Today we talk to Allison Davies, researcher and previously music therapist, about how the brain impacts our behaviours and new ways of understanding those behaviours.
We talk about what to do when your child has a meltdown or expresses their emotions, autism, music for regulation and more!
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“And I think probably the most important point to reiterate right now is that is really bloody hard. Like there is nothing easy about honouring a meltdown or an angry outburst. There is nothing easy about us staying regulated and consciously in control enough to then come in and not start to discipline. It’s so hard for us to come in with love.” – Allison Davies
- Allison Davies
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Allison Davies (she/her) lives and works on Tommeginne land, Lutruwita (Tasmania), Australia. She creates online resources for parents and teachers seeking guidance around how to use music therapeutically in their own lives, and to reclaim their inherent musicality along the way.
Working within a neurodiversity framework that favours regulation over intervention, and sharing her lived experience of autism, Allison empowers others to use music as a tool for neuro-regulation at home and in the classroom. Her programs, workshops and speaking events have received international acclaim for their ability to enthral an audience, deliver lightbulb moments and shift paradigms away from behavioural management and towards brain care.
An autistic, songstress, former music therapist and super passionate about remembering our sovereign voice and reclaiming our musicality.
Her academic background includes a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Teaching and a Master of Music Therapy and training with the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy.
From 2005 – 2020 she worked in private music therapy practice across the fields of early childhood, juvenile detention, adult mental health, aged care, dementia care, palliative care and neuro rehabilitation.
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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this week’s podcast episode. First of all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for joining us for neuro diversity celebration week. It was amazing. It was. I’m just going to say. Resounding success. There was a massive over. Like there’s been. 8,000 downloads, , throughout March and as a result of the week and I’ll podcasts and.
[00:00:27] Like huge, thanks to all of the guests that we had on and everyone who engaged, listened. Got in touch with their stories and questions and aha moments. Like just massive appreciation. Thank you for sharing the podcast with friends and family and your community and just getting involved. , It’s been, it’s been really awesome.
[00:00:54] If you want to get more involved, of course you can subscribe and I’ll give to kids. Don’t come. We have a free ebook on there, a free what? He’s gifted course. And all sorts of resources and you can find the link in the show notes.
[00:01:08] April is autism awareness month. Well, actually, This is like a day there’s a week. So I’m just going to call it the whole month. , whether that’s the whole thing or not. , and so I’m delighted actually to share today’s episode. , with our guest who is also autistic. So I thought that was a nice kind of Roundup.
[00:01:27] And her name is Alison Davies and she’s pretty freaking amazing. She creates online resources for parents and teachers seeking guidance around how to use music therapeutically in their own lives. And to reclaim their inherent musicality along the way. . She works within a neurodiversity framework that favors regulation over intervention.
[00:01:51] And sharing her lived experience of autism. Alison empowers others to use music as a tool for neuro regulation at home and in the classroom. She is a music therapist, a researcher. And her programs, workshops and speaking events have received international acclaim for their ability to deliver. Light bulb moments and shift paradigms.
[00:02:13] Away from behavioral management and towards brain care. So you’re in for a great episode today. I love her work. I just love it. And I highly recommend following her and checking her out. All her details are in the show notes. , she’s just one of those super brilliant people pulling together. The things that she loves to really make an impact and share with parents.
[00:02:38] A new way of looking at behavior. And the way our brain impacts on behavior. It’s an absolute don’t miss out. So today we talk about exactly that, how does our brain impact our behavior? Uh, kids being naughty or is it actually something going on with their brain?
[00:02:57] And how can we use music to regulate? And so this episode might just change the way you parent certainly will change the way you look at behavior. Yes. We also talk about autism. And why you might ask is autism important for a podcast about giftedness? Well, gifted kids and gifted adults can also be autistic.
[00:03:20] Just like they can have ADHD or be dyslexic or any number of learning and life challenges. Autism and giftedness can often be misdiagnosed for each other. In fact, there’s been some research that suggests that if you go to, you know, if, if a child was to. Get assessed by someone with, um, a strength in giftedness. They may get a giftedness diagnosis. If that same child went to someone who had a strength in diagnosing autism.
