of her clients are also neurodiverse and part of her new mission in life is to advocate for neurodiversity in the corporate world. Welcome, Sophie.
Sophie [00:03:25]: Thank you. And congratulations on 300 episodes as a nascent podcaster. I know that’s a massive feat.
Peter Shankman [00:03:33]: I was kind of shocked by it and like I said, didn’t even realize it, which is so typical. When The Boy with the Faster Brain came out a month and a half ago, I didn’t realize the launch date and I started getting all these emails saying, hey, congratulations on your new book. I’m like, I didn’t know it was out yet, but cool. Thanks. Yeah, that’s just so typical. So you got diagnosed with autism, ADHD and dyspraxia. So tell us what Than was like. Was that a whole life changer for you?
Sophie [00:03:58]: Absolutely. I’ve always known I was different and having the diagnosis just completely changed my narrative and it changed our family as well because we were going through the process. For my son, I read a book on Asperger’s, though I know we’re not meant to use the term and identified him in that book. And sort of going through that book, I also identified myself. And my husband is super supportive of us, but he wasn’t quite sure what we would do with an autism diagnosis for my son or a neurodivergent diagnosis. And seeing an understanding that I was neurodivergent just made it so much easier for all of us to accept his diagnosis and celebrate it. Because if you look at my professional success, it hasn’t been a hindrance to me. In fact, when I reflect on it and since leaving the corporate world, when I look back at my experiences and I’ve changed the narrative, I don’t now put of myself as a survivor and have done well despite my neurons divergence. I did well because of it.
Sophie [00:05:06]: It’s because of loads of the traits that I have that I’ve been able to be the success that I was. And I’m really excited now that we can have that conversation with my son at a very young age, celebrate his neurodiversity and talk about his superpowers and his strengths and how he can take those into what I know will be a very different world in sort of 1520 years time when he’s in looking for jobs and creating careers. But I think it’s going to be really empowering for him to have had somebody close to him as a role model and a family that champions and supports him.
Peter Shankman [00:05:44]: Tell me about so one of the things that I talk a lot to companies about this, and I explained that my ADHD is definitely my success is because of not in spite of my ADHD, but one of the things we don’t talk a lot about is what it was like growing up. So ADHD doesn’t just happen the second you get diagnosed. You get diagnosed because you know something’s different. So when you were growing up, I’m assuming I don’t know where you grew up, but assuming where you grew up, it couldn’t have been as easy because you weren’t allowed to be as different as you are allowed to be today.
Sophie [00:06:17]: No, there was a huge amount of grief, I think that came with my diagnosis. As part of that diagnosis, I had to go through all of my old school reports which my parents had lovingly kept for me. And it’s amazing when you read all of those back to back in about 6 hours, as I did Hyper Focus and looking at the narrative of that kid. I just felt so sad for her that nobody sat there. And put together the picture of somebody than I always thought I was stupid or not very intelligent. But I was okay because I could work really hard. And I see in those reports the pockets of we think Sophie is a bright child, but she’s lazy and she’s too introverted. We just don’t seem to be able to get through to her. And everything I read into that now is we don’t have the time or we don’t have the skills. We don’t have the understanding of how to teach her differently or how to teach her in a way where she can excel. I had to sit down at every major point of examinations and in the UK we have two or three big sets of them in our life. And I had to reteach myself every curriculum in three months before my exams just to get through. I was predicted to fail. I was told I wasn’t going to go to a decent university. And against all of the odds, I sat down, I knuckled down and I came out with a’s across the board. And now I have a different narrative, which is that I am really bright, my neurodiversity, I’m twice exceptional. I can say from a position of fact that my intelligence is higher than 98 percentile of the population. That in itself has changed me completely. And I try not to think about actually what would have been different if somebody had supported me. Because I find that not necessarily it can be a spiral and a rabbit hole to go through, no question. What I think not is about, okay, how can I take that and how can I help my son? How can I advocate for my son? How can I make it different from him? How can I help him to recognize and own his intelligence, to harness that power, to find ways that he can learn and get the accommodations he needs in school and then think about how he’s best going to use those powers in a career that’s going to be meaningful to him?
Peter Shankman [00:08:38]: And your son is with you in it like, what’s it like in the Dubai school system in America? It’s just sort of coming up and we’re starting to make good strides, but it’s taken forever in a day.
Sophie [00:08:53]: It’s nascent here. I mean, it’s a very different society. It’s very multicultural. So a lot of the things that I would have imagined we would struggle with in terms of inclusion in Europe or the US. We don’t have here because it is so diverse. You have everybody from every nationality, different languages, everybody is in different places. So schools seem to be more naturally inclusive, but they’re private education. They want to maximize revenue. So it is harder for kids that have additional needs to get into the good schools. It’s expensive for parents to support them if they do have additional needs and need learning support, assistance. And we’re really lucky that our son thrives in school. And his school is probably one of the most inclusive. The small accommodations they put into the classroom for him, they’ve been putting in there for all kids because they recognize that all kids move to a different beat of their own drum. I’m nervous about secondary because the education sector is developing so rapidly. The primary is more developed. It’s come on along in the last six, seven years since we started sending him to school. Secondary is catching up. Bu I’m nervous about that because I think at that point you’re a bit like a shark in infested waters. And the inclusivity that we found in the early years, I’m not sure we’re going to find it in secondary.
