Why you need a virtual assistant

Why you need a virtual assistant

Many business owners are looking to outsource work as their businesses grow, but don’t know where to start or how to find the right person. A virtual assistant is the perfect solution. Virtual assistants can help you save time and grow your business by ensuring you’re spending more time on the tasks that will help your business grow. A virtual assistant can be a valuable asset, providing you with freedom, efficiency and productivity. 

A virtual assistant can be a secret weapon for your business, and you may want to consider hiring one at some point. Your time is valuable, and if you spend it on tasks that don’t require your expertise, you lose time and money. To improve your profitability, you need to look hard at your business and determine what tasks can be outsourced. Once you have sourced your perfect virtual assistant, you can start reaping the rewards!

Virtual assistants excel at helping with all sorts of tasks, from writing blog posts to managing your social media accountsand sending out newsletters to planning events and booking flights. You name it. If you decide to try working with a virtual assistant, I recommend starting small with a few basic tasks and then building up from there.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of our businesses and lose sight of what’s important. But if we aren’t careful, we can end up sinking too much of our valuable time into the mundane tasks that don’t necessarily have a big impact on our business. While it might seem sensible in the short term to avoid having to hire a full-time employee, paying for things like a virtual assistant can be more cost-effective in the long run, allowing you to concentrate on your core business offerings.

Save time – save money – get more done!

Adult autism diagnoses: Why, what’s the point?

Adult autism diagnoses: Why, what’s the point?

There has been a renewed wave of interest in autism when the spotlight was shone on TV presenter and model Melanie Sykes and TV personality and National Autistic Society ambassador Christine McGuiness, who both recently revealed that they had, in their adult years, been diagnosed with autism.

Their diagnoses shattered and challenged many of the beliefs that society held about autism, who it affects and how. Neither Melanie Sykes, nor Christine McGuiness, fit the stereotypes surrounding autism. They are seemingly confident – they are TV personalities after all – articulate, expressive, compassionate, empathetic, personable and even funny – everything we have been taught that autism isn’t. But was society wrong about autism all along? The simple answer is yes.

But why is there a sudden increase in adults being diagnosed with autism? Why obtain a diagnosis during your adult years? What benefit can this have, knowing either way? Why were adults not diagnosed in their younger years? How could it have been missed by their parents, teachers and doctors?

It is important to begin answering some of these questions by explicitly stating that there is not an increase in the existence of autistic people, there is an increase in diagnoses. Statistics will tell you that one in a hundred people are diagnosed with autism. This is true. But how many autistic people are without a diagnosis? Recent research suggests the figure could be one in 28. While reports vary from country to country, the figures of the number of autistic people are always far higher than the number diagnosed. 

Diagnosis has always been deemed a privilege, which is why in the autism community self-diagnosis is revered and accepted; the community as a whole are very accepting, by nature. The reason why diagnosis is considered a hard-to-come-by privilege is the hoops one has to jump through to acquire one – a multitude of pre-assessments and a years-long waiting list with the NHS, or the cost of a private diagnosis. 

Concurrent to all the above-mentioned difficulties in accessing a diagnosis and the vast number of autistic people either unaware that they are autistic, or aware but unable to easily access diagnosis, is the unacceptable tragedy that they have been lacking in vital support. Once a diagnosis is obtained, the doors (with a bit of resistance) open to speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health services and more. For years, many – women and girls especially – were misdiagnosed as having anxiety or simply being “eccentric”, “difficult”, “awkward” or “shy”. According to the charity Autistica, seven out of ten autistic people have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or OCD. Left untreated, this can be catastrophic.

About one per cent of the adult population has been diagnosed with autism. Nearly half of autistic adults will experience clinical depression in their lifetime, according to new research published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Autism is not a condition that affects children alone, although it is a common myth that autistic children will “grow out of it”. Autistic children become autistic adults, often requiring lifelong assistance and support.

Another reason why adult diagnoses have proliferated is the fact that autism is predominantly a genetic condition, something of which we are becoming increasingly aware. Adults of the millennial generation and before are often finding out about their own autism after their kids have been diagnosed. This is often because they see their own traits in their children, raising questions about whether they are in fact neurodiverse themselves. 

Here are some common autistic traits in adults (according to the NHS):

  • Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • Getting very anxious about social situations
  • Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • Finding it hard to say how you feel
  • Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”
  • Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes
  • Not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
  • Noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
  • Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • Planning things carefully before doing them

Reading this list, it is plausible that, some years ago, when our understanding of autism and neurodiversity as a whole was far less clear, these traits could be labelled as something other than autism. This is precisely how generations of autistic people have slipped through the net. Excusable though? I am still not convinced. 

