#044 [Neurodiversity Week] Unpacking Neurodiversity

Unpacking Neurodiversity Podcast Cover with Neurodiversity Celebration Week Logo Featured IMage

Unpacking Neurodiversity

It is Neurodiversity Celebration Week next week and we are diving into neurodiversity and what it is like to figure out you are neurodivergent as an adult.

In this episode we start by asking what is neurodiversity and neurodivergence? and why is it worth exploring our own neurodivergence as an adult?

What do we have to gain by getting a label at this stage of our life?

Find out as Sophia shares her insights after getting a few labels of her own.

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“There’s good reason to go on this journey and you might think, well, what’s a label going to get me but it’s not about the label. It’s about the understanding that comes with that.

It’s about getting that confirmation and validation. It’s about what comes with that knowledge. The label is just a shortcut to articulating a bigger picture, because once you understand the bigger picture, you have the opportunity then to look back at your life and understand it.” – Sophia Elliott

“I can’t tell you how many memories I have where I can now look back and go, aahhhh, okay. Now it’s making sense.

There’s a huge amount of relief in that, probably quite a lot of different emotions, but aside from just the comfort from looking back and understanding and feeling like you have an answer for the challenges that you’ve had, it’s actually about looking at yourself now and saying, well, with this new knowledge, how can I make life easier for myself? It doesn’t have to be that hard.” – Sophia Elliott



[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello, welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m super excited because today we’re going to unpack neurodiversity and this episode is a bit of a taster for what we’re going to dive into next week with neurodiversity celebration week. So what is this whole neurodiversity thing all about? Let’s just dive into it.

[00:00:22] And first of all, let’s have a little chat about language, so neurodiversity, we can often be tempted with language to think that the words we use every day are familiar with have been around forever, but actually neuro-diversity was coined by a woman called Judy singer. He was a sociology. And autistic.

[00:00:44] And she started using the term neurodiversity in about the late 1990s. It refers to the idea that certain developmental disorders are actually normal variations of the brain and people have these. Also have certain strengths. So it’s a strengths based look at, or take on those

[00:01:08] differences in the brain that result in both challenges and strengths, because a lot of the time. These things that we’ll talk about. We, we talk a lot about the, the challenges, the deficits, the gaps, but we don’t take a lot of time to consider. Well, actually there, they’re also strengths that go along with these things.

[00:01:33] So in the late 1990s, neurodiversity was very much seen as a language related to autism as Judy sort of intended it to be. However, over time we can actually see that neurodiversity as a term has shifted a bit. And now it’s more an umbrella term to reference a whole range of neurological differences.

[00:01:57] Differences like ADHD, ASD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia dysgraphia, Tourette’s giftedness as well anxiety and a whole bunch of other different states of being

[00:02:11] however, as language does, I would actually say it has shifted even further. I was reading recently and I did desperately try and find. The book I was reading about this. And I honestly, I just couldn’t find it. But it was talking about the brain and it actually went into the reality that even among the neuro-typical population.

[00:02:39] So. People, we, we may have used the label normal with not that we like that word here, but the cohort of people considered to have atypical brain. Even within that cohort of individuals, there is a huge range of diversity in the brain. So even within the typical population, there’s a huge amount of neurodiverse.

[00:03:07] And so what we have within the, the atypical population is a word called neurodivergent and divergent in specifically referencing something which is atypical. So not typical. So we’ve got neurodiversity, which is literally diversity of the brain. Which can actually apply to all brains of the human race.

[00:03:36] Like there it is an organ that we have, which has an amazing amount of diversity in difference just from person to person on a daily basis. Anyway, so let’s celebrate that. But also there is a cohort within that of individuals that would be considered to have an atypical brain or a divergent brain or a new neuro divergent brain.

[00:04:03] And so those individuals my express as ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, all those things I’ve referenced already and more, right. So basically. There’s a massive amount of diversity within all of our brains. And that’s wonderful because diversity is great. It means we have different perceptions and ideas and, and that breeds wonderful, innovative creative outcomes.

[00:04:33] But also we have a group of people with this brain that is actually different. Again. Neurodivergent so you might’ve heard at here at our gifted kids, I tend to use the term neurodivergent because as best I could tell with the research, I have done that encapsulates. What it is. I’m trying to talk about those brains that are atypical.

[00:05:01] I wanted to have this conversation just to draw our attention to the fact that this. Is shifting. It’s always shifting like that term neurodiversity that was only coined in the late 1990s. And as we know, language comes and goes and changes over time and the meanings change over time. And I think it’s really important when we have these conversations, because our main goal is we want to improve.

[00:05:28] Communities education. We want to shift from this deficit model to understanding that yeah, there’s challenges and we don’t want to downplay those challenges because they can be hardcore, but there’s also strengths. And if we focus on those strengths, it is a way to shift, shift that paradigm into a more positive place.

[00:05:53] So language is really important and you may be listening to this and you may even be disagreeing with me. And that is totally cool as well. And there will be people out there who possibly disagree with. My research and my reading and my understanding of where we’re at you only have to log onto the internet to see that we love disagreeing with each other and having different interpretations and that’s all. Okay. But what I always try to do is just approach these conversations with good grace. Term coined by Brenae brown, at least in the way that I use it. And it just refers to the fact that generally speaking people are trying to do their best people.

[00:06:35] Aren’t wanting to be considered ignorant, or they’re not wanting to offend.

[00:06:42] We’re all just doing the best with the information that we have. And it’s an opportunity for us to actually educate and have a conversation, or even just talk about why we have different takes on things and why we’re disagreeing. It doesn’t have to get out. Because when we kind of go in on the attack, it puts people off and they don’t even want to have the conversation.

[00:07:06] And it’s really important to have this conversation because we need to shift the understanding out there within the health system, the education system community. At large, we need to have a better understanding of these things. We need to shift the. About being different, having a neurodivergent brain and actually start to look at well, what are the strengths there as well?

[00:07:30] Because there are many, the reason I have chosen to. It’s kind of dive into neurodiversity celebration week is yes, of course. I want to be having that conversation around let’s celebrate our differences, our brain differences, and let’s celebrate the strengths of our neurodivergent brains. But also because over the last 18 months, I’ve kind of been through this journey of when I started out, I thought I was neuro-typical.

[00:08:05] And now I know that I am actually neuro atypical. So I went from feeling normal, I guess, as much as I hate that word. But typical, I went from feeling like I had just a typical brain to now knowing that having you’re a divergent brain and that was some journey. Like it was pretty hardcore. I. I found it challenging to.

[00:08:35] I understand how the person, I thought I was, could fit into that new identity. And it took a while to get my head around that. So I now know that I’m gifted, which wasn’t much of a surprise because I have three gifted kids, but also the, I am autistic. And now that was a surprise because. I’ve done a great job of masking and camouflaging my whole life.

[00:09:02] And I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I thought everyone did that. And so when I kind of got that diagnosis and I was talking to a few friends, a friend of mine made the comment that, how do we know that we’re different? If people don’t talk about it, Like how, what do we have to kind of compare our lived experience to if people aren’t prepared to have these conversations.

[00:09:29] And that really resonated with me because when I was trying to figure all this out in my own head, I went online to find the lived experience, to find the stories that I could relate to that would resonate with me to help me unpack this journey. And so. From those comments. I sort of think. Yeah, we need to have this conversation and I’m okay about being upfront and open about the fact that I’ve been on this journey and, and I’ve come out the other end being gifted and autistic.

[00:10:04] And I’m okay about, at this point in time saying I’m still figuring that. I’ve come a long way in the last 12 months. My understanding of myself and autism and being gifted and autistic has shifted immensely, but I’m still very much on that journey of consolidating and processing .

[00:10:24] So I’m okay about sharing my story. Admittedly, it was messy at times. I really struggled with cognitively. Understanding how I could fit into that autistic category. But what I couldn’t deny was an incredible physical and emotional reaction to this kind of realization. And so I spent. A solid period of time digging into this, getting assessed in great detail because I felt like I needed to come out the other end, knowing it had been rigorous and have confidence in, in that shift for me.

[00:11:08] So this week, what I wanted to do was I wanted to have a dive into adult diagnosis. What is it like to get diagnosed as being neurodivergent as an adult? Because quite honestly, I know heaps of people, heaps of people who are at grownups like me, you know, in their late thirties, forties, Even older, actually realizing, and even getting diagnosis that they have ADHD or they’re autistic or.

