Gemma Longfellow: Dynamic and Visionary Leader

Gemma Longfellow, a dynamic and visionary leader, currently serves as the Managing Partner for People & Culture at a leading global marketing agency specializing in sports and gaming.With her extensive experience and unwavering commitment to fostering excellence, Gemma has become a prominent figure in the creative industries. Her passion for leadership and organizational development has not only shaped the success of her team but also left a lasting impact on the agency’s culture.

Located in Manchester, UK, Gemma balances her professional achievements with a fulfilling personal life. She resides with her husband and their two school-age boys, creating a nurturing home environment where values of creativity, innovation, and sportsmanship are deeply instilled. Gemma’s unique blend of professional acumen and personal dedication makes her a role model in both her professional and local communities. Her leadership style, marked by empathy and strategic thinking, continues to drive the agency’s growth and its people towards new heights of creativity and efficiency.

Listen to the episode here:


Now tell me some of your background Gemma, like where you’re from, a little bit about your family, what do people want to know about who you are? Yeah, so professionally I work for a sports, eSports and gaming marketing agency, creative agency, and we work globally but based in Manchester in the UK where I live with my husband and my two sons, aidan and Harry who are 11 and 6. And I have been in that job, well, I’ve been in the company for 14 years, but on doing this board level role for the last two years and have progressed through the business doing various different things, but around people, my big passion is around people and seeing them fulfill their potential and seeing them work together really well and that’s kind of where.

My career grew and seeing people things together. And often in, in, I love that creative environment. So I love everybody, you know, kind of pulling together to produce something, to produce an output or to do something really cool. And then that really overflows into, into me and my life really, or the other way around perhaps.

I just really love being around people, connecting with people, helping people to feel really confident and sort of comfortable with who they are, but push themselves as well. Yeah. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? I always like to ask you because I’m introverted, so I’m always trying to Yeah, definitely an extrovert.

You get energy from being around people. I really do. I have to like, learn how to put boundaries on that because I do need to recharge. You know, a week like, a week like this is like, amazing to me because of around people. But I, I have, then I get really tight. Because I forget, forget to rest. Right. Because I get loads of energy from it.

Yeah. But I think I’m also very content in my own company. So I think I’m an extra, I think I’m an extrovert but with introverted. You know, I don’t have to be with people, but I love, I love, I used to hate the idea of like networking. I mean, who likes networking? But it had a shift when a couple of years ago, I was like, this is just talking to people and getting to know people.

And I love that. You know, I love I’m fine with like just going wherever you go in conversations and just learning about people. And I see it as that, you know, I, rather than, oh goodness, the dreaded, what can you get from people networking type chat. So yeah. And it’s very funny because my husband is the opposite.

So he, yeah, yeah. And he’s like it’s funny. I’ll go in a room and be like, yay, let’s get to go. And he’s just fine to not be that, you know, person. And so it was good, you know, yin and yang. Yeah. What was your first impression about the idea of courage, courageous, but just what was your first impressions of that?

Courage is, you know, there’s that quote, isn’t there? It’s not the absence of fear. It’s you carry on and do something even though you might be a bit afraid or it might be difficult or uncomfortable. So, you know, courage to me speaks of pushing yourself and going beyond what might feel, you know, comfortable or that requires more of you than you might, than might be your kind of normal standard baseline or, or even a bit more.

Even if you’re sort of, there’s kind of, there’s kind of your baseline normal and then there’s, you know, pushing yourself and doing a bit more encourages that like step, you know, it’s that push to do something for whatever reason, for whatever motivation. And I think we all need courage you know, to do, to, to be fully who we are and to help each other to do that as well and inspire each other.

And I think. I have seen so many courageous people and courageous acts that inspire me. And I just thought when I read that, I thought actually, yeah, it’s a really cool idea to just stop and think what’s, what’s made, what’s pushed me, what’s made me have to step out of myself or go beyond what might be comfortable and where might that potentially help someone else or inspire someone else.

Yeah, totally. When you think of, when you think of the idea of courage and bravery, is there somebody that comes to mind that inspires you? Historical figure or family member or? I mean, my mom inspires me. She, she, my father passed away when I was seven. So she had to have really, she was like really courageous growing, you know, growing up and raising three young kids on her own.