So, does obtaining a diagnosis in adult years raise more questions than it answers? Or does it serve to quell those questions you’ve asked yourself your entire life but couldn’t ever really conclusively explain? Many autistic adults have reported being relieved by their diagnosis, that they finally had answers to questions they had mulled over for years, that they had been given permission to be authentically themselves, and, fundamentally, that they had been able to be kinder to themselves. Diagnosis = medical (and even financial) support. Diagnosis = self-acceptance. Diagnosis = self-understanding. 

So, why are more and more adults choosing to seek diagnoses? As Christine McGuiness so beautifully put it, “I’m trying to be a bit more myself now.”

Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

A lot of my work consists of editing translated writing. I’ve written before about how different translations of the same text can convey a very different essence and flavour, despite the original subject being the same (see my blog post on Albert Camus’s book, The Stranger).

One of the books most dear to me is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Although it’s only in adult life that the profound messages in the book weren’t lost on me.

My favourite passage from the book is the phrase, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

There are lots of different translations of this famous passage, but this is the one that moves me the most, although there are only very subtle variations in the translations.

Which translation do you prefer? 💫💫💫✨

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When you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”

When you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, it troubles me because your understanding of race/ethnicity/culture/heritage doesn’t take into account all the shades of grey and richness that exist outside of your own. I appreciate your sentiment, but what you are implying without realising is that I should be pleased, and even flattered, because I would rather be like you than like me. 
When you say to me, “I don’t see you as a foreigner”, I want you to see that we are different from one another, that we see the world through different eyes. That what bothers me perhaps doesn’t even faze you. That I do not want my culture/race/ethnicity/heritage to be erased by you to make you feel more comfortable; because we are not the same, but that’s ok – good, even. 

When you say to me, “I see you as British”, it’s problematic for me, because your equation of ‘Britishness’ with ‘greatness’ is something to which you think I should aspire. I agree with your high regard for Britishness, but I want you to understand that I don’t see my ‘foreignness’ as a hindrance or a hardship, nor something from which to distance. 

You may not even be aware of all the nuances and implications of your words, but I want you to acknowledge and appreciate the value of the complexities and the intricacies of the cultures that exist in the UK, that have formed the foundation of the country in which you and I live, and to know that foreigners are not burdened by their ‘otherness’ – quite the contrary! And neither should you be on our behalves. The UK that we adore is not homogeneous, and nor should we want it to be.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I love the UK and all its glorious Britishness: Sunday roasts, a stoic resolve, a stiff upper lip in times of adversity, not running for shelter when it rains, Pimm’s O’clock, James Bond, the 2021 England football team, a comforting cup of builder’s tea to solve even the world’s worst crises, Princess Diana, a meticulous politeness that never falters, the Harvester and even spotted dick. 

So when you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, what I want to say to you is, “but unfortunately, you are.”

12 facts about me

1. I’m a Guardian-reading, left-wing socialist. It’s how my parents raised me, and I thank them for that. I still live in hope that one day we can live in a fair and equal society.

2. I have four-year-old twins called Che (boy) and Rio (girl). They are named after Che Guevara and the Duran Duran song.

3. I’ve been with my husband for 21 years. He’s good, so I kept him. (Dear Zoo book reference)

4. My hobbies are… umm… I think my kids sabotage the potential of having hobbies.
If I were to have hobbies, they would be doing yoga, watching Netflix, sunbathing with a newspaper and drinking coffee in silence.

5. My biggest professional achievements to date have been being interviewed by Zainab Badawi on BBC World News and having my research published in a book (both are in post photos).

6. I only have three fiction books in my bookcase – The Little Prince, Animal Farm and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I have read others though! I am a SERIOUS non-fiction enthusiast. I’d take a newspaper or journal any day over a novel. Same with my TV choices; real life fascinates me. This is precisely why I specialise in non-fiction in my professional life. 

7. My twins are autistic so I spend a lot of time researching and learning as much as I can about autism.

8. For 12 years I worked as a secondary teacher in London comprehensive schools (and simultaneously as a union representative), with a prior career in academic research and journalism. Teaching in comprehensive schools taught me a lot about society, and it’s injustices.

9. I’m Palestinian and Belgian, have lived in London for over 30 years and speak a handful of languages, badly.

10. I love a quiet, simple life. Less is definitely more. I dream of countryside living and moving out of London one day.

11. I’ve played guitar for almost 30 years. Sadly, this is not reflective of my ability!

12. I really love what I do and still thank my lucky stars daily that I was able to turn my passion into my business. It didn’t come easily, having to retrain while still teaching and raising toddlers, but that makes the fruit even sweeter.