Lydia Wilkins - She/Her
Freelance Journalist and Author
Lydia Wilkins is freelance journalist who specialises in disability and social issues. Her work has appeared in places such as The Independent, The Metro, The Daily Mail and Refinery 29. Lydia’s debut book, The Autism Friendly Cookbook, was published in November 2022. She is also an ambassador for AccessAble, and writes the regular newsletter The Disabled Feminist over on Substack.
Please tell us about your career
I am a freelance journalist who covers disability and social issues. Journalism was always something I wanted to do; I knew from a young age I wouldn’t be a fiction writer, which was later chalked up to issues with theory of mind, due to my Autism diagnosis. I liked facts, researching - and relatives would describe me as obsessional. I tracked down what happened to my great grandmother’s Kindertransport classmate at 14! I guess it was inevitable. I freelance - and this means I can manage my needs as an Autistic person and as a Long Covid patient. I absolutely love to interview people, to tell the stories - and I think my disability makes me a better listener.
When on work experience at a newspaper, the Editor said to do an NCTJ qualification - and it was thanks to the Journalism Diversity Fund, a body that funds the course fees and some expenses, I went off to study and to train as a journalist for a year! It was the best thing I did, and the first time I was accepted, largely, by a teacher.
I have recently published my first book, The Autism Friendly Cookbook. I thought I was the only one who experienced issues in this niche - we assume our experiences are that of everyone. The response privately was a bit mad but it’s the “you’ve given me the words to talk about my way of the world” that made it worthwhile.
I do feel a bit uncertain about my career! I always wanted to be an investigative journalist - the pandemic saw that off. I doubt that will ever happen. But this period of transition means the stories I collect daily on disability are finally being told. That is what I will never give up.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
As an Autistic woman in the journalistic industry, any kind of ‘unjust’ story majorly appeals to me - and I want to tell those stories traditional media has so often missed. I see outside the box in creating and writing on a day by day basis. My editors have sometimes recognised me as an empath - and I think have an understanding of the issues of my interviewees more so than for someone my age, and wish to tell it in a productive and ethical way.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
The role, definitely - but the industry has a hell of a long way to go in acceptance and inclusion, and not being tokenistic.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
The first thing I would say is to know yourself, or to make getting to know yourself a priority. That’s tough to do when it comes to masking - I journal a lot still, I also set aside time each day to sit and take stock. The second thing is that the power of community shouldn’t be underestimated or understated - find your heroes, your ‘you’, be it through groups or mentors. If there’s nothing specific, start one! The internet is your guide. And finally, we’re all human - cake and tea can cure a world of ills. Exercise a kindness to yourself.