[00:03:49] They may get an autism diagnosis. Like research has actually shown that, which is fascinating. So there’s obviously a lot of shared traits and it’s a very interesting cross sort of. Crossover there. So it’s important. , when we talk about giftedness that we also talk about, , Things that can come along with that.
[00:04:08] Things that can be. Aligned with that.
[00:04:11] In this episode, everything we talk about is about the brain . And can apply to anyone with a brain. So it’s not exclusively about the autistic brain or the gifted brain. But Ellison’s knowledge and tools will of course be a great benefit to anyone. Especially those with a neurodivergent brain.
[00:04:31] So, and that includes giftedness autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia. All of those things. So, let me know what you think. , you can find us in our Facebook group or an Instagram. I love to hear people’s aha moments. I really cherish those and appreciate them. If you want to dig deeper, you can download our free ebook or free. What is gifted cause at.
[00:04:55] Our gifted kids.com on the Woody’s gifted page. All of Alison’s details are also in the show notes. She is freaking amazing. So follow her to. And thank you again for an absolutely amazing neurodiversity celebration week. It was just totally blew me away. And thank you for engaging and getting involved and to amazing guests. I hope that.
[00:05:21] Uh, you know, you’ve taken the opportunity to follow and get to know them a bit better. And I really hope that you enjoy this episode. So thanks so much. Bye. I’m super excited today to have Alison Davies on the podcast, which is very exciting. Cause we’ve had some technical hiccups,
[00:06:09] Allison Davies: Allison,
[00:06:10] Sophia Elliott: welcome to the podcast. I thought perhaps we could start by having a quick chat about what you do and who you’re serving.
[00:06:21] Allison Davies: Sure. Well, this is, I’ve just come out of a 16 years of being a registered music therapist and I’ve just left that profession.
[00:06:29] And so it’s exciting times, I’m starting a whole new chapter right now. And right now I am an independent liberatory scholar, which means I’m researching and I’ve chosen rather than to do a PhD. I’ve chosen to research independently with some fabulous mentors and supervisors. And my research is based in liberation.
[00:06:50] So I am looking at deconstructing the idea that some people are musical and some people are non-musical. And my hope there is to really help people to understand that, to be human is to be musical. There’s no such thing as out of tune and, you know, we can all express ourselves musically. And so.
[00:07:09] You know, I feel like this research hopefully is going to be serving a lot of people a lot. Maybe all of us have a big vision anyway. Yeah. And
[00:07:19] Sophia Elliott: that is a really big vision. And congratulations on, you know, like you say, study a whole new chapter and doing something that sounds like you’re very passionate about.
[00:07:29] And yeah, and just trying something a bit different. That’s really exciting.
[00:07:36] Allison Davies: Yeah. I mean, it was scary as well because I had to, I had to let go of an identity that ha I’ve had for more than half of my life. I spent six years at university to get to the point where I was as a music therapist. And then I trained with the academy of neurologic music therapy.
[00:07:52] So I could really specialize in understanding the brain and how it works and, and the relationship between music and the brain. And so it’s really defined me for a long time and it still does. It’s just that I no longer identify as a therapist and now I identify as a researcher, so I’m still creating the same work in the world.
[00:08:13] And not a lot has changed more. So my identity, I think, has.
[00:08:17] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, which like you say, it can take some getting used to that definitely resonates with my only my own journey of, of late to be honest. So while you researching, we can still access your e-course and your online community. Perhaps tell us a little bit about
[00:08:33] Allison Davies: that.
[00:08:35] Yeah. So these are my sort of babies. I’ve got two resources that are my, that have my sort of favorite things that I’ve produced in the world. Work-wise so I’ve got my 10 week e-course brains equal behaviors, and that will continue, that has always run twice a year online. And that’s all about understanding our children’s brains how they develop.
[00:09:02] And, you know, we place expectations on children that are far beyond what their brain can actually achieve. And that’s because we don’t understand because you know, so much of what we’ve learned in the brain about the brain we’ve only learned in the last 20 years. So we’re still very firmly entrenched in a behavioral based paradigm.
[00:09:22] But now we have so much science about how the brain develops. We really need to start adjusting our expectations on children. So that the brains equal behaviors is all about that. It’s also about really deeply accepting your divergence and I’m an autistic woman and my children, and you’re a divergence.
[00:09:40] So I’m very passionate about sort of shifting the way we think about supporting our children so that it’s not so much about. You know, I never aimed to, I never want my resources to be sort of used for people to, to like, we don’t want our children’s brains to be better, faster, stronger, more like someone else’s, I’m not, I’m not into comparing I’m into deeply and wildly accepting they’re our own neuro type, their own trajectory of development and celebrating exactly where they are.
[00:10:14] And we use music to support the brain to regulate. So that’s what brains equal behaviors is all about understanding the brain and using music brace that music based strategies, not to improve functionality or anything like that, but just to support the brain to regulate and feel safe and nurtured and loved.
[00:10:33] Sophia Elliott: I love that. I really do love that. Likewise, my children are as am I, neurodivergent and And my own journey over the last few years has been very much about understanding the brain, our brains, and the impact of that. Especially as a parent and parenting, and that really resonates with me. It’s kind of like the more information we have, we can know what to expect.
[00:11:01] And even before then, in my parenting journey, I was always asking that question of, is it reasonable for me to expect to this old my child, like, is that a reasonable thing? And often that wasn’t a clear answer, but it’s just always questioning. And I think that’s actually a really healthy thing to do. And so beyond the course, you also have a community called the brain care care.
[00:11:27] Allison Davies: I do so the brain care cafes, my online membership, the brains equal behaviors is contextualized around understanding our children’s brains and supporting our children, the brain care cafes for adults. And whilst the strategies that we do in the brain care cafe can absolutely be used with our children and for our children.
[00:11:47] This one’s really about us supporting our own brain. And my definition of brain care is giving our brain more of what helps it run and less of what shuts it down. And the reason we use music based strategies as a tool for regulation and a tool for supporting our brain to feel safe and in control, as opposed to confused and overwhelmed.
[00:12:09] Is that the relationship between music and the brain is just off the charts? So when science shows us that when we experience music, more of our brain becomes active simultaneously than it does when we experience any other thing. So the relationship, what the impact that music has on our brain is huge.
[00:12:32] So much of our brain becomes active and that helps us integrate and process and move emotions and all of the things that we need to do to feel our best and our safest. So yes, the brain care cafe brains, equal behaviors, the equals is sort of very information dense. We learn a lot. It’s very science-y and very exciting and you learn a lot and the brain care cafe is kind of strategy dense.
[00:12:58] So we have a lot of brain care strategies, which are tiny, tiny, tiny musical experiences that are strategically used because we know that they support our brain to feel safe and to regular. I
[00:13:14] Sophia Elliott: that’s very exciting and very intriguing. That’s kind of ticking all my boxes. I love brain sciences stuff and very practical strategies and tools that I can use for myself or with my kids.
[00:13:27] I thought it might be helpful today if we kind of talked through a few kind of real-world examples to help us get our heads around how we might use music strategies in our parenting. Yeah. So how does thinking about our children’s behavior from this perspective of the way the brain works? Help us as a parent.
[00:13:50] If we’re supporting a child who maybe has a lot of anger.
[00:13:56] Allison Davies: Okay. So behaviors or behaviors are always, always the by-product of what’s going on in the brain. Yeah. So the first thing is. When ever we focus on the behavior. So if a child is experiencing anger and I say, I like to say experiencing anger rather than is an angry child, because we know all emotions are transient.
[00:14:18] Emotion literally means energy in motion. So it’s, it’s just an energy that is moving through us. It’s not a state that we permanently are in. So, if a child is experiencing anger, which they will, because we’re all human and all of us will. However that is externalizing behaviourally, that’s not the focus.
[00:14:36] So the first thing is to move away from the focus, being the, hitting, the punching the hole in the wall, the, The, all of that, the angry sort of behaviors that we would associate and to recognize that they, their brain is in survival. Our brain goes into survival mode very quickly, these days for most of us.
[00:14:58] Because this modern Western world we live in is surrounded by sensory input, too much sensory input, too much information, so many options, so many choices, and because of our fast paced life where there’s so many expectations, so many things we’re getting done we’re moving quickly to do all the things.
[00:15:16] It’s just so fast that our brains are many parts of our brains are sort of in this heightened state of arousal or like high stimulated, highly stimulated and that’s adults and children alike. Which means that some parts of our brain are going to be going overboard. The little part of the brain in right in the middle called the amygdala, which detects our threat responses.
[00:15:37] If that’s highly likely. We want our amygdala to pick up threats, but not like every second noise or movement that wasn’t expected in the room. But if our, if our brains or our children’s brain brains are highly active or overactive or highly stimulated, because of all the, The, this modern world we live in, then their brain will be basically jumping at all of these.
[00:16:01] There’s a noise. There’s something unexpected. I didn’t, I don’t know who that was. What’s this and the brain’s like, okay, these are all potential threats. Not quite sure what to make of all of this. So let’s just go into survival mode to ensure you’re safe because our brains are only job in the. Is to keep us alive.
[00:16:20] That’s its only jobs. So whenever it’s overwhelmed, it will put us straight into survive. My just in case it’s missing anything important so that we have the best chance of saving our own lives. So it sounds very dramatic, but the brain doesn’t know the difference between real threats and perceived threats, which is why children will be experiencing anger.
[00:16:40] So it’s always, when you, when we understand it from that perspective, it makes so much more sense to support our children in a way that allows them to slow down, allows them to feel safe, that create, create an environment for your child, that they feel connected to you as a parent or a caregiver that they feel nurtured and loved and safe.
[00:17:06] And all of those things are the things that’s going to help the brain come out of survival mode. So it’s a complete different spin on how we manage. Behaviors, because it’s always, always been about focusing on the behavior. Like we don’t hear it. So is it, and this is completely different. Yeah. So is it,
[00:17:28] Sophia Elliott: So is it focusing more on the foundational feelings of safety and security and connection as opposed to being very responsive, like.
[00:17:42] Yeah. Focusing on the being responsive to emotions as they’re expressed, whether that’s anger or
[00:17:47] Allison Davies: whatever. Yes. So it’s kind of a preemptive thing. When a child is in an emotional outburst, I saw this beautiful meme yesterday, which said meltdown and had been crossed out tantrum crossed out, and then underneath it, it said emotional release.
[00:18:04] And that’s what that’s what, anything like that is an angry outburst, a child smashing a window you know, throwing rocks at someone I’m going all to like, you know, the big, the big
[00:18:17] Sophia Elliott: adult shouting, you know,
[00:18:20] Allison Davies: or an hour adult shatter. So it’s exactly the same for children. Yep. Yeah. As adults. Yeah.
[00:18:25] And so when we are supporting, so when they are having an emotional release it’s happening. Yes. And the best thing you can do. And this is what, what I suggest for meltdowns as well. There’s two things you can do in the middle of a meltdown or an emotional release is just as best as you can remove any direct triggers.
[00:18:50] So if you know that there is a noisy thing happening, or there was a flashing light happening and you can easily just turn that off and fix that trigger, we’ll then do that. Well, I can try and micromanage the triggers, but just if there’s something obvious and then the other thing is just as best as you can make sure that everyone who’s in that area is safe.
[00:19:10] You know, you can’t get in there and stop it while it’s happening. So when the emotional release, when the angry outburst is happening, it’s happening. And then as soon as it’s finished, you’re moving to the comfort stage where you tell the child, they are loved, they are safe. It’s okay. It’s not their fault.
[00:19:27] Sometimes traditionally that’s when people have gone in with punishments and like, okay, you shouldn’t have done that, but we know that a brain that is dysregulated needs to feel safe and loved and validated to be able to regulate that it makes so much sense. It’s really hard for us adults because we are one of the first generations to know this science.
[00:19:48] So we’re one of the first generations to move past what we are deeply conditioned into, which is to look at the behaviors and manage the behaviors and reward or, or punish behaviors because. Our generations have always done at school and at home. Yeah. So it’s hard for us and it can be really hard after an angry outburst to then just come in with love and compassion and support.
[00:20:13] But as soon as you have, then B being able to reconnect and your child feels safe, then you are straight back into what I call the management stage, which is finding ways, a little moments in your lifestyle every day to support your little one’s brain to feel safe. And that is the best way you can reduce the likelihood of them being in survival mode.
[00:20:38] So what you’re doing then is helping delay the next meltdown, and it’s never going to stop. I’m never, ever against stopping angry outbursts because we’re human. So we will absolutely have them no matter what happens, but when we are consciously SU creating an environment for our children, Or finding ways to support their regulatory needs day to day when things are going fine, not when they’re already going into that angry space.
[00:21:05] That’s when we sort of, we ended up developing a sort of a bigger window of tolerance for them, or more capacity, more resources for them before they start to get into that heightened state where they’re not coping. So what would their emotions?
[00:21:22] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, so really understanding those foundational pieces around creating that environment.
[00:21:30] And so as you were talking there, I’m imagining a, and then imagining a massive declutter of my house, which seems to be like we’ve been on that mission for the last six years, but. And, and that really resonates with me because there’s so much of our modern environment is constant. And it’s, and even with adults, like a couple of months ago, I turned off all notifications on my phone, on my watch, I get a text message or a phone call, and that is it now.
[00:22:05] And I didn’t realize until I did that, how hyper alert I had become on this constant state of you know, tension and hyper alertness, this just because of these notifications all the time. And so it is relentless and our kids are growing up in that environment as well. So, so the big message I’m getting is let’s have a good look at our, our immediate environment, how that’s serving our needs.
[00:22:32] And, and no doubt. You’ve got a bunch of strategies around. Creating that environment and stuff. And then in the, in the moment of these emotional releases cause you know, kids do it, we all do it. We’re all human, all sorts of emotions come out and it’s really important that they do. It’s kind of just, I guess, stepping back, honoring that moment for.
[00:22:54] Making sure they feel safe, everyone’s safe. And then coming in with the love and support as opposed to a discipline old-school discipline and consequences. Yeah.
[00:23:08] Allison Davies: And I think probably the most important point to reiterate right now is that really bloody hard. Like there is nothing easy about honoring a meltdown or an angry outburst.
[00:23:23] There is nothing easy about us staying regulated and consciously in control enough to then come in and not start to discipline. It’s so hard for us to come in with love. And you know, I remember one time. After a meltdown a few years ago, it was a really big one. There was like kind of three hours there of really hard work.
[00:23:49] And I had strangers, you know, other adults had to come and help me. And you know, it wasn’t my mind melt down. It was a child and I had another child with me and it was in a place where it was just really awkward. It was really, really hard. One and at the end of that when we could finally kind of get in the car and drive again, I went to the bakery and bought the kids, treats like kiss biscuits with icing on them.
[00:24:15] And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Like I was so. Like I had nothing left in me. I was so empty. I was so terrified. I was so traumatized. I was so triggered. I was I’ve almost got tears remembering it. And I mean, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, really, but for me to drive straight from that situation to go and buy treats for them, that’s things I’ve ever done.
[00:24:43] I just really felt like if any other parents or what I was doing right now, they’d be like, you’re so soft on them. You should be, this is your fault. You’re not, you’re not blah, blah, blah. It’s really, really hard to be the person who understands the science and makes parenting choices based on that.
[00:25:03] When you know that all around, you are going to be people who only see the behaviors and only see what they perceive is the right or wrong way of you responding to that. And so it’s very, very hard. It’s not an easy thing, but it is the right thing.