I mean, that was courage that she had to just, she didn’t have a choice over, you know, she had to, in a way, you know, she had to just kind of push on. But I think it was courage to, you know, allow us to talk about it and for it to kind of just be a normal part of our childhood. It sounds really strange, I suppose, summing up like that, but yeah, I, I never felt like we had, we were pretending and we were pretending or, you know, it was a let’s just get on with it and move on.

From that thing I felt re I felt there was loads of space for us to. like process that stuff, but also move on and push on. And so I think she’s a courageous person to do that in the kind of, that’s in the, in the hidden place, right? It’s not necessarily really public. Yeah, she’s probably the one that springs to mind.

Yeah, that’s good. So we’re here at this experience here at Oxford with a cohort of 50 plus leaders. I mean, it’s a strong, I’m so impressed with these people. Everybody has this imposter syndrome. I sure have that now when I walk in there with that. But so one question would be, what do you think courage has to do with leadership?

Mm hmm. You know, leadership, I see it as imagining a future. And taking people there or bringing people together to create an imagined future. It’s not just all about that one person. And so I talk about this with my team quite a bit. We are going down a path that’s untrod. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a way forward that’s There’s no path for, certainly that’s what we’re trying to do is in our leadership team.

I think about the work context, because we are really passionate about changing the industry, being a like a leading light in it and, and changing how marketing and creative industries work and the value of people. Lots of, we have really ambitious And so I have to remind people, we’re going down a path that hasn’t been gone, you know, you haven’t been down this before.

So we’re going to have some trees in the way and, and, and high grass and things that we’re going to have to like work out and go around and go through. And so for me, You know, courage is really needed in that situation because you have, you know, have to be brave to go somewhere that hasn’t, you haven’t been before.

And actually, interestingly, that also requires the humility to say, that doesn’t mean I have, you know, you always have to be pioneering the new path. Sometimes there’s paths you go on, which have been. have been forged already and that you can follow. So I think for me, you know, it’s that, it’s that courage and bravery.

It’s about actually saying we’re on a journey. You know, a journey requires you to yeah, to think, to think about what tools and what things are needed along the way. And that’s often things that you don’t have. So for me, like connecting to, I suppose my interpretation of what, What courage is, and it’s going beyond what you know is and is comfortable.

To do that, you know, you need to be able to you need to be able to draw on something. You know, draw on some sort of force or, or strength. And for me, that’s what bravery and courage embodies. That, what, that’s what you draw on. It’s, and actually giving it a name and owning it as a thing helps. Because you’re thinking, okay, I’m employing this skill.

I’m employing this tool to help us go down this path that has not been taken before. Yeah, no, well said. No, I totally agree with you too. I mean, it’s, I think I told my kids, sent them a text the other day. It was because I stood up in class and gave a little, you know, my little talk down in the pit and I told them that it’s good to do scary things sometimes.

I mean, that’s a very simplistic way of saying what you’re saying, but it’s good to do that, you know, to, to challenge yourself and to push through. That is courage and see what’s on the other side of it. So, yeah. What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? So my response to this is to do with my son, Aidan who we now know has autism.

And he, we had his diagnosis in August last year. So he’s 11. And really that’s required of me a lot of things that I didn’t know I would need to give. Thank you. Or be or do as a parent. I mean, parenting is this adventure that you have no clue what you’re doing anyway, right? And then every, every new thing is, you know, okay, like let’s figure this one out.

And I think cause he’s our eldest, we’ve had no, you know, no comparison like before, you know, obviously you have kids in your life and, and whatever, but. So for, for myself and my husband, we you know, we had Aidan and, and for us, all the kind of challenges that we were facing when he was young, we had no clue that it might be to do with the fact he wasn’t neurotypical, you know, or, you know, there might be something we need to explore it for us.

It was just, this is what, this is, this is what happens when you have kids. It’s really hard, you know, and everyone talks about that. And so, you know, in really, it’s when we started hitting the education system that That, that I needed to start being courageous. That it felt like, actually, Okay, there’s some stuff here I need to do as his mum.

That is quite hard for me. You know, as we talked about earlier, I’m an extrovert. I’m happy to chat. I’m quite opinionated. I’m happy to say what I need to say. And particularly, you know, in my professional context, I have hard conversations a lot of the time. You know, you can’t work in a kind of people and culture kind of role like mine.

