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For All Abilities

Mar 16, 2020




On this episode of For All Abilities The Podcast, I talk with Wanda Deschamps about her late diagnosis of autism. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of 47 when she was struggling with mental health issues and her son was diagnosed with autism. She talks about the challenges of being a woman with autism. 

She is the principal and inclusivity champion at Liberty Co. Liberty Co partners with organizations and individuals advancing meaningful societal causes. 

You can connect with Wanda through LinkedIn (Wanda K Deschamps). Please check out the great work Liberty Co. is doing at 


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Full Transcription by


Betsy Furler  0:05  

Welcome to for all abilities, the podcasts. This is your host, Betsy Furler. The aim of this podcast is to highlight the amazing things people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism are doing to improve our world. Have a listen to for all abilities, the podcast and please subscribe on whatever podcast app you're listening to us on.


Hi, everybody, welcome back to for all abilities the podcast. Today I have a special guest, Wanda Duchamp's. And she is going to tell us a little bit about herself and her diagnosis on the autism spectrum and some other diagnoses that she again was not diagnosed until adulthood. So welcome Wanda. Thank you so much for being here.


Wanda Deschamps  1:00  

Thank you for having me, Betsy. I really appreciate the opportunity.


Betsy Furler  1:03  

Yes, I can't wait to learn more about you. So why don't you start by just introducing yourself to my audience.


Wanda Deschamps  1:10  

My name is Wanda, and I live in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada with my husband, Ryan and our children, Adrian and Renee.


Betsy Furler  1:21  

Great and I usually like to start by talking about asking my guests about their childhood. So if you could tell us a little bit about what you were like when you were a little girl, that would be great.


Wanda Deschamps  1:35  

Well, I was curious from the start, my husband Ryan asked me once if I was born, inquiring about how many stripes zebras had and why the sky was blue and why the crosswalk was yellow.


very naturally. Curious and I love learning.


Betsy Furler  2:05  

Were you a good student when you were in school?


Wanda Deschamps  2:10  

I was a good student in elementary school. I struggled socially. Mm hmm. And struggled academically as I progress through junior high in high school, however, initially elementary school Yes, I was strong, especially around languages. English library.


Betsy Furler  2:39  

Did you like to read a lot as a child?


Wanda Deschamps  2:41  



Do I


love to read as a child? Then I love to read isn't at all.


Betsy Furler  2:51  

Did you have any siblings?


Wanda Deschamps  2:53  

Yeah, something very unusual as the youngest of 10 sibling. Wow. Yes. And my parents were 40 and 51 when I was born. Mm hmm. Oh, not only was I a very unique child, I was a very unique child in a very unique family.


Betsy Furler  3:14  

Right, right. And I know in big families often the older kids are helping supervise the younger kids, your parents were probably fairly tired of parenting by the time you came along. And


Wanda Deschamps  3:27  

very astute observation.


Betsy Furler  3:31  

I know I'm tired of parenting and I only have two. So


Wanda Deschamps  3:36  



Betsy Furler  3:39  

Yeah, I bet that did make for a different dynamic. Did you get along well with your siblings?


Wanda Deschamps  3:45  

Well, always interesting. I say that I was more of an elite child than I was a child with a number of siblings because of the age gap up and just because some of our families serve circumstances I actually ended up spending a lot of time alone. By and large, I got along with my siblings, of course, more so than others is often the case in a large family. There is some family members I literally didn't know until I became an adult. Oh, interesting. Yeah, because we just didn't have that time together. I mean, I think a sibling relationship is something that you always have to nurture, right. I'm, I'm a believer that we, we don't really know. Many people very well. Even people we live with it takes a lot to get to know someone it takes some takes investment on each side. Yeah, but Sir, I've had the good fortune of getting to know some of my older siblings better. as we as we as time progressed, and as the age difference between us became less important The years.


Betsy Furler  5:01  

Right, right, because when you're when you're a child, you know, five or 10 years is a world of difference.


Unknown Speaker  5:07  

And this means even more.


Betsy Furler  5:09  

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I now my kids are six years apart. And they're really like having two only children. Mm hm.


Wanda Deschamps  5:19  

So, yes. So you understand to Korea, right,


Betsy Furler  5:22  

right. They get along and they, you know, they definitely know each other well, but it is different with that gap. So you said you struggled socially in school. So what did that look like? Like in elementary school in middle school?


Wanda Deschamps  5:36  

I had different interview process I


I would say I felt like I had more Maclaurin trust from the beginning and an example I use politic. So if I was, if I was bored, asking, you know how many stripes deeper that it seemed like I was born for asking questions, politics, Right. I say that that was like drinking milk from a bottle. You know, it was it there was a an instinct behind it now ated ated with the situation was the reality that my father was a political science professor. Okay. Yes. And members of my family were were even if they weren't engaged politically, I had a number of family members or variables in the community. So say there's a level of civic engagement and I had especially one family member who I'm very close to who was involved and who was involved in political activity. So, but even even beyond that, I was, I was very interested and I remember the first time I asked my father specific political question, I was about 10 need to write only to write the political leader who would be able to answer my question. So I did.


Betsy Furler  7:07  

That's amazing. So with my son Henry, who's almost 22 now I say that he was 65 when he was born, so now he's like an 87 year old. So it sounds like you were similar to that when you were a little girl.


Wanda Deschamps  7:21  

Yes, I was, I would, I had what you would describe as mature interest for my age. I would say that followed me. And then at a point, things settled and I would say got caught up because having an adult and having adult interest is is a good match.


Betsy Furler  7:47  

Right and then your friends are now the people around you are thinking about the same things and and you can connect with them on the things that you're interested in. Whereas a child I'm sure there weren't very many other 10 year olds cared about politics


Wanda Deschamps  8:02  

as much as I did. No, not at all. So now we have gretta. Yes, yeah. Yeah.


Betsy Furler  8:12  

So what about college you went off to college I saw on your LinkedIn profile and and I think I saw that you majored in sociology.


Wanda Deschamps  8:22  

Very good. I did major in sociology only by one course. Minor history, but it was a six five split. So, not to get too far ahead, but I ended up pursuing my masters in history. Social History, though. I'm University was frustrating because my marks did not reflect either my investment of time and energy and studying or my interest and my understanding of the curriculum and we Now that I've been diagnosed, I understand


Betsy Furler  9:04  

that you just weren't spitting back out what the professor was asking for. Or what do you think? Where was the disconnect?


Wanda Deschamps  9:13  



the constant internal dialogue meant that there was something in the way of me processing the information. So I wasn't able to comprehend the information, as I say, in a way that truly reflected my investment of time, energy or my interest or my understanding of the curriculum. And then I was really doubting myself and the self doubt followed me throughout my whole life, so it pours didn't help but it only compounded the situation that even when I actually understood the content, I would tell myself because of these, these experiences that I had had So, University in a number of ways was a difficult time. It was also a great time, and that I was very involved in extracurricular activities. So that was fantastic. And I also met a number of great people, friends, some of whom I still in touch today.


So what did I want to do that?


I took a year Business College, I looked at a number of options. And I decided on Business College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is capital province, Nova Scotia where I'm from, and then I began working in the nonprofit sector starting in post secondary education and I'd always been passionate about learning which I already shared with you and, and knowledge and formal education, even though I always I did not always do well in that environment. So I began working at a university and alumni programming fundraising program and I really really enjoyed it.


Betsy Furler  11:08  

So where did the diner the dinosaurs come in?


Wanda Deschamps  11:12  

Not until almost 23 years later. So I began working I really began my career at the age of 2324. And I've worked in charitable sector the entire time, whether it being universities or in as a consultant. And


I was not diagnosed until almost 47


Wow, wow.


get to that I had a diagnosis.


I was really struggling, um, by the time we hit end of 2016, and definitely by the beginning of 2017, I was really struggling. I had struggled before That we moved to Regina, Saskatchewan from Halifax, Nova Scotia and 2011 to 2015. And I had struggled there at times. But there are so many other things going on that I was able to manage cope slash, moving to denial that I pushed my own realities away. However, by the time we moved to Waterloo, as I say, end of 2016, particularly beginning of 2017, I just, I was headed into crisis and I really started to break down that March. And I had a full breakdown that may and I was in treatment by May. I had gone back into counseling around April and received her younger son's diagnosis in May of that year as well. And For another reason I had a pre scheduled doctor's appointment on May 25, the day after we received Rene's diagnosis on May 27. And I said to my physician, I would like a referral for a psychological assessment. I believe that I have autism too.


