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Lizzie Acker talks neurodiversity and creating community

Words by Abi Scaife

Well known for her colourful style and open and honest attitude, Lizzie Acker has become a staple of the neurodivergent community. The Liverpudlian first caught our attention in the 2021 season of The Great British Bakeoff, where she even made a cake that depicted the way her brain feels.

One thing the casual Lizzie Acker fan may not know about our favourite baker is that she is incredibly passionate about giving back, especially when it comes to charity work. Recently, Lizzie joined us as we filmed the latest episode of our series Speak Up! By Smiley Movement where we discussed how we can make the world more accessible.

Smiley News sat down with Lizzie afterwards to hear more in-depth about her charity work, her experience of neurodiversity, and how she thinks we can help the neurodiverse community.

“When people [say], ‘community is dead’ and all that … I just don't think these people leave the house! Community is very much alive,” proclaims Lizzie. 

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Lizzie is incredibly passionate about charity, about community groups, and about using the platform she has to make a difference. She is involved with several charities, including the Mason Foundation, for which she now works, and the British Dyslexia Association, where she is an ambassador.

“The reason I do charity work is years ago I listened to this podcast and [they] asked the question ‘If you could get rid of one thing in the world, what would it be?’” And this fella said charity,” explains Lizzie. “Because if we got rid of charities, everyone would realise how little is done for the people that need the most.”

Since then, Lizzie has been getting stuck in with all kinds of charities - in fact, Smiley News has already interviewed her about her work helping out with a charity called Mary’s Meals which provides food and schooling to children across the world.

Alongside her charity work, Lizzie regularly goes into schools and community groups to talk to them about being a neurodiverse person. It is incredibly important to her that young, neurodiverse people today get to see realistic role models - not just hear about the Richard Bransons of the world.

“When I talk so about [being neurodiverse], that’s out of my own experience of not having visible people who were neurodiverse when I was young - which is definitely what I needed,” explains Lizzy. 

“It's amazing that we get to see all these big, big Hollywood celebrities like Richard Branson say ‘I'm dyslexic’; well, Richard Branson, where have you worked? Have you been able to work at Greggs [or] the pub? Actual, entry-level jobs.”

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It’s this kind of realistic role model that Lizzie wants to promote for young, neurodiverse people. Yes, today she has been on GBBO and has a large following on social media and a brilliant platform - but she’s also spent time working more ordinary jobs, like at the Card Factory.

“That’s where we need to be seeing the community - and that's why I've gone to schools and I just tell them all the random jobs that I've had!” laughs Lizzie. “Because I think they need to be able to envision that as well.”

Lizzie, who is dyslexic, hosts a Sunday night read-along on an Instagram live with her followers, primarily to show some of the trickier parts of neurodiversity, but also to foster a sense of community, and do away with shame.

“We can make the world more accessible by breaking down stigmas [with] more visibility in mainstream media,” says Lizzie. “Breaking down workplace barriers is so important because … everyone goes to shops and you see someone a bit different from yourself. I think that's where it starts.”

“If you never see anyone different how are you meant to know? It’s all about visibility.”

Ultimately, Lizzie’s platform has become one of helping to bring people together -  gathering a community of neurodivergent people and their allies and loved ones alike. Though she doesn’t see herself as a role model, the work she has done to raise awareness for neurodivergence has to be recognised, as well as her altruistic spirit. 

“It's nice to be able to think you've made someone's day in a positive way,” adds Lizzie. “That's nice. That's all anyone should be doing.”

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.  

The Brain Charity. The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition. Support them here.

The ADHD Foundation. This is a charity focusing on supporting and educating those with neurodivergence, including ADHD. Find out more here

ADHD UK. This charity exists to help people with ADHD thrive, positively changing what it means to have ADHD in the UK. Learn more here.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Reduced Inequalities and Partnerships for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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