I’ve got more and more senior without being able to do that, have those skills. However, I think that I had to be really courageous in terms of recognizing that there was extra stuff he needed, and for me to be his advocate and champion in a way I didn’t know I had to be or could be. So when you’re someone like me who grew up really following the rules, and You know, my childhood, I just worked really hard, quite academic, you know, getting good grades, would never not do what a teacher told me to do, you know, just that, that was my kind of personality, like conform and be good, you know.

And then when you have a kid who, you know, in the early years of nursery and reception, so when he was three, four. But at that age, when he was, you know, hitting and kicking and shouting to communicate, now I know. But it was seen as bad behavior, your kids being bad, why are they always hitting, why are they always, you know.

And I see all these other kids with my, you know, friends and, and who have kids of similar ages and in a church group or wherever it might be or a play group, whatever. And their kids will just kind of get on and, you know, you might have to teach them a bit about sharing, but it’s, it’s an extreme for me, you know, like he just had no concept of sharing.

We are now understand that empathy and understanding communication can be a challenge for someone with autism. So, even from that stage I had to start learning how to put aside the judgment of that, the group dynamic and try and embrace him for who he was. Now that’s, I don’t think I did a great job of it.

To begin with, you know, I felt really like, got really mad, you know, like, Why is our kid not doing this? This is really your, why, you know, why is he not conforming and behaving? And then it got worse going to nursery where you then start to get the tea, you know, the, the teachers kind of coming back and you, you’re the person who, They talk to every day about the dynamics and then it was even worse in reception.

So we were like full on school. So that’s like the full kind of school day. And again, it’s the, You’re getting pulled in at the end of the day, every day, to have a conversation about his beh his behavior. And really that continued in, for a couple of years in the start of school. And, you know, and we were getting to know Aidan more and more, so understanding kind of who he is.

who he is a bit more and at that point it was kind of exploring, kind of recognizing, oh okay there’s some kind of patterns here of things that he’s not coping with. And I really, it came to a head in year two when he He started saying, Mommy, I hate myself. I don’t, I don’t do what I want to do. I don’t want to do what I want to do.

I want to do these things that they’re telling me to do and I can’t do them. I can’t do them. And he said, I want, you know, I want to die. I want to die. I don’t want to do, do these things. And I just like, this is not okay. He’s six, you know. And he, he, that was really the kind of turning point for me, for us, you know, I’m talking about me, but this is a real journey, a family journey, right?

But, and I think that’s when I was like, right, I have got to step up here and really start being his voice where he can’t be it. You know, he can’t say the things he needs to say and to be honest, I think I was in denial of accepting that he might need to have, we might need to go down this route to explore if there was something so different about him.

And so, At that point, I really had to start challenging the school. So, they had they have kind of policies that they have to go by. So, if they have certain behaviors, they have to respond in certain ways. And they did it through the system where at this particular school, they keep the kids in the next day if they’ve done something wrong.

So, if they kind of hurt another kid, they have to come back the next day. It’s kind of like a detention, kind of thing, completely. I just don’t think it’s age appropriate. But anyway, that’s a kind of different, that’s a different matter. That’s, you know, this is not what this is about. But the point was, it wasn’t appropriate for Aiden because, you know, he’s hitting a wall every single day when those kinds of conversations are happening.

And his pegs, you know, all the kids have all these different things, pegs go up and down the scale, all these different things that they’re trying to use to teach him what’s wrong. And he just doesn’t have the ability to keep his peg, you know, peg at the top. And they had these kind of badges of. kids who always do the right thing and he would never get the badge, obviously.

And it’s just like thing after thing after thing that says to him, you’re not good enough, you’re not doing it right, right? Anyway, so I had to go in and challenge all that. I just was like, this is not okay for my kid. And also he’s so bright. He’s really clever, and so he could read, you know, he had a reading age of 11 at the age of 5 because he could just, you know, pick up a book and retain it, and and so that was difficult too because, in a way, I mean, great, it’s fantastic, but actually it meant that they were just dealing with his behaviour because he wasn’t hitting academic problems, you know, he was, you know, It wasn’t a challenge academically for him.