Betsy Furler  13:20  

I think it's called a parent parent diagnosis.


Wanda Deschamps  13:27  

I'm challenged using the word common because we are in such new territory here that the under diagnosis of females with autism, misdiagnosis with due to other mental health challenges that are brought on because individuals have not been diagnosed earlier. This is still frontier territory. So I don't really know what common is I know that we're seeing increasingly numbers of adults received diagnosis, particularly women. But this is such a thin pool that we're operating from. We really need, we really need to dig deeper into the research and the good news is that that's starting to happen.


And more and more getting diagnosed


Unknown Speaker  14:23  

in adulthood, which is amazing. Yes.


Betsy Furler  14:28  

And not getting that. How did getting the diagnosis changed your life or what you were doing?


Wanda Deschamps  14:35  

I said to the psychologists that it was a relief.


The diagnosis of of autism was a relief. I had convinced myself that I was stupid. So I had gone through my life thinking I was stupid. Ah, that's all was difficult was more difficult for me to believe that coming to the end of my time in Regina and finishing my master's however, I still I still fundamentally believe that, um, and she said today but you are good at math and I said no and I always thought it was because I was stupid. So the autism was a relief, but at the time I actually put the autism on the back burner, because at the same time, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and anxiety related to the autism. So I decided to enter PTSD treatment. So that was placed on the front burner because my issues there were more acute. I was, I was hyper vigilant. And we had concluded my therapist deny that The eye I movement therapy was the best approach for me so I had to take the time I had to get into the proper mindset for that therapy so that moved to the for the autism moved to the back.


Betsy Furler  16:16  

And how did after that treatment How did your career change or family life? You


Wanda Deschamps  16:22  

know, your day to day life?


Oh, I say I living my life. I had never lived my life before. I we were into


Betsy Furler  16:36  

you are kind of pretending they're trying to be somebody else.


Wanda Deschamps  16:40  

Always trying to turn Oh, it's always holding back. Not not 100% sorry, not Yeah, I wasn't. I wasn't. I was holding back. I was not being 100% Wanda, but it's not like I was not one that at all. Um, but it was no 100% one now I am living my life as one that, um, things change though. Things change in my work environment, things had to change. I was no longer willing to tolerate certain behaviors the way I was being treated I, I said to someone, something I'd never said before I, I was always open to feedback and I have always been open to feedback. That is something that so many people have said about me. Um, however, it got to the point that I actually said to someone, if this is about changing wonder, that's difficult. My whole life I change, change, change, change, change, change. I called it acrobatics, and no, no God to the point that Wanda was going to be wonderful So I had to leave my work environment, and I became an entrepreneur. So in the work side, I am in business with myself and home and community and with my friends and my family I Sam living life is real Wanda.


Betsy Furler  18:23  

That's wonderful.


Wanda Deschamps  18:24  

It is wonderful. That's why I named my firm Liberty coat to signify that confronting the facts brings us freedom. So that's the part of this is one day. I'm not gonna change for every second person who says that I don't fit this or I'm not that or whatever. I'm gonna live by my own principles and my own values. And I'm the new so this new freedom that goes along with that which is incredible. And something I noticed is that when you increase your self esteem, and you are comfortable in your own skin, people treat you differently anyway. So once I started treating myself much better, I'd always had fabulous people in my life consistently. work, school community family, I've always had incredible, incredible people in my life. I didn't give them enough prominence. I let other a few other people always creep in because I didn't accept myself. So I always gave those few other people and there was always someone there's always a few people in every environment there always is, but I let them have way too much Say because I didn't accept myself fully so I don't do that anymore. And I give the prominence goes to all the incredible people who have always been with me and the incredible people I have met And I need it feels like daily.


I need incredible new people.


Betsy Furler  20:08  

That's amazing. I think when you do it when you're true to yourself, people sense that and, and it just opens


Wanda Deschamps  20:15  

up the world. They do and I'm also more relaxed.


I said to someone recently during an interview, I didn't accept myself. So I wasn't I was very self conscious. And I also was not comfortable meeting necessarily everyone in the way I want it to. I wanted to do data want to connect with all kinds of people. However, in some cases, I was held back and that was because I was so self conscious. And now that I'm more relaxed, I find that I met so many people from all kinds of different backgrounds, circumstances And I'm connecting with them in a deeper manner. It's not just superficial. Um, and so many people are sharing their stories and they want to be part of different movements and different initiatives that I engage with and it's fantastic. It really does snowball.