[00:25:20] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. And I absolutely hear you on that. There is, I mean, there’s so much judgment at the best of times, which is awful.
[00:25:28] And I’ve certainly heard myself that accusation of being soft from folk who honestly don’t understand the complexities of my kids and the reasons why, you know, they’re like you say, they’re having that emotional release at that point in time. And it’s kinda like. They’re not misbehaving, they’re in this state because they’re, you know, they’re really tired.
[00:25:55] They’re hungry. There’s been a lot of change recently. And they’re they’re overloaded with it, sensory overloaded or any number of complicated factors. Yeah. Everything. And it’s like, you know, as a parent in that moment, they don’t, they don’t need discipline. They need that love and they need to feel safe.
[00:26:16] And especially with all the generations, but even, any generation there’s, there’s definitely a lot of judgment around being soft. I, I hear that a lot from parents and, and that kind of thing. And as you’re talking there, I’m kind of imagining, , my own trio. I have three kids Four seven and nine, who are all most likely on your diverse and complicated little people.
[00:26:49] And, and, you know, in sometimes they all kind of eat, reach the end of their rope and they’re, they they’re at each other and each other’s face. And those can be really, really hard days really hard to come in with the love and and different approaches. So I’m always looking for tools and strategies.
[00:27:10] One, two, okay. Two things I was curious in asking you about in terms of how it relates to the brain and behavior in particular is anxiety and hyperactivity. Anxiety comes up quite a lot, because I think this demographic of folk that we’re kind of talking about predominantly are anxious. But also incredibly hyperactive as that brain function oozes out into the physical movement.
[00:27:43] So, any thoughts on those particular areas?
[00:27:47] Allison Davies: Yeah, lots. This probably we’ll come back in six hours. I’ll try and keep it quick and we’re going to separate them for The, to begin with. So let’s look at hyper activity. There’s a couple of things, all humans and children, all adults and children, all humans will experience hyper activity.
[00:28:05] When you research hyper activity, all you’re going to find is information about ADHD and it’s really. It’s only part of the story, because like I said, our brains are in a hyper-stimulated and hyperactive state. So child or adult alike, when we are in a heightened state of arousal, our brain becomes highly active.
[00:28:23] So there’s this part of the brain like right. Underwear, my headphones sit across the front of the head there, the top of the head called the motor cortex, that part of the brain is in control of all of our movements. It is prone to hyperstimulation very easily, especially in relation to the things that we’re hearing, what auditory input, the things we hear.
[00:28:47] And the motor cortex have one of the strongest relationships in the brain in terms of neural pathways. So the things that we hear really impact how our body will move. So if we’re in a noisy place, if we’re in a supermarket in the school yard and there’s kids everywhere in a classroom our. Al and you know, there’s just hectic noises all over the place.
[00:29:08] The brain will become, the motor cortex will become highly hyper-stimulated and we will therefore move a lot and we will wriggle around and we will run and we’ll be fast and we’ll be hyperactive. That’s that? That’s all of us.
[00:29:22] Sophia Elliott: That’s all my, you have just described
[00:29:24] Allison Davies: my kids going shopping. Yes. And adults experience it too.
[00:29:29] But because we have more highly developed executive functions than our children, we can just cope with it. And then it comes out in a different way. Or we channel it into something else. Like we channel it into like, the thing we’re doing in the shop where we channel it into like madly, trying to find the right brand of the thing we’re looking for.
[00:29:47] So it’s less, it’s less visible in an adult than it is in a child, but it’s still. And then there are people who are neurodivergent who experienced hyperactivity as part of their neuro type and that’s who they are. And it’s not because their brain is just in this heightened state because of the environment.
[00:30:04] It probably also is, but that is who they are. And I think too often we focus on trying to reduce hyperactivity in children or people whose neuro type includes physical hyperactivity. And that doesn’t really that’s not really the best way we can support if someone is actually hyperactive because of their neuro type.
