Neurodiverse Computing graduate unlocks her potential at Wrexham University

Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Like many neurodiverse people, Computing graduate Joanne Davies has had to overcome persistent challenges and barriers in her daily life.  

But today she’s a proud first class degree honours student, after graduating from Wrexham University at the end of last month. She reflects on her time at university, in a bid to empower and inspire others, who are nervously contemplating higher education.

During her teenage years, Joanne was misdiagnosed with anxiety – but it wasn’t until last year that she was diagnosed with ADHD and autism. 

Joanne, 26, says that the diagnosis drastically changed her outlook on herself and the challenges she had encountered, particularly during her adolescence.  

She said: “If someone had told teenage me that I’d graduate from university – let alone graduate with a first, I don’t think I would’ve believed them. 

“My teenage years were hard. I didn’t enjoy high school and I dropped out of college, so before getting started with my degree, I needed to complete the Foundation Year to catch up.  

“It was here at university where I began to thrive but especially when I got my combined diagnosis, everything just made sense. When I got my diagnosis, I was well supported by my lecturers. It felt good to finally have a better understanding of myself and how I deal with certain situations.  

“I do feel proud of what I’ve achieved while at university, especially given the fact that my first-year was heavily impacted by Covid and the challenges that came along with it.” 

Now Joanne is looking to the future – as she is currently undertaking her Masters in Computer Game Development at the University.  

Joanne says she is keen to be an advocate for women in Computing and Gaming, ensuring that young women realise that there is a vital place for them in the industry.  

She said: “Computing and Gaming is often very male-orientated, for example on my degree I was the only girl in my cohort – but that didn’t hold me back at all. It was an incredibly inclusive environment and I definitely feel as though I’ve found my calling. My ambition, after completing my Masters, is to work in the Gaming sector, specifically on 3D modelling in games. 

“I want to encourage young women to think about Computing and Gaming as potential sectors for them to work in. Improving diversity is key and it needs to start early on – when careers are being discussed in schools, there needs to be a focus on those industries that are typically male-dominated – and advise girls that there is no reason why there isn’t a place for them, their knowledge and skills.  

“It’s also crucial that young neurodiverse people find what brings them fulfilment – that way they are sure to flourish and find a path that is right for them. I certainly feel like I’m on the right road to mine, and I don’t think that would’ve been possible for me without university. 

“Although things are improving, there is still a long way to go with regards to people’s attitudes and supporting people, who are neurodiverse – more needs to be done and hopefully by speaking out, I’m helping to raise awareness. 

“As I say, what’s key is that young neurodiverse people are encouraged by parents, teachers and lecturers to find the things that bring them happiness because in turn, they will go on to flourish in life.” 


Photo caption: Graduate, Joanne Davies and her partner, Shannon Wilkinson-Jones