So for them, it was, well, he’s performing, he’s performing okay at the level he should be for his age. He’s exceeding it. So, you know, it’s, we don’t need to intervene. So, cause the schoolwork was okay. It was just the behavior outside of that. That was exactly. So, so then it meant, So again, it was, it was a complicated, challenging conversation.

So, and you got to understand as well, obviously this is just school I’m talking about, and I think it’s a school context that where I had to be the most courageous because I had to really push them. And when, when you’re a person who’s like just understood authority, understand that understands that you submit to that and just like to actually have a kid who’s not doing that.

To, and then have, realizing you’ve got all of this entrenched belief system of how things work yourself. I had to really kind of, it sounds, it sounds, When I reflect on it, it sounds small, but it really wasn’t. Like it felt, it was a really big shift. And the thing was, it was incremental shifts. Right. So I had to learn how to speak a bit more and a bit more and a bit more until it hit this point in year two when it was like, right, you know, this isn’t happening anymore.

Like we need to have a conversation and work at what we’re doing. And so then I had to really challenge it. And I just had to say, I think your policies are completely wrong. I’m really kind of challenged the system. And challenge how you, you treat somebody and you know, he hasn’t had an inability to, I mean, what I was saying was, what you’re doing isn’t working.

It’s not working for him. So I had to learn how to have this voice, which is very normal for me now, which I didn’t have before, of I need to be a champion and advocate for my kid in a way that I didn’t know I needed to be. And actually it’s only, it was only having our, having our second son when we had a kind of comparison of a neurotypical kid.

that I realized, yeah, there’s something special and different about him here. And that was where we actually started the exploration then of, Okay, let’s go down an assessment route. Let’s see what’s happening. And I was really afraid of giving him a label. Did not want him to be in this box of anything, whether it was autism or ADHD or whatever it might be that we didn’t know then.

I was afraid that that would hold him back and not enable him to have a normal childhood or you know, be all he needed to be. So I had to get over myself and actually realise. Think about what is best for him. And it was at that point when he had that low mental state, you know, his mental well being really was low.

I thought he, the problem here is, he’s not understood and what we need to do is have a fast track for helping people understand who he is. So it would work okay with so what happened is every year he’d get a new teacher. for his class. And we’d have a hideous first term because they, they don’t know him, they’re trying to understand actually, that he’s really bright, needs to be challenged, and then we had all the behaviour around it.

And then I’d work with them literally daily, having conversations, to try and help them understand him, help them get the best out of him. And then, And then it would be fantastic because he had an anchor person and a connection point and it was amazing to see and it would flip and it was great but it was happening every year and what would happen is he would in the, it’s in the unstructured spaces and with midday staff and people who are on his anchor point who just had that lack of understanding and expected him to be, you know, they couldn’t understand why he’d run off.

Why aren’t you standing here when I’m telling you off? Why aren’t you looking me in the eye? Well, we now know he was in crisis and he couldn’t deal with the eye contact or the present being present. So your voice would be able to calibrate empathy and all these other people around him. But then when it wouldn’t, it would go off the rail.

So it’s like, yeah, I totally get that. Exactly. Yeah. So yeah. So then I had to, yeah. So it was about actually, okay, can I get over myself to enable us to go down this route to accept that he might get a label. And actually that could help him and that could empower him rather than be something that’s really holding him back.

And that’s when we started down that route, which was a four year journey of through COVID trying to get him assessment. And again, this is it digging deep of, I, it’s so hard to get anywhere. You know, you get passed from one person to another person to another different organization. And we got, so we were trying to get the assessment.

And then we got, in the end, the NHS sent us to a private place because, to try and fast track us, and then it ended up taking longer. constantly phoning them every week, every week trying to get the geneticists that do that kind of work is such a specialty and it’s a rarity that in the States, it’s a minute tape from what I understand.

It takes a long time to get into people. So you have to practice all of your patients. I think that’s what you’re talking about. Exactly. So there’s a sort of loaded hoops you have to go through. So he had to he had to kind of see a speech therapist, a communication therapist go through that kind of assessment.

