Ed Baxter is a former Great Britain swimmer and British Record Holder, and he also has a diagnosis of Autism. Although he was diagnosed at a very young age, he didn't publicly disclose his condition until he retired at the age of 21.
Ed swam from the age of 6 to 21 and during his career he was not only a British Record Holder, but Commonwealth Youth Games Champion, and multiple British National Champion in the 200m Breaststroke. Ed swam as a Junior at Cockermouth Swimming Club until the age of 18 when he transitioned to the British Swimming Loughborough National Training Centre under the coaching of Mel Marshall.
Whilst at the National Training Centre, Ed trained alongside Adam Peaty, and together they co-founded AP Race Club - "a revolutionary version of a swim clinic where swimmers are coached by world-class experts and taught how to race."
Ed has and continues to defy stereotypes regarding Autism, and alongside the other Autistic athletes we've interviewed, serves to show why it's referred to as a spectrum condition, and why so many have adopted the saying "if you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism."
Ed's Autistic tendencies didn't hold him back as an athlete, and they certainly don't hold him back in business. In Ed's opinion they are what make him an exceptional entrepreneur. It's Ed's belief that although environments can be disabling, and sporting environments could be more inclusive, Autistic and other neurodivergent athletes must be challenged in order to progress - just like their peers.
On first talking to Ed, I wasn't sure if we were on the same page, but I realised that we had simply had very different experiences. I can see that there may be some instances where coaches and supporters are afraid to challenge their neurodivergent athletes for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, but I've also experienced unhelpful challenge in the past and I know many others have too.
It serves to show that striking a balance is tough, but worth it. When a mutual understanding is achieved and common ground is established, challenge can be an incredibly useful tool for progress. Used in the wrong way, or with the wrong intention, it can have the opposite effect...
The key message being - understand before you advise
If you would like to contact Ed, you can find him on Instagram @edwardbaxter98