A new business has popped up in Revelstoke aimed at helping people and families living with neurodiversity.
People who are neurodiverse include those with autism, ADHD or other variations in the human brain that impact sociability, learning, attention, mood and other brain functions.
As a parent with children who are neurodiverse, Pam Olsson noticed a gap in services between when concerns or behaviours first pop up and when treatment can be accessed.
“When I started with my kids I was overwhelmed,” she said.
According to a 2018 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated one in 42 males between the ages of five and 17 years old in Canada have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For females the number is one in 165 for the same age group.
At Unique Excellence, Olsson sits with clients to hear their story and works with them to create a simple, step by step supportive action plan, which includes resources, referrals, guidance and information regarding options and supports.
Autism is not something that needs to be fixed as people who are on the spectrum should not need to change to fit into society, she said.
Instead, people who are neurodiverse need to learn emotional, sensory and social regulation which is how their body finds balance and productivity.
For Olsson, that includes meditation, music, movement, hot baths and spending time with trusted friends, family and her dog Luna.
Olsson, who grew up in Revelstoke went away as an adult, but came back, and was diagnosed with autism at age 39.
As a child, she struggled to focus in class and socialize. In high school the social issues became debilitating.
As an adult, she had trouble getting jobs, bombing every job interview no matter how qualified she was for the position – as soon as she knew someone was evaluating her she had trouble speaking.
People thought she was shy. “I spent many years feeling stupid and like I was different from everyone else,” she said.
While completing her master of arts in education, Olsson had to complete a reflective learning assignment that required her to think about her experiences as a child.
With an undergraduate degree in psychology under her belt as well as a social service worker certificate, it dawned on Olsson that she might be neurodiverse.
So, she had a full assessment and was diagnosed with autism, which, for her, includes ADHD.
Olsson said if she had known earlier in her life, she could have worked with her strengths instead of fighting to excel at things she would never be good at.
Olsson said she doesn’t blame her family or the institutions she was a part of for not recognizing she was neurodiverse, as the information available at the time was lacking.
Olsson said girls and women with autism often go undiagnosed for two reasons – first, being the disorder can present differently in men and women; and second, women are good at masking it.
“That is how people fall through the cracks,” said Olsson.
She hopes through her advocacy and business she can contribute towards a more inclusive society where neurodiverse needs are included in school curriculum and represented in society.
“The focus should be less on assimilating us into neurotypical thinkers and more on developing our strengths while helping us find ways to regulate based on our unique needs,” she said.
“Regulated people do not socially isolate themselves, exhibit avoidance behaviours or cause disruption.”
Find out more information about Unique Excellence at uniqueexcellence.ca