Yeah, you know, it’s kind of basically narrowing down, figuring out what it might be. Is it a communication issue? Is it something else? And he would kind of go through all the different hoops. He had about four different kind of assessments that he needed to get through before he actually gets to the ADOS assessment, which is the assessment for autism.

And it just took ages. I mean, what was great was seeing the shift. Once I changed my mind shift, mindset, once I changed my mindset and we had that shift of, okay, this is my role here. This is what I’m going to do. And we kind of decided as a family, yeah, we’re going to go for this and see what this route, where this route takes us.

Then actually school became a partner and actually did really help. And it didn’t feel like we were fighting against them so much. But then it’s the bigger system, right? There’s a bigger system that we had to, I had to then stand up to and be a voice for him in and push for. In the meantime, my kid’s still struggling, you know?

And this is everything, you know. The way I describe it, he’s absolutely incredible. He’s the most credible person. Makes me see the world in a totally different way. And he’s got the most creative, amazing brain. And he, things he designs and creates are incredible. But, the way I describe it is everything’s a big deal.

So everything, so his world is so sensitized. You know, his in terms of, everything’s extreme. His senses, his experiences of social interactions exhausting. Exhausting. We were talking at the beginning about me being an extrovert and like, you know, for someone who just connects in with people and you love it, like the fact that social interaction is difficult, that, that pushes some of my buttons if I’m honest, that can be quite difficult.

Like, why can’t you just be part of the group and connect, you know, I’m being real, like it’s, I’ve had to, and so I’ve had to kind of have that courage to accept he’s different and accept that that’s okay. And I think to an extent you have to do that with your kids. It’s neurotypical or neurodiverse, right?

Well, I was going to say, anyway, there’s always this encouragement like, come on, pick your chin up and pay attention and engage. But then you’re, you’re tasked with the nuance, what we all are, of understanding our child and what’s best for them. And so, yeah. Yeah, totally. And, and we, you know, my husband and I, we both, you know, you kind of go through that phase of, Come on, just try harder, you know, just try like, and, and, and now I look back at myself and go, gosh, I kind of cringe at myself because it just is harder.

And, and I’m not there, you know, we’re still on this journey and learning, but yeah, I think Kit, he found birthday parties really hard, for example, because they’re very noisy and often quite unstructured, and he doesn’t, didn’t know who his anchor point was. He’s, he works well if he’s got, he knows who is, who is his grownup, who’s his adult, who’s his person he connects with.

So, you know, we’d literally have to leave because they just couldn’t cope with it. Or even in the family setting, we’ve got a really close family, and, you know, his aunties and uncles, it would be challenging because, you know, he doesn’t give the same eye contact or the same tactile, you know, wrestling or whatever like you might do with other, you know, nieces and nephews.

Grandkids, whatever. So yeah, I think it’s, there’s kind of all, there’s those kind of interactions, but also, you know, he has a high anxiety. Home is a safe place for him. And we have to really kind of build that. So actually it’s, it’s the everyday coaching. This is another, I suppose, strand of courage. And the strand of courage is that it’s every single day, you know, it’s, there’s no break from it, which is fine because he’s like, I’m his mum.

That’s the whole point. We’re there together. And we talked to him about this being his superpower. enables him to do these things that he couldn’t, you know, he can do some things that other people can’t do really well. But then there’s some things he finds difficult and like, everybody’s like that, but this, he has this hyper focused superpower and we talked to him about that, but that, you know, it requires, it’s a constant on.

You’re constantly on and you have to coach through things that I never thought you’d have to do, you know, how to What interactions mean what facial expressions mean what people doing mean what he’ll sometimes say mommy What’s this? What does your face is doing that thing? What does it mean? Oh, yeah, like I’ll see him kind of copying me.

He doesn’t do it so much now because he’s a bit older But there was a phase where I could see him sort of studying me. And so there’s all of those kind of interactions, but then it’s every day. Getting out of the house, getting to school, doesn’t want to go to school because that environment’s really hard.

It costs him, costs him a lot. So it’s that kind of, it’s in the quiet and in that kind of secret place. It’s that courage to kind of keep going, keep going, like, and juggling, obviously my other child and work and being a wife and all the different things I do. To actually recognize this is a permanent role as an advocate and a champion and also coming to terms with the fact that that might extend much further than maybe you’d expect for kids, like in terms of his age.