Betsy Furler  21:26  

And tell us a little bit about your company.


Wanda Deschamps  21:30  

Liberty CO, is a consultancy for nonprofit nonprofits who wish to expand or enhance or refine or renew their charitable giving something that I have branched off doing. Just as 2020 is that I launched a new division called women for women. And the line is meeting you, you where you are. So that's letter R, and it's about supporting other women. So one thing I found is that women have not always necessarily supportive other women as much as we might, as we might, as we might be able to, and in a way that could really take us further towards gender equality. So I was encouraged by a few people, they noticed by messaging, my social media content, sentence, level of my involvement was very female, positive and very inclusive. So they encouraged me to do something to really think about this in a more purposeful manner. So I launched women for women, ah, January 7, and the response has been over whelming I really can't believe that we're only well it will only be two weeks tomorrow. Wow. There's so many people connecting and it is it's really as simple as that. It's supporting other women. Um, in which you Every way shape or form that you'd like to that you feel someone needs support, someone tells you they need support. And it's grassroots and really taking off and it's the hashtag women for women. And I'm also working with a few other individuals through Liberty co promoting issues of importance to them. So an author, a former NHL lawyer, and now author and men's mental health advocate, Steve softail. I'm working with him and I am working with Emily O'Brien, who founded her business in prison while removing barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals, and she sells popcorn kinds of kernels. So I'm working with those two individuals and very good fortune of working with them directly working with organizations through Liberty CO and explore Other partnerships just one other thing I'd like to share with you but Liberty CO is that I'm part of the movement to bring equity to the charitable sector. Charitable sector has actually locked equity even though we are female based in terms of number of employees, we have not seen equal representation at the leadership levels. And we have greatly through sexual harassment by donors, volunteers and leaders in the sector. So part of the movement I'm very pleased to say that started in Canada however, it did reach out to our good friends in the south. We had a national day of conversation November 22. And we are looking at our national day of conversation 2020 and it will be Canada and us and hopefully beyond and this is about bringing equity to the charitable sector. We call it in the names of US Senator bringing justice to charity.


Betsy Furler  25:00  

Very good. Well, I will definitely keep an eye up and I that ah,


Wanda Deschamps  25:05  

that'd be great. And of course we Betsy worked together in the inclusion revolution. Yeah. But yes, and that's about celebrating ability. There's no dis. It's about stability, and it's about everyone in the world being recognized for everything that they can contribute.


Betsy Furler  25:30  

Absolutely. Okay. I always say looking at strengths and differences as strengths.


Wanda Deschamps  25:37  

That is it.


Betsy Furler  25:40  

What if people want to connect with you? How can they what's the best way for them to connect with you on


Wanda Deschamps  25:46  

LinkedIn? I'm on weekly in a lot of my email addresses on my LinkedIn account. However, I will share it I wanted a shot Liberty starting to be Be more active on Instagram. However, LinkedIn is my platform of choice. And I'm would love to hear from you whether it's about the inclusion revolution men's mental health, equity in the charitable sector, or like what Emily's doing is really bringing previously underrepresented groups into full participation, whether it be in our workplace or our post secondary sector, or in the community or wherever people can be their best selves.


Betsy Furler  26:42  

Well, fantastic. Well, this was just a delight talking to you today. And all your information in the show notes.


Unknown Speaker  26:51  



Unknown Speaker  26:55  

It's and so people can


Betsy Furler  26:58  

connect with you and I Just such so pleased that we had this conversation, I can't wait to see what you do in the future.


Wanda Deschamps  27:06  

Awesome i and i really do encourage people to say for people to reach out to me, I really, I'm really enjoying connecting with all kinds of new people and learning with and from each other and sharing information. And that's something that technology is really empowering. That is.


Betsy Furler  27:31  

Well, thank you so much, and have a wonderful day. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to the for all abilities podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I really appreciate your time listening to the podcast. And please subscribe on any podcast app that you're listening to us on. If you'd like to know more about what we do and our software that helps employer support their employees with ADHD dyslexia, learning differently. As an autism, please go to www dot for all abilities calm. You can also follow us on Instagram. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Betsy Furler episode Frank, you are LR Have a great day and we will see you soon.