[00:11:42] Or all sorts of things and it’s not uncommon. You know, we, our kids are starting to get these diagnosis and it causes us to look at ourselves and resonate with ourselves. So wanted to say, first of all, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever had that thought of, oh, it’s, it feels a bit like me. You’re not alone in thinking maybe.

[00:12:06] Should I look into this further there’s heaps of adults that I know who have had these diagnoses and been through this process. But even more than that, there’s good reason to go on this journey and you might think, well, what’s a label going to get me and it’s not, it’s not about the label.

[00:12:26] It’s about the understanding that comes with that. It’s about. Getting that confirmation and validation it’s about what comes with that knowledge. The label is just a shortcut to articulating a bigger picture, because once you understand the bigger picture, you have the opportunity then to kind of look back at your life and understand.

[00:12:54] Just understand, just get it. . I can’t tell you how many memories I have where I can now look at that and, and kind of go, ah, okay. You know, now it’s making sense and there’s a huge amount of, I think, relief in that probably quite a lot of different emotions, but aside from just, you know, The comfort from looking back and understanding and, and feeling like you have an, an, you know, an answer for, for the challenges that you’ve had.

[00:13:31] It’s actually about looking at yourself now and saying, well, with this new knowledge, how can I make life easier for myself? It doesn’t have to be that hard. And for a lot of this, I think. Well, in many areas we’ve actually unconsciously been putting in strategies and various tools already because we found we have to, you know, like I’m not very good at that.

[00:13:59] So I’ve always done X, Y, Z to make that easier for myself. For example, perhaps not a great example, but I always thought I was really organized, you know, I’ve, I’ve done project management, uh, in terms of managing projects and teams and campaigns, like, you know, the things that require. Level of organization. And so I naturally thought, well, I’m therefore an organized person, but actually what I realized now is I really struggle with that.

[00:14:35] I really struggle with that. Just kind of so many things going on with my head, uh, you know, easily get overwhelmed about where to start. , and that kind of executive function piece is actually something that I find hard. But I realize, I always thought I was , but it was because I’ve put so much effort into being an organized, like, I wasn’t naturally that way by just putting this enormous amount of time and energy and focus into.

[00:15:12] That outcome. And I realized that I also had this great capacity to focus. You know, I’m very classical autistic hyper-focus kind of thing, but that allowed me to get through a lot of work, which allowed me to kind of made up for my lack of organization. So it wasn’t that I was necessarily organized.

[00:15:35] In what I was doing as well as I could have been, but I just got through it so quickly, , it’s that proverbial duck on the water underneath peddling, peddling, peddling, but above the water, looking very calm . And that in itself has actually given me a great sense of ah, you know, and, and it just kind of, uh, I dunno, relief, comfort reassurance.

[00:16:01] Understanding and, and now I’m I go, well, actually I have got new strategies to organize myself and manage the overwhelm and keep myself focused and not put too much pressure on myself because now that I have three kids, I don’t have the time and the energy that I had, , in my twenties and early thirties to.

[00:16:27] To just do that extra work. Uh, I don’t have that much time I’ve got between school drop-off and school pickup. And even within that, you know, I often have to fit in some domestic stuff every single day. And so my time to work gets squeezed and squeezed. So I don’t have the luxury of just. , doing a hyper-focus and just for a long period of time and just getting a bunch of stuff done, like I would just do huge 12, 14, 16 hour days.

[00:16:56] Do you know? Because I could, I could focus like that was no problem. And I would get through the staff, but I can’t do that anymore. I have to shift, I have to get better strategies to work for me now. And because I know that I am autistic and I have been able to identify. What that means for me and where my challenges and gaps are, and also where my strengths are, then I get to go, okay.

[00:17:20] My strength is here and my challenges here, this is a strategy I’m going to use. That’s that is what you have to gain from going on this journey also. And very importantly, it has given me a language and an understanding for my children who are unsurprisingly, , we’re looking at similar diagnosis for a couple of my kids and, that comes as no surprise, cause this is that’s actually what started me off on this journey.

[00:17:49] But now I have a language and an understanding in which to, to talk to them and help them and support them, which is significantly different from the perspective I had before. And that’s a really huge gain for me as a parent in having that relationship with my child and helping and supporting my child.

