How Do You Measure Positive Impact? The Challenges Of Advocating For Neurodiversity

How Do You Measure Positive Impact? The Challenges of Advocating for Neurodiversity

By Shawn Smith M.Ed., CCC

How do you measure positive impact?

This is a tricky question that is not always easy to answer. One of my challenges is that people constantly want to measure the unmeasurable (yes, this is an actual word). No matter what I do, I try to be the best me I can be. It’s not about trying to be better than anyone else, once you’ve figured this out the stars will align in ways you’ve never imagined.

Last month I attended the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy’s Annual Conference in beautiful St. John’s Newfoundland. I also presented at the conference, the title of my presentation was “Understanding Neurodiversity.”

I presented on the second day of the conference and I was anxious (more than usual) because I was presenting in a smaller room on the bottom floor of the hotel, away from the main area of the conference. As I approached the room I had to do a double take, I had to make sure I was looking at the right room (there were only two, side by side). I was pleasantly surprised to see a line up out the door.

I am proud to say I was the first presenter at the conference to pack my space. Extra chairs needed to be brought down and a note on the door that read “Session Full”. What a high! Shortly after my session I turned my phone back on – WOWZA! The truth is that I shouldn’t have been surprised. I hustled. My room was packed because I networked like nobodies business. I am confident that I had more keynote speakers and other presenters in my session than any other. I attended sessions that aligned with my interests and made a point to introduce myself after each one, hand them a business card and invite them to my session.

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I have social anxiety. If you don’t know this about me than you do now lol. I’ve come to realize that in order for me not to feel anxious I need to keep busy. If I don’t have a defined role, I create one. So, I decided to volunteer at the conference. I rented a car and volunteered to chauffeur people around. The CCPA staff called on me to drive them to run errands and I was more than happy to oblige, keep me busy – this is what I need. On the third day of the conference the National Office Manager for the CCPA thanked me personally and gave me a certificate that read “The CCPA Wishes to Honour Shawn Smith for his Contribution to the CCPA 2017 Conference”. I was also informed that this was the first time in the history of the CCPA that someone was recognized for their volunteerism.

Aside from driving people around and running errands I also kept myself busy by posting on social media. This is one way that I have found to create a role for myself that I can do just about anywhere at any time. I am always trying to promote what I am doing and posting on social media is an easy way to keep busy.


During the closing ceremonies of the conference a few prizes were given out. I can’t tell you how many ballots I have filled out over the years and never won. But, as luck would have it, my name was drawn for the last prize of the conference. Two very cool things happened simultaneously. I won a year membership to the International Association for Counsellors and people cheered me on as I went up to collect my prize.

I measure positive impact by feeling, not by numbers. As the conference came to an end the hotel quickly became a ghost town. As I reflected on my experience I realized that what I was feeling was similar to summer camp coming to end as a kid. The excitement of meeting new friends and the low of having to say goodbye to an experience I will cherish forever.


This blog was originally published here, and is reprinted with the author’s kind permission.

For more by Shawn, be sure to visit his site
And, check out his interviews on Exploring Different Brains.

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Shawn Smith M.Ed., CCC is the proud founder and CEO of Don’t dis-my-ability consultation services Inc., an innovative, multifaceted company specializing in the emerging field of Neurodiversity located in Fredericton New Brunswick, Canada.

Shawn’s story is unique in that he was diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type at age 30. Prior to his diagnosis, Shawn struggled at every level of the public education system. It took Shawn 4 years to complete 3 years of high school, 32 attempts to earn the 18 credits required to graduate including failing grade 10 math 4 times.

Since being diagnosed and taking prescribed medication at age 30, Shawn has experienced a tremendous amount of self-growth in a relatively short period of time and has a unique understanding of his thought process. In 2010 Shawn was accepted to the Master of Education in Counselling Psychology program at the University of New Brunswick on Academic Probation and graduated in 2011 at the top of his class.

Shawn is a self-advocate, entrepreneur, innovator, counsellor and psychotherapist specializing in the emerging field of Neurodiversity. Shawn is a director at large for the Technology in Counselling Chapter of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) and a board member of the New Brunswick Career Development Action Group (NBCDAG).

For inquiries regarding keynote and other speaking engagements please contact Shawn directly at

“Don’t dis-my-ability; I may not learn in a conventional manner but this does not mean I cannot learn, only that you have not been able to reach me”. © For more information, visit Shawn’s site: