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Advocating for Neurodiversity and Intersectionality

Step into the world of Reena Anand, a passionate advocate and consultant at the forefront of neurodiversity and its intersection with race and ethnicity. With a diverse background spanning law, advocacy, and personal experience as a mother to neurodivergent children, Reena brings a unique perspective to her work. From captivating keynote speeches at prestigious events to the launch of her enlightening podcast, “Unpacking Autism,” Reena’s mission is clear: to foster inclusivity and understanding for neurodiverse individuals, particularly those from global majority backgrounds. Join her journey of resilience, transformation, and unwavering commitment to creating a world where differences are celebrated, not stigmatized.


Reena, your journey encompasses diverse roles from a solicitor to an ombudsman, and now a speaker and consultant. How have these varied experiences shaped your approach to advocating for neurodiversity and racial inclusivity?

My journey has provided me with a multifaceted perspective on advocacy. These varied roles have shaped my approach to advocating for neurodiversity and racial inclusivity by instilling in me a deep appreciation for diverse perspectives and the importance of equitable representation. Through my work, I witnessed first-hand the injustices faced by marginalised communities, fuelling my passion for social justice. This informs my advocacy work today, where I strive to amplify voices that are often overlooked and advocate for systemic change that promotes inclusivity and equity.

You’ve spoken at various notable events like the National Autism Show and Charity Learning Conference 2023. Could you share a particularly impactful moment or response from one of these engagements?

Speaking at events like these has been incredibly impactful. One particular moment that stands out is when a parent approached me after my talk, expressing gratitude for shedding light on the intersection of neurodiversity and race. They shared how my insights resonated with their own experiences and empowered them to advocate for their child more effectively. It’s moments like these that reinforce the importance of sparking conversations and creating awareness around these crucial issues.

Your article in Cherubs magazine and your podcast ‘Unpacking Autism’ highlight the intersection of culture and neurodiversity. What inspired you to explore this specific intersection?

The inspiration to explore the intersection of culture and neurodiversity stems from my personal experiences as a mother of neurodivergent children. I realised that discussions around neurodiversity often lacked cultural sensitivity and failed to address the unique challenges faced by individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. This realisation propelled me to initiate conversations and create platforms like ‘Unpacking Autism’ to amplify diverse voices and promote cultural understanding within the neurodiversity space.

As a mother of two neurodivergent children, how have your personal experiences informed your professional mission and approach?

My personal experiences have profoundly influenced my professional mission and approach. The challenges I encountered while navigating the educational system and accessing support for my children highlighted the need for greater awareness and advocacy in this area. My experiences serve as a driving force behind my commitment to advocating for neurodiversity acceptance and support in homes, schools, and workplaces, ensuring that every child receives the understanding and resources they deserve so that they become confident adults who are received into neuro-affirming workplaces.

You mentioned your transition from a career in law to founding your consultancy. What challenges did you face during this career shift and how did you overcome them?

There were many challenges, particularly in terms of navigating a new industry and building a client base as well as leaving the comfort of a regular salary. However, I approached these challenges with determination and resilience, leveraging my expertise and network to establish credibility in my field. By staying true to my mission and continuously refining my offerings to meet the evolving needs of clients, I continue to overcome these challenges and have established a successful consultancy focused on promoting neurodiversity throughout society.

Working with clients like Saatchi & Saatchi and Yale University, how do you tailor your message to resonate with such diverse organizations?

Tailoring my message to resonate with diverse organisations like Saatchi & Saatchi and Yale University involves understanding their unique needs, values and organisational culture. I approach each client engagement with a deep commitment to cultural competence, listening attentively to their concerns and goals. By customising my approach and framing my message in a way that aligns with their values and objectives, I ensure that my work resonates and drives meaningful change within these organisations.

Volunteering is a significant part of your work. How do you balance your professional commitments with your roles in various community and educational organisations?

Essentially, this requires regular juggling of time management and prioritisation. It’s not easy and there are weeks where my volunteer work hours outstrip my consultancy work! But I do this because in each role, I know I can make a powerful difference and I want to create positive change that outlasts my existence on this earth.

Can you discuss the importance and impact of the employee support group you initiated for parents of children with additional needs?

This initiative was instrumental in providing a safe and supportive space for parents to share their experiences, seek guidance, and access resources. By fostering a sense of community and solidarity, the group empowered parents to navigate the challenges of raising neurodivergent children with confidence and resilience. The impact of this support group extends beyond the workplace, enriching the lives of participating parents and fostering a culture of inclusivity and empathy within the organisation. And this is a message I often give to organisations; understand and support your people and they will remain loyal to you.

As a Trustee at the Race Equality Foundation and your involvement with Aubilities, what are some key initiatives you’re currently focused on?

Through these roles, I am focused on driving key initiatives aimed at promoting racial equity and advancing neurodiversity acceptance. This includes advocating for policy changes that address systemic barriers faced by marginalised communities, developing educational resources to raise awareness and understanding, and fostering collaborations with like-minded organisations to amplify our impact. These initiatives reflect my ongoing commitment to driving positive change and promoting inclusivity at both the grassroots and systemic levels.

Having received the Lord Hastings Integrity Award for your advocacy work, what does this recognition mean to you personally and professionally?

Receiving the Lord Hastings Integrity Award for my advocacy work was a humbling and validating experience. It affirmed the impact of my efforts in promoting neurodiversity acceptance through my consultancy work. Professionally, this recognition has opened doors to new opportunities and expanded my platform, enabling me to supercharge my efforts and drive greater societal change. Personally, it serves as a testament to the importance of perseverance and dedication in pursuing meaningful causes, inspiring me to continue my mission with renewed vigour and purpose.

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