My name is Claire Barnett
, and I was diagnosed with autism when I was 19 years old and a second-year student at Vanderbilt University which led me to start the Vanderbilt Autism & Neurodiversity Alliance, a space for neurodivergent students, faculty and staff to connect. I graduated 'cum laude' in May 2019 with a degree in Human & Organizational Development. I have now been the Communications Coordinator at the Frist Center for Autism & Innovation for almost two years! I get to do autism advocacy on a daily basis, with an emphasis on neurodivergent adults in the workforce and women on the spectrum.
When I reflect upon it, I can clearly see how being autistic and ADHD has given me my specific strengths and weaknesses. I have found several accommodations to be helpful in college and at work. Noise-cancelling headphones and low lighting help with both distractions and sensory overload. Having clear, structured deadlines and progress check-ins has been a life-saver in college and work, especially if my task is not intrinsically stimulating. Most importantly, I have had teachers and supervisors who learned about neurodiversity and interpreted my words and actions through that lens. They understood that my social mistakes were not intentional rudeness, and that my difficulties with executive functioning were not laziness. This has made all the difference!
I have been accepted into the full-time MBA program at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC Chapel Hill, which I will begin this fall (go Tarheels!). Leaving my job at Vanderbilt will be sad, but I'm hoping to leverage my experience in my current role with my graduate degree to ultimately work in corporate diversity and inclusion, with a focus on disability.