Peter Shankman [00:10:11]: Interesting. Okay, so what are you preparing to do? How are you getting ready for that?
Sophie [00:10:17]: Well, we’re having conversations with him about he’s got to own his decision of which school. It would be very easy for us as parents to go on the traditional measures of a good school. We could look at grades, we could look at the number of university students. But at the end of the day, he’s got to find somewhere where he feels like his rhythm is going to be recognized and supported. So we’re going to try and go around a load of schools. I’m part of the local communities around Neurodiversity, so I listen to which of most inclusive things. But one thing I’m seeing a trend of in Dubai is schools that are coming up than are way more creative and innovative and nontraditional. And I feel like one of those schools where it is much more focus on digitization tech that that will be a better environment for him, rather than something that looks more like a traditional education system that I might recognize and sort of stereotypical me. Would Cold feel like that was a good school for him?
Peter Shankman [00:11:17]: Makes sense. Tell me about what it’s like there in the workplace, having been out there for years, having now understanding your neurodiversity, what is the conversation like when you would talk to, say, when you were still at your old position? Would you tell people about it? Would you talk to it? How did they react to.
Sophie [00:11:40]: Think, you know, I’ve been in the Middle East for 14 years, and, you know, I would have said my primary difference for the majority of that was that I was female. Secondly, that I was English Add. There aren’t many senior English female women in the workplace. And in my later role in HR, I was involved in diversity inclusion. And when I look at the conversations you have around ind here compared to those you have in Europe or the US. It’s much, much narrower. So the focus is on gender still, which is a conversation that we still have elsewhere, but less so it’s on nationality. So it is a much more inclusion of the national workforce here and bringing in the Emirates, the Saudis, the Qataris into Middle Eastern firms. There really isn’t a conversation about hidden disabilities, about neurodiversity, and there’s absolutely zero conversation around sexuality and the LGBTQI because of the context here in illegality, which is really challenging. So it’s a much, much narrower conversation. When I was in my role, we were coming out of COVID and huge concerns around mental health and support for individuals. And I found, without knowing about my neurodiversity, that the individuals who were struggling the most with inclusion were individuals on the neurodiverse spectrum. And we had so many challenges with people with mental health awareness, with breakdowns, burnouts, suicidality, and we were not where we needed to be in the region in terms of inclusiveness around conversations around mental health and support that we could put in there. And so even on, like, when it’s really obvious, when people are really struggling, we’re not great. And when we’re talking about proactive measures of inclusivity in the workplace and celebrating neurodiversity traits and thinking about how we incorporate those, embrace them, and actively seek them out in the future, we’re just miles away. And what I loved when I met you in Dubai was you had just finished off your step conference speech around customer experience, which I loved. But it was your shout out about the future of work and actively seeking. Out neurodivergent skill sets to be part of the environment and the corporate add entrepreneurial environment. That really resonated with me because we are so behind in this region in having those conversations or even recognizing that it’s something to be celebrated. I told very few colleagues about my diagnosis. I left about six months after my diagnosis, not directly because of my diagnosis, but it was interlinked. But when I talked about my son’s diagnosis, I had people commiserating with me and saying things, well, at least like, you’ve got two normal children. Yeah. Add oh, have you looked at his diet? And maybe just things that I would have expected in the UK 25 years ago.
Peter Shankman [00:14:54]: Right.
Sophie [00:14:54]: So there’s a really in the general population, not a great understanding. I think there’s still very much a kind of a Rain Man or bonkers children bouncing off the walls kind of impression of neurodiversity. And I still get friends coming up to me when I tell them, and I’m now very open about my diagnosis, and they’re like, well, you don’t seem very autistic or you don’t seem very neurodiverse. And it blows my mind that we still have those entrenched views and see it as a much more disabling sort of set of characteristics or neurotype than it really is.
Peter Shankman [00:15:37]: And again, I think that’s something we’ll definitely talk about offline, because, like I said, I was speaking one of the companies I was talking to last week. I was on satellite, and someone emailed me later from your region. And, you know, it’s great to finally hear this and my company’s taken seriously because no one here believes it. So I think we got a lot of work to do. That being said, Sophie Thomas, I’m so glad you joined us today. Thank you so much for taking the time. How can people find you so you.
Sophie [00:16:02]: Can find [email protected] where I have all of my interests? Add particularly around neurodivergent supports for workplaces. And you can find me at the Growth Pod or Growth_pod on Instagram Growth_pod, not for my work on business coaching.
16:05 – How can people find you?
Socials: @ Growth_Pod on INSTA
Peter Shankman [00:16:19]: Sophie, thank you so much. As soon as we go live, we’ll let you know. As always, thank you all for listening. We will have another episode next week. I can’t believe we’re over 300 episodes, as you know.
Sophie [00:16:28]: Congratulations.
Peter Shankman [00:16:29]: Thank you. As I didn’t know. But either way, great to have you guys. We’ll see you next week. Sophie, thank you again, everyone. Neurodiversity is a gift, not a curse. We’re going to keep telling that story forever. Talk to you soon. Bye.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at shankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. All now on https://www.threads.net/@petershankman
If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week!