[00:18:10] So there’s a bunch of reasons why. This journey is worth the time and energy. There’s, there’s a lot to get out of it for ourselves as grownups, but also for ourselves as parents. And so for this neurodiversity celebration week, what I wanted to do was dive into this journey of being an adult and.

[00:18:33] Thinking, maybe I’m neurodivergent and how would I figure that out? What’s the journey to figuring that out. so we’ve got five different podcasts next week, which I’m super excited about. Our first podcast is with Jennifer Harvey sullen. Who’s the founder of, into gifted now into gifted. Is this amazing resource.

[00:18:57] And they do counseling. They do qualitative assessments for giftedness that they’ve got blogs. They’ve even got some podcast episodes that they do. They have all sorts of workshops and courses and things, both for individuals on the journey, but also for professionals who are wanting to work with gifted community.

[00:19:21] So into gifted is, is about that gifted in to E adult space and understanding ourselves and helping us unpack them. And so it’s an amazing organization doing really great work. And it’s, it’s one of the very few. Out there doing, working in this niche. So a big part of this week for me was not only having this conversation, but also being able to direct you to great resources out there.

[00:19:50] If you wanted to dive a bit deeper. So into gifted is great. So with Jennifer, we actually use my journey as a way. To unpack, um, what it’s like to, to kind of go through this journey of, of, um, Yeah, figuring it all out as an adult. Uh, and so, so I talk a bit about my journey and, and Jennifer helps us understand that more broadly.

[00:20:18] And we talk about, you know, is this just me or, or do most people feel like this at this stage? And, and it’s a really great conversation, um, that helps unpack that journey. And she’s just amazing. Our second episode with Nadja Cereghetti, who’s the host of unleashed Monday podcast. Again, a great resource and notches podcasts are all with really interesting gifted and twice exceptional individuals about whole range of topics within this kind of gifted Tuohy space and Nadja.

[00:20:53] And I actually started our little podcast journey around about the same time and we met them. And so. It’s really wonderful. We’ve always, we’ve kept in touch and we did a podcast together back at the beginning, and it was really amazing to catch up with her now and do another podcast, not just cause it was great to catch up, but also because over the last 12 months she’s been going through her own journey as well to figure out more about herself.

[00:21:23] And so. In that conversation. We talk about ADHD and giftedness and her experience of IQ test, , which is really interesting because it was not, it was not a great experience. And I think it’s important part of this conversation is to acknowledge it’s not always going to. Be easy to figure this out. And now if you’re a parent of a gifted kid, you will know this already.

[00:21:48] Sometimes it can take years of finding the right professional with the right understanding to actually get that clarity about what is going on with your kid. And it’s no different with adults. To be honest, we, we need to find the right professionals with the right understanding. To get that clarity and not just story is a really great example of that.

[00:22:13] And I’m really grateful that she shared that with us because she has not been through a great time. and Nadja also has a community of, , gifted and twice exceptional women that she works with as well. On Wednesday we talked to Paula proba and. , she’s written a couple of books about rainforest mind.

[00:22:34] And so this is, she sees it as a subset of the gifted population that is particularly creative. And so she has this wonderful metaphor about the rainforest mind. And so in that podcast, we talk about what is the rainforest mind when we dig into that? And what they can mean for us in that understanding and polar is, on Instagram and she does blogs and she’ll say does, , like counseling and stuff in her home state.

[00:23:04] But what I love about polar is she’s just like this wonderfully comforting voice in, in all the chaos out there, there’s this lovely, very kind of maternal comforting voice saying. You’re not broken it’s okay. You know, and we can understand ourselves and I love following her on Instagram because she just has this really lovely, comforting way about her.

[00:23:34] And you just feel seen and you feel heard. So definitely check out Paula probate as well. And so on Thursday, our fourth podcast, we talked to Emma and Nicholson and Christine and. Who are the hosts of the positive disintegration podcast? If you’ve been in the gifted community for a while, you may have heard of positive disintegration Dubroski and overexcitabilities.

[00:24:01] And I was so excited to, to have them as guests to dig into this a little bit, because I think it’s one of those areas that are very, you know, there’s been a very superficial knowledge about. What it’s all about, and that has been misinterpreted and used perhaps in ways that it wasn’t intended. And so this is an episode which we actually talk about.

