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08 Oct 2022, 9:47 am

Woman diagnosed with neurological conditions after symptoms 'ignored' in childhood

Quote:
A tech engineer said she was diagnosed late with two neurological conditions after her symptoms were "ignored" as a child.

Caroline Keep has autism and ADHD but was only officially diagnosed two years ago, something she said is common among women. The 40-year-old said she wanted to focus on the positives rather than the negatives and hopes to inspire other autistic girls to pursue their dreams, however unusual, as she competes to be named Britain's best female tech expert.

Caroline, who created MakeFest, a one-day extravaganza of science, engineering, and arts and crafts, has made the 200-strong shortlist of this year's Women in Tech Awards. The annual awards ceremony is run by WeAreTechWomen, which aims to increase the number of women working in the technology industry and promote the work of female trailblazers in STEM.

In 2014 she retrained as a physics teacher and founded MakeFest the following year with the aim of getting young women into technology.

In 2017, she set up the first school makerspace in the UK and was awarded the National New Teacher of the Year award by the Times Education Supplement (TES) for her efforts.

She said: "I was actually late-diagnosed with ADHD and autism two years ago, which is massively common in women. The stereotypical examples of autism are how boys present, and that was the medical model for a long time, so girls were ignored in the 80s when I was growing up.

"Nowadays it's more commonly recognised in girls, but we still have a long way to go.

"We need to reform how we think neurodiverse individuals should look and behave. I'm talented when it comes to technology, but if you were to ask me to cook a meal you'd probably end up with the kitchen on fire.

"It doesn't tend to make sense to neurotypical people because they think their skill sets are the same across the board, when really I do struggle with day to day things they find easy."

Through her success in teaching and technology, Caroline hopes to present a positive role model to children with ADHD and autism who feel overlooked.

She said: "Often I'll get young people say to me 'I'm not sure I can do that because I have autism or ADHD', and I can say 'I am too'.

"There's a great prevalence of neurodiversity in schools that people feel the need to hide. There's not a day goes by that a teacher doesn't tell me they think they might be autistic, but they don't want to say anything.

"There's always been a stigma about being seen as different. But a lot of my differences are my strengths. I have always been a nerdy person into STEM. Working in a classroom with robots is my idea of a dream. For me, it's perfectly ideal.

"Unfortunately, the support for neurodiverse people is just not there. I think the way the system is set up is all about about the negatives, and none of the positives. But there are a lot of really successful neurodiverse people out there. Michael Phelps has ADHD. Anthony Hopkins has autism“


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman