Grad opens up about working as an editor with ADHD

Can you be an editor if you have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? For Jahleen Turnbull-Sousa, a graduate of SFU’s Editing Certificate, the answer is a resounding yes. 

By the time Jahleen was diagnosed with ADHD in 2016, she had already begun exploring a career as an editor. She’d been working as an editorial and administrative consultant for a clinical psychology firm in Toronto, and realized that reviewing written content was the part of her job she loved most. 

She discovered the Editors Canada professional association online, and from there learned about SFU’s program.  

“My mind was blown. I didn’t even realize that editing was a real profession,” she says.

Despite her worries that her challenges with time management and focus would make it difficult to complete courses, Jahleen worked her way through the program, finessing her skills as she went. Before graduating with her certificate, she had already begun freelancing and even had the opportunity to edit a novel. She credits the program, and the final project she completed during her studies, for providing the springboard to her freelance career. 

Early on, she recalls being reluctant to share that she had ADHD with her peers—until she met other editors who also identified as neurodivergent. 

“What I often recommend to people starting out is to join editors groups, associations and forums. That helped me realize there’s tons of editors with ADHD,” she says. “We all have challenges, and some of us are more challenged in certain areas than others. I know I’m not alone in that.”

Jahleen says she’s worked hard to adopt strategies to manage her time and struggles with inattention. Today, she runs her own editing business, Maplewood Editorial Services. Having carved herself a niche in medical-legal editing, Jahleen is staying true to her long-time passion for the health, medicine and psychology fields. She also trains others on how to edit medical-legal reports.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from the type of content I work on in the medical field,” she explains. “I love the opportunity to be helpful… and I’m confident that what I’m doing is helping my clients.”             

In addition to growing her own business over the past five years, Jahleen has shifted her perspective on her disorder. 

“I had to change the way I thought about myself, about my abilities and about my ADHD. To not see it as a liability, but to just see it as something that is.” 

You can read more about Jahleen’s experience as an editor on the Editors Canada blog

By Bernice Puzon