[00:24:29] What is positive disintegration, but also what is the theory of positive disintegration that Debraski came up with? How to overexcitabilities fit within that? How does this work within the gifted community and what does this mean for gifted people? And it’s a really great episode for unpacking. That whole thing, which is huge and hugely complex, but, and so kind of setting it straight if you will.

[00:24:54] , because you know, even just a few days ago, I saw this post in a group on Facebook and it was very much like a, a parent was saying, oh, I’ve just found overexcitabilities, it’s making so much sense for my kid and just, uh, wanting more info about this and then someone in the comments that are no overexcitabilities aren’t relevant anymore.

[00:25:13] You know, that’s old. You know, disregard all of that, , because it’s not relevant anymore. and as we will find out from Emma and Chris, well, that is not true. Overexcitabilities are very relevant, but like anything it’s about understanding the context, what they’re there for, how we can use that knowledge and, and how it fits into that bigger picture of the theory of positive disintegration, which is actually like this whole alternate.

[00:25:41] Theory of psychology. It’s super interesting. And what is also interesting about that conversation is we talk about how Debraski actually saw things like anxiety and depression as really positive signs of the potential for growth. So it’s also an opportunity to reframe these mental health challenges as.

[00:26:05] Opportunities. And so there’s a, there’s a whole theory about that. We get into that on Thursday. So check that out. And then finally on Friday, I’m just wrapping up the week. We’re going to have a bit of a chat, just, just you and me about how women present differently. , we things like IST autism and ADHD and even giftedness, right?

[00:26:30] , and why it’s important to understand ourselves and the impacts. That is having on us. And that’s obviously a really important conversation for me, but for a lots of women that I know it’s to actually to understand that the lived experience is. And the research has very much focused on a particular cohort of individuals, generally speaking boys. And it has largely missed girls and therefore women.

[00:27:00] And so we’re starting to get that research and understanding coming out now, but like anything that takes time. And so we just, I want to have a bit of a chat around what that might look like. So I’m excited to do that as well. Okay. So sign up to our gifted kids.com. So you don’t miss anything. There is a form on the website, , popping your email and you will be updated and you won’t miss out on anything.

[00:27:28] Check out all the podcasts next week, there’s going to be five of them. And now obviously, if you don’t have time, you don’t have to listen to them all next week. , they’ll be there and you’ve got time to catch up with them, but some really great episodes there. I’m super excited. And as we go through the week, it’s an opportunity to check out the resources from all of our guests, which are truly awesome.

[00:27:52] And ultimately, this is about creating. Community and connecting people, which is what we do here and our gifted kids, and also what we do in the, our gifted kids hub. So you may not be aware, but we also have a membership like a subscription community within our gifted kids. And we obviously talk a lot about parenting, gifted kids and a whole range of topics, but it’s also a place to be seen and to be heard.

[00:28:20] Then it’s a place where you can say, I think I might be. Whatever autistic ADHD gifted. Do you know? And it’s kind of like, what do you think that means, and this really resonates? Or what does that mean? Um, or just, um, having these challenges with my kid or even better. I want to celebrate this amazing thing my kid did, and it’s a safe community and a safe place to do all of those things as well as lots of kind of resources and, , and bonus like videos of podcasts and bonus like conversations with our guests as well.

[00:28:56] We need to be able to see ourselves in. And feel that place when we belong and find that place, which is our own normal. So we’re going to be talking about neurodiversity and you’re a divergence so that we get that better understanding about what it all means and how that might fit us and, and just kind of acknowledge.

[00:29:18] It’s a moving conversation.

[00:29:20] Nonetheless, we’re going to have a conversation about strengths. We’re going to have a conversation about neurodivergence. We’re going to have a conversation about going on the journey. So. Pop your email in our D gifted kids.com. So you don’t miss out on anything, check out all the podcasts. And I’m really excited.

[00:29:38] I want to hear what you think, what you’re feeling, what resonates we’re also on Instagram and Facebook, and we have a Facebook group. So get engaged, get involved, let us know where are you at? What do you think about that?

[00:29:52] Alright, take care and I will see you soon. Bye.

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