Interview with Anna Nibbs, autistic person, parent, professional.

Anna is a Learning and Teaching Enhancement Adviser at the University of Sheffield. She is autistic.

In this wide-ranging conversation recorded on 3rd May 2019 at Sheffield Hallam University, Anna provides an expert and experiential view of individual and systemic issues in health and well being and inclusion in the workplace.

Also covered is neurodiversity, autistic culture shift, disability models, combatting anxiety, mentoring, leadership and Autism Dialogue, in which Anna has participated since early 2018.

Anna states, “I had a clued up manager who realised my issues were an Occupational Health thing. Her question was what does this person need in order to work well. Regardless of a diagnosis, what does this person need in order to do their job? That really should be how everything should be, really”

“If the systems are poor and the experience of the workplace is poor, it saps energy and resources which means that there’s less energy available to deliver a good service to the end user. For me as a disabled person, an autistic person, I think that’s a huge thing because so much of our internal resources are sapped away before we’ve even got a chance to use them for the good that we want to bring into the world.”

“There’s a lot of talk about health and wellbeing but a lot of it is sticking plasters that don’t address the systemic cause of low well-being and mental illness among students and staff.’

Dr. Luke Beardon stated Autism + Environment = Outcome, but often the environment is not even paid any heed to.”

“One of the things that I’m interested in, is the skills that disabled people (more generally), but autistic people have, that are being used in ways often just to survive, and to keep safe, and to protect, or look after others in the community, and therefore are not being recognised as something that they’re using professionally.

Things like advocacy, mentoring, coaching and collaboration. Autistic people are supposed to not be able to do team work and yet you see online the networking, the collaboration, the joint group projects often managed with so limited resources, and if that isn’t team work I don’t know what is! And actually a lot this stuff is invisible and is not acknowledged for the high level skilled work that it is.

Many workplace practices are not inclusive and not accessible, those skills are being used just to enable that person to get by. And this is the thing about organisational user experience.


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