And actually I think he, I think he will go on and be independent. He’s not an, some kids with autism can’t live independently as adults, but I don’t think that’s going to be his case, the case for him, but it’s recognizing that, okay, as a parent here. This is permanently costing us something different, but it’s so worth it.

You know, it’s so, so worth it. And it’s an absolute privilege to be his mom, you know, and, and see, be able to be part of enabling somebody to kind of settle and acclimatize in a world which is not designed for them in a way. And the other thing that it’s done really is push me to think about my, my preconceptions and my judgments of other people.

And actually the fact that, you know, you, you see interactions from afar with kids and their parents and you have no clue as to, like, the context or what’s going on. And you do, you sort of say, I mustn’t judge, and we, you know, when, and you have, you have, you have an understanding, especially, you know, when kids having meltdowns and everyone’s been there.

But, you know, even recently taking him abroad for the first time on holiday. Again, there’s a whole new set of things that were new for him and things that were new for us to process and be his advocate in again. Even just the, my, my kids screaming in the corner of a restaurant because he needs space and can’t cope with the noise because it was really echoey and it’s these things that you don’t notice, really echoey, really noisy and it’s food he doesn’t know because autistic kids often find that.

Yeah, it’s challenge to in terms of food because of the texture and smell and everything Yeah, when actually we’re where he’s communicating he’s saying I need space I need space And so we’re giving him space and then you get all these judging looks of why the heck aren’t you dealing with your kid?

Like actually this is us dealing with our kid like scooping him up and coming in close is he needs physical space, you know, and that’s for us, that’s a success because he’s communicating instead of thrashing out, you know, he’s saying he might be loud and it might be even more echoey. But that that’s a, it’s a really good example of, of kind of embodies what I’m saying here of like, We’ve got this understanding of what he needs and how to help him de de escalate in crisis, which is what’s happening and what we needed to do, but then you’ve got the circle of judgment around you, which is why are these parents doing that, that, that, what, or not doing anything?

Why are those parents behaving that way? So. You know, this is such a powerful. Story though Gemma, and I really appreciate you sharing it because it’s Well, it’s, it’s just that it’s powerful in the beginning, you know, when I asked you what’s the relationship with courage and leadership and you painted this beautiful picture in your work about we’re going there and we haven’t been there before, but we’re going there.

And so it’s a little bit of this stepping into the unknown, which is of course everything that you’ve just described to me. With your beautiful son, you know, going into a place that you’ve never been before and you’re going there with him. So, I mean, it gives me goosebumps even thinking about it because you’re demonstrating courage in real time every single day because this is all new for you.

And so there’s another question that comes to mind when I think about that. I think, do you believe that courage begets courage? Yeah, it builds. You know, I think that you take a step into the unknown and it’s a bit scary and then you realize you did it, you know, and then you think, Oh, okay, that may have cost me something or that was hard, but look where we’ve come.

You know, it’s that thing of actually when you turn around, you see where you’ve come from and how far you’ve come. And I think it, it helps you realize that cost is worth it and pushes you to make a bigger step. And, you know, it’s interesting timing that we’re having this conversation because he’s about to transition to high school and it’s really hard right now because it’s the anticipation of that change.

Something’s ending his complete new environment, a whole load of new people, a whole load of space where I’m going to have to be courageous and he’s going to have to be courageous. And that’s the other thing to say, He is an absolute inspiration to me. He, his ability to dust himself off, get up, go again is incredible.

You know, that he’s built that resilience in, in himself because he’s faced adversity and difficult stuff in the everyday. And I think a lot of kids probably don’t have to get, do that so much until they get to teenage or adult, adulthood. And so, I see that courage building, courage building, courage in him as well.

Wow. And he, you know, you know, you see on social media, people put these posts of their kids at the end of the year, you know, I’m so proud of my kid, you know, it’s been a great year. I love all that, you know. But, you know, my biggest thing, and I don’t do it all the time, because actually, he interestingly asked me not to put things on social media, because he said, Mummy, why do you put our memories and our family moments on, out for everybody to see all the time?

