I Want To See The World Celebrating Neuro-Atypical Thought

Everything Is Going To Be KO was born after I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia in my second year at Oxford University. My having learning difficulties was something unthinkable. It was unthinkable because I didn’t really understand what they were or how they manifested themselves. It completely changed my life and perception of myself. And at the same time, it also gave me the language to understand the way that I thought and worked.

It took a very long time to be able to understand myself and my brain. I felt like I had always grown up full of contradictions. I liked reading but I was bad at spelling. I worked hard in school but apparently, I was “too lazy to check my work through”. I am self-aware and empathetic but still, I can’t keep my mouth shut even when I know I should. Certain labels can help to encapsulate that complexity. When I was looking for help, it just wasn’t there. After I’d closed yet another primary coloured website covered in Comic Sans, I realised most resources are catered to parents and their children. It was a very lonely time because it felt like everyone just expected learning difficulties to disappear once you left school.

But it doesn’t. Once you’ve got through university, if you get the chance to go, then you have to find employment. I have had a huge number of job rejections in the last year, which might not be that unusual, but it feels like the system is made almost deliberately inaccessible. Application portals are my worst nightmare. They ask for long written answers in browsers and you tend to be unable to see the following questions. This makes me anxious about repeating myself, losing information and clarity as I try to construct answers in Word and transfer them over. Then you have to create endless profiles for each company, and worst of all, remember the passwords. I recently went for a last stage assessment day for one of our big British telly companies. I had let them know of my requirements: coloured paper for reading tasks (I’d even bring my own) and any writing tasks to be done on my laptop. They were very reassuring; “We try to make every concession for disability”. Halfway through the day, we were given one white piece of A4 and a writing task. Everyone was thrown – which is the point I guess. But to me, it feels like they were testing your ability to handwrite an email (which is something no-one has ever done in real life). It doesn’t represent me accurately and it doesn’t make me feel welcome. It’s not even worth getting started on the amount of time it takes to write yet another cover letter inevitably left untouched in an employer’s inbox. It feels like a set of challenges set up just to point out all of my inadequacies. But it’s not actually just me who feels like that. There are so many of us who would make amazing employees that don’t get the chance to show their abilities in full. Surely there has to be another way.

I want to see the world celebrating neuro-atypical thought. We are incredible storytellers and innovators. Because of what we might struggle with, we have had to create new untrodden paths to succeed. Everyone benefits from that. Intelligence is not based on a sound grip on grammar and spelling. In the same way, balance and structure have their uses but transformation and change are born from failure and chaos. Those of us with SpLDs are old friends of failure and chaos. We know how to use the negative and create something new when we are given the chance. If everyone else took a moment to stop calling us lazy, thick and r*tarded, took the time to take a deep breath and open their eyes, we’d all be better off. Disability is not inability.

Everything Is Going To Be KO is a project I’ve been working on for five years to try and create the sort of work and stories I was looking for then and now. It is about taking ownership of my own representation and the way my neuro-atypicality is presented whether on stage or in film. This is the only way I can be seen properly. It’s the only work I really want to do and probably the work I’m best suited to. So you can keep your job, I’ve got my own stories to tell and my own films to make. Those of us lucky enough to have disabilities know we have to create our own work, shout twice as loud and forge a new path.

The stage show is on at Gerry’s Theatre Royal Stratford East 18-20th JanuaryThe film is available on Canvas’ channel, and for more information visit everythingko.com