Two of the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome is difficulty with “executive functioning” (your internal secretary) and anxiety. Accenture’s Siobhan Foley tells us about caring for a child with a disability and life at Accenture.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I love life, I love adventure. I love seeing beauty in all things around me.
My husband and I have two amazing and totally different daughters. A 14-year-old who goes to a selective sports high school for dancing, and a 17-year-old who’s on an academic scholarship. She has Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as Asperger Syndrome.
I have been with Accenture for 19 years and am a Senior Manager looking after Global Travel Operations.
What does your usual morning look like?
Here is a recent Social Media post...
“I love how life has a way of keeping things real. I got out of the house on time, one work call done, bed made, lunches made, makeup and hair done, even did a last-minute school uniform iron (which I never do due to multiple burn injuries). Child one made the bus, I picked up a coffee and got to the station with child two by 7.15am. I actually got a car spot (child two walked ahead of embarrassing mum) - got on the train admiring how I even matched my handbag with my shirt…got a seat.... who even am I?! Feeling like a superwoman… and just as I was about to sit down, the train pulled out and I spilt coffee all over myself!”
And that was describing a good morning! Two of the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome is difficulty with “Executive Functioning” (your internal secretary) and anxiety. That means that often we don’t get the bus because we cannot get out of the house on time. Then I can’t get the train and I have to avoid showing stress as this will impact on my daughter's anxiety. Sometimes by 9am, I feel like I’ve run a marathon.
How do you feel emotionally as a carer (i.e. exhausted, loving, driven etc)?
Firstly, I would not change a thing. Having a daughter with Asperger’s is a gift and there is not a second that I would change this for the world. My daughter is kind, brilliant, funny and edgy and every day she makes me want to be a better person. Sometime she is also anxious, scared and confused. Emotionally, it can be tough for many reasons. It’s tough because you want to take the pain away from your child when they are anxious or depressed. It’s tough because you are always juggling (and dropping balls!!). It’s tough because you want to do a good job, a great job and you have to drive to school again to get her, because she’s not having a good day. It’s tough because you are exhausted. It’s tough because you wonder if you are doing the right thing all the time.
It’s tough because on a Friday night when I want to watch “10 things I hate about you” she wants to watch “Citizen Kane”. 😊
What was the proudest day you have had as a carer?
I don’t think of myself as a carer. I’m just a mother with two amazing daughters, who make me proud every day.
My eldest daughter’s Asperger’s means that she is incredibly intelligent, honest and kind. She is incapable of being manipulative and her sense of right and wrong and sense of justice inspires me to be better and she is smart… so incredibly smart.
What are some of the challenges being a carer?
Having a child with Asperger’s means that she is brilliant, but does not have the life skills of children of a similar age, so she is more dependent on me for transport, meals etc. Social situations can be difficult and exhausting because social queues are not understood easily. Children with Asperger’s also have sensory issues and like to be in familiar situations. This means going to school can be exhausting, with noise, light and having to interpret social interactions, all on top of learning. Sometimes she comes home broken and just needs a soft place to land. In general, our home needs to be a soft place to land and we all need be conscious of sounds, lights, people coming into the house etc.
What are the benefits of working at Accenture as a carer? How do the Accenture values tie into being a carer?
The benefit is a mutual trust. I love that I can manage how I work with complete trust, be that in flexible hours or flexible locations.
I think Accenture does allow us to be truly human. We can be high performing individuals, with disabled children. We can be high performing individual with disabilities. We don’t have to give up on our drive or ambition or what makes us who we are at our core because of our situation. Pierre said that when we can bring our authentic self to work, we can be more creative and that will be our competitive edge.
How do you feel when seeking carers leave?
I used to feel like I had to keep in on the “low down” because I didn’t want to be judged as a female or mother. Now I make a point to tell people why I am taking leave because I have made a commitment to lead by example. When my father was terminally ill, I applied for a part time job at another organisation because I didn’t think I could work full time and spend the time I needed to with him in his last 6 months. When I told my leader at the time I was accepting another role, she looked at me with confusion and she said “Siobhan, why didn't you give Accenture the opportunity to support you?”. From that day on, I decided to be open and honest and proud of my situation so that others will know that they have support.
Anything else you want to share?
I am so excited for the future of my daughters. I am excited for them as females and as individuals. I love that Accenture is a leader in diversity and inclusion and am so excited for the incredible innovations and break throughs that will come when the power of non-neurotypical minds are harnessed.