And I was like, you know, good point. You know, I do it because I like to connect and we, again, it’s the social interaction, right? Right. So he was genuinely asking me. Yeah. And so it doesn’t mean I don’t do any of it, but it means I’m, I’m really measured about it and think about it. But anyway, my point is my post there is usually it’s not, it’s not the, this has been an academically amazing year or, or my kids like just so kind and amazing all the time, but actually it’s, For me, I just so, we, we are so proud of the fact that he just might have had the hardest year, but he’s kept going.

He’s gone to school every day. He’s connected with people and the thing we’re most proud of with him at school, even though he’s a massively high achiever, is the fact he’s made friends. He’s connected with people. He’s showed kindness and he’s grown compassion. He notices in me now what he’ll say, mommy, are you okay?

And that is, seems small, but for him, he’s noticing if I’m not okay and he can, can tie onto cues. And, you know, you see those little things, they are massive accomplishments. And that’s what helps me keep building courage, keep going for it. Because I think his compassionate, kind kid could be so misunderstood, you know, because it’s crisis that makes him shout out or hit and he has to manage that, especially as he’s getting bigger physically and then becoming a young man. So I think, I think going into this new season is going to be very interesting to see kind of where we all go together. But it’s given me courage to push for it in the, in my work as well. So just giving me a much bigger understanding about neurodiversity and the appreciation for it and passion for it actually and how we embrace it in work, in everywhere we go.

And how actually it gives people such an ability and way of seeing the world that’s so precious and so unique that we need to really harness it. I think having where I am now in the journey means And it’s less kind of day to day survival, though it does feel like that sometimes. But it feels like there are strands of sense making, meaning making from it for me of, I can kind of see why I, I have the kid I have, and he’s been entrusted to me to take care of because I know it’s like, it’s a, it’s a joint effort, but I can see how that connects with it.

Life is my bigger purpose and personal mission and where I’m headed. What would you say to somebody, just real quick to wrap up, what would you say to somebody who is facing some kind of an obstacle and is not feeling that courage necessarily, or they’re sitting there wondering if they’re going to draw upon something and take that step into the unknown?

What bit of encouragement would you give people to act courageously? I think it’s just think about the next step. I trained for a half marathon a few years ago and I’m a Christian and, and I feel like God speaks to me about stuff. And I felt I was training one day and I felt like he’d said, it’s just the next step.

Just take the next step for the next season of your life. This is what it is. And and that was really helpful advice because actually I think it can become overwhelming when you try and do the whole journey. You know, when you try and plan out every station or every pit stop, whatever and you need that sometimes because you do need to have know where you’re headed, but when it all seems too much and it all seems overwhelming, which it did for us in our journey, especially pre diagnosis, it was just right, what’s the first step?

Okay, let’s talk to this first person or let me go to school and actually push, knock on the door of the right person and have this challenging conversation. I think the next thing is Keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s kind of the opposite, I suppose, of what I just said, but zoom out and zoom in. You know, why, why do you need to be courageous?

For us, it was actually, this is going to be more helpful for him in the long run. So I need to get, you know, I need to take this, this step or just deny a little bit of my comfort for him here. And the other one is having community around you. To cheer you on and, you know, having amazing friends, friends and family and a network that we have to be able to, even to just make space for him to have a bad day and for us to show up and he doesn’t have to, I don’t have to explain like that we’re having a bad day, like it’s courageous some days to just go to a family birthday party. But, but being able to have space to do that and have a network of people who go, yeah, it’s fine. He can come in a mess. He can come and have crisis today, but also to actually encourage you and say, you’re doing a great job. Keep going. You know, you’ll get there or that’s such a right.

It’s rubbish, isn’t it? You know, just have that encouragement or know also when to. Just make space for you to be having a hard time because that’s the thing. It’s courage requires a community and requires people to hold each other up when you can’t keep going. And I think having that network, it makes a massive difference.

So I think it’s actually find those, it doesn’t have to be hundreds and low, you know, in fact, it shouldn’t be hundreds of people. It should be a few people who understand and can go on the journey with you and you can kind of shortcut. They, they get it that you can keep them up to date and, and they can speak into what’s ever happening or pray or encourage you or whatever, depending on everyone’s paradigm.

They’d be my three things. Yeah, that’s good. Well you’re encouraging me and you’re encouraging everybody who’s listening to this Gemma. So thank you so much for doing this. Pleasure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *