‘I thought I was dumb for not being able to pay attention…’: Cymeria Robshaw shares her experience as a neurodivergent young adult
Cymeria Robshaw (she/her/hers) recently sat down to share more about her involvement with Eye to Eye, a commitment she mentioned stems from her desire to support students, having lacked support when she was younger. A graduating senior at The College of the Holy Cross majoring in Psychology with a minor in Art, she has been involved with Eye to Eye National (E2E) as both a Near-Peer Mentor and a Chapter Leader.
“I thought I was dumb for not being able to pay attention, taking double the time to complete a test, or getting a low score on my SATs because I ran out of time when it was simply because I had undiagnosed ADHD.” This was one of the many insights Cymeria shared while participating in a recent panel discussion at this year’s Learning Disabilities association of America conference(LDA) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During the panel discussion, Cymeria shared experiences, learnings, and suggestions about the importance of being heard, seen, and valued as a neurodivergent young adult. When she was younger, the portrayal of ADHD “made it seem like it was a bad thing to have,” making her reluctant to explore if she had it. She talked about how she struggled a lot throughout her educational career and wasn’t diagnosed until her Sophomore year of college. Learning more about her diagnosis led her to seek the accommodations she needed as a neurodiverse person by advocating for herself.
A recording of the full panel discussion is available here.
In a follow-up interview after the conference, Cymeria shared reflections on her experience speaking on the panel, navigating the educational system as someone with ADHD, supporting neurodivergent young people, and the importance of self-advocacy.
Why did you speak on the panel and participate in the LDA conference?
I had a positive experience going to Young Leaders Organizing Institute over the summer because I was able to collaborate with other neurodivergent young people.It was such a great experience for me, so I wanted to have that experience again, and it was also my first time speaking on a panel. I wanted to challenge myself and get out there and talk about my experience since, normally, it’s not something I can openly talk about in front of a group of people and make a difference. I thought it would be a great learning experience.
What was the experience of speaking on the panel like for you?
It made me feel important and valued. I went in with a bit of a script, but the more I spoke, the more I was comfortable, and in the end, I felt like I could open up. Going into it, I was still trying to understand that my experience as someone with ADHD is important and deserves to be heard. Talking with some of the people in the audience who had questions for me made me feel supported and powerful. My experience meant something to someone, to the point that they wanted to ask questions for more of my insight.
Being a women of color with ADHD I feel like I’m constantly reminded of these identities but when I joined Eye to Eye I was recognized more for what I bring to the table as a person. The Eye to Eye community made me realize that I wasn’t an outsider and my voice is important."
What do you hope educators and professionals take away from the panel and the experiences you shared?
That there is a need for programs like Eye to Eye’s Near Peer Mentoring. Programs like that make a difference, even for the mentor. It’s helped me so much to grow as a person, and I get to see my peers, who are also mentoring, advocating for themselves in a way they may have never thought about. We need these programs, and creating more spaces for people who learn differently should definitely be a priority. I will have to navigate being neurodiverse in the professional world. I hope people also understand the importance of giving grace to people who learn differently and creating spaces for these people in all areas of life, not just education.
Why should neurodiverse students be supported, and how best do we support them?
The best way to support neurodiverse students and people, in general, is to create spaces where they can be themselves without worrying about being looked at with stereotypes. And to continue providing opportunities throughout higher education and all other areas.
I think expanding Eye to Eye to more locations so students can perform without having to wonder, ‘am I gonna live up to this stereotype’ or ‘Am I gonna be a certain way because I have ADHD’? And continue to make them feel like they have a voice. We constantly think that we have to do a lot to make a huge difference, and honestly, sometimes, just feeling heard and valued can go a long way.
There are a lot of Neurodiverse people and they are doing amazing things and can do amazing things so they need to be supported.”
Why was it important for you to share your story in this way?
I learned after research that women of color are often underdiagnosed. Some of my instructors made me feel like an outsider for needing accommodations. So, in order to become successful and get those accommodations I needed to become educated on my entitlements as a neurodiverse person and speak up. Learning from my failures helped me realize the importance of self-advocacy.
Speaking on the panel was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll forever remember. It was an opportunity I’ll always look back on because I could speak in front of people and talk about something that I live with daily. It’s so powerful.
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