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WOMEN: GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY


An employee group on disabilities showed me how to help my son

By Sarah Cline, Associate Manager, Accenture Technology, Austin

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“How do you do it?” When people ask how I juggle my technology career with a leadership role in my company’s Persons with Disabilities Employee Resource Group, on top of my home and family responsibilities, my first thought is, “Not very well!” At least, not on my own.

As women, we often feel the need to be everything to everyone. We strive for perfection, to be that “Superwoman.” That is who I have strived to be my whole life, but as I’ve, “ahem,” grown up a little and become a little wiser, I’ve concluded that I don’t need to be a Superwoman. What a relief!

I am a strong supporter of sharing stories. Stories are powerful tools for advocacy and awareness. At my workplace, Accenture, we share our stories through Employee Resource Groups, which we have formed around common interests. We use these groups to promote education and diversity and inclusion.

As a leader in the US Disability Employee Resource Group, one of the greatest privileges I have is leading a monthly Lunch & Learn Series called “Walk in My Shoes.” This series addresses a wide range of disability topics and enables our colleagues to educate each other and share their personal stories. This sharing fosters support for one another.

Our topics cover both visible and invisible disabilities–from cerebral palsy, to a variety of mental health conditions, Crohn’s disease and many more. The beauty of this series is that each call is developed and presented by real people, by our colleagues and friends at all career levels sharing their own personal stories.


“This forum was the trajectory for me in recognizing signs in my son that ‘weren’t quite right’ and taking steps to understand why.”

This forum was the trajectory for me in recognizing signs in my son that “weren’t quite right” and taking steps to understand why. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not new, and, in retrospect, I should’ve connected the dots a lot earlier. However, I, like many others, had significant misconceptions.

I thought ADHD was purely behavioral: a hyper, misbehaved kid who wouldn’t calm down and was medicated to be still. I had talked to the pediatrician each year about concerns around my son’s behavior at school and in other group settings, but the doctor’s perspective was that he’s a healthy, “squirrelly” boy. You know, “Boys will be boys.”

Others sometimes saw my son as misbehaved, loud, lazy about homework, even a bit weird. I would avoid certain situations to protect him, to avoid other people’s opinions about him and about the quality of my husband and I as parents.

It was really when I began to hear the stories from others, during our Lunch & Learns on neurodiversity topics, that I found myself identifying with so many things. I didn’t believe my son had autism, but there were many similarities–enough to make me think longer and harder about taking steps to find a root cause.

Me and my son Aiden  Me and my son Aiden

My son has a new pediatrician now. At our last visit, I described some of my son’s behaviors–the constant need for noise (from his own mouth, tapping or music), his struggles with schoolwork and his intense emotions. This time something stuck, and the doctor recommended we see a neurologist.

The road to diagnosis has been long, even after the referral process began. There were a lot of careful evaluations, tests and lengthy inputs from teachers required for the full diagnosis. It included a five-hour psychological exam, to not only rule out additional conditions but also to also factor in emotional and mental well-being.

The results were eye-opening. I discovered that, in addition to ADHD, my son has a processing disorder and anxiety (very likely tied to his condition). This diagnosis made so much sense.

There is power in knowledge. We’re in the midst of a paradigm shift in our family. The struggles are still here, and it’s hard. Nevertheless, there is comfort in answers and in validation.

Having a diagnosis means that we can tackle it head on. We’re researching and advocating for him in school in ways we did not feel empowered to do so before.

We’re approaching this situation with a lot of hard work, with humor and by embracing the weird! Aiden is amazing, smart, hilarious and talented–and he’s managed to be all that with an undiagnosed neurological condition for 14 years. He’s my hero.

This part of my life takes up so much of who I am but still is only a piece of me. It’s a big piece, but I am a mom to another amazing boy, a wife, daughter, sister, friend and a career woman. All these roles can be a lot, and I often find myself in vicious cycles of always trying to please, to perfect, to perform, which is utterly exhausting.

I’ve realized that my worst enemy has always been me, “My inner bully.” This inner voice is the one who tells me I don’t measure up, and that I’m not enough. Sometimes it takes longer to recognize what’s happening, especially when I’m caught up in the “busy-ness” of life. But these busy times are the most important ones to call her out.


“It is never weak to ask for help, to ask for patience from others, to be honest.”

Struggles are inevitable. There are stressors. There are hard times. There is sadness. But, here is the key that I’m learning: Don’t do it alone. It is never weak to ask for help, to ask for patience from others, to be honest. That’s being brave.

Five tips on making it work

So, how do I juggle it all? To the absolute best of my ability–and no more.

I don’t need to be Superwoman. I am me–and that’s enough. And when my inner bully tries to take over, I keep these strategies in mind.

DON’T DO IT ALONE; FIND YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM.

DON’T DO IT ALONE; FIND YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM.

This support is the beauty of our Disability Employee Resource Group. I have backing from colleagues from all over the globe.

BE TRANSPARENT WITH PEOPLE YOU TRUST

BE TRANSPARENT WITH PEOPLE YOU TRUST.

DISCERN WHERE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DERIVE.

DISCERN WHERE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DERIVE.

Are you tired? Are you in the midst of a busy season? Have you had a trigger?

ON A VERY PERSONAL LEVEL, I FIND COMFORT IN MY FAITH.

ON A VERY PERSONAL LEVEL, I FIND COMFORT IN MY FAITH.

I pray and I meditate on the words in my Bible.

READ OR LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS.

READ OR LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS.

I am not an expert on matters of mental health–but thank goodness, there are people who are!

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Persons with Disabilities

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