[00:30:27] Like I am Accepting that hyperactivity and finding ways to use it and live with it and accept it and channel it and love it are the best ways we can support our child’s brain to feel safe in control and loved. And that is the best way for them to stay regulated. So adding anxiety into that, because we are often trying to reduce hyperactivity in a brain that that is their natural state, and we’re constantly trying to reduce it, reduce it, reduce it.
[00:30:58] The brain is going to start to feel like confused, like, hang on. This is who I am. Like, I can’t do this. I can’t sit on the Matt. I can’t not move my fingers and all of those kinds of things. And then the brain will go into survival mode because that’s just not what that brain is meant to do. Survival mode is anxiety.
[00:31:18] So survival mode is the thing that’s happening in the brain. Anxiety is the physiological experience of that. So what we’re feeling in the body is anxiety. So for many people who are. Hyperactive people or who are experiencing hyper activity when we try to what we call manage that, which means reduce it so that they are more like the non hyperactive children.
[00:31:40] What we’re doing is perpetuating the anxiety. Yeah. For those of us who are experiencing anxiety and we are in survival mode, not necessarily because when you’re a divergent, just because we’re humans in the world right now, which is like too much for anyone to cope with. So we’re in survival mode that can also amplify the hyperactivity of that we’re experiencing because our brain is like, you’ve gotta be aware of what’s going on over there, over there, over there, quick move, get, get home.
[00:32:08] And so we’re in this heightened state. So they do go hand in hand and as always the best way to support our or our children’s hyperactivity is not to try and reduce it. But. Find ways to create an environment in which their brain feels safe, loved, and connected, and then it can be, their brain can be the best version of itself.
[00:32:30] And that might still be hyperactive if that’s their neuro type, but it might be that it’s less, or it might be that it’s easier for them. And they experienced more regulation and the anxiety might go, they might still experience hyper activity because that’s who they are. Yeah. But it always comes back to finding ways for the brain to feel safe.
[00:32:50] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And let you say that’s a very different way of looking at hyper activity and anxiety. And it makes so much sense. You know, we can’t just continue to squash people’s natural instincts, you know, like hyperactivity. Absolutely. Hi, Kay. Thank you very much for that. That’s food for thought.
[00:33:13] I’m going to move that.
[00:33:15] Allison Davies: Yeah, I mean, for a ch can I add for like child just say a child with ADHD we might, or a teacher might, and we might, with the most beautiful, compassionate, holistic child centered intentions in mind might find ways to support them, to sit still or to sit at the desk at school and to do the things so that we feel like once we put these supports in place and they’re able to sit on the Matt now, we feel like we’ve helped.
[00:33:46] We’ve helped to support them, but what’s actually happening for a child with ADHD. Who is now sitting still on the Matt. They are no longer, they no longer have the same capacity to listen, engage, interact, feel safe learn. So what we’re seeing out externally is them sitting still, and we think we’ve helped, but what’s happening internally is that now that they are putting all of their energy into doing this thing, that everyone wants them to do, and they’re doing it, they don’t have the capacity then to, to learn and to actually feel safe.
[00:34:25] And that’s where a lot of the dysregulation stems from that
[00:34:28] Sophia Elliott: so much sense. It’s like, you can’t, you can’t learn when you’re in survival mode, you know, you can’t, you can’t learn, you can’t be creative. And and, and that really resonates with me. And I think my kids as well, we’ve been having these conversations recently.
[00:34:44] So I was diagnosed with. Autism a few months ago. And so I’ve been going through a very interesting journey of reframing a lot of my lived experience into that new identity and understanding how those things manifest and having those conversations with my kid with my children and, and I think what we really fail to appreciate so much.
[00:35:15] And in so many different examples is when we’re working hard to be something that is not natural to do something that is not a natural fit, especially when it comes to the way our brains are set up. It’s like, There’s not a lot else going to go on or, you know, there’s not a lot else that’s going to happen because so much energy is to going into that.
[00:35:42] And that’s all going to come out or come apart at some point. So cue emotional release down the track. When that child who’s had to sit in the Matt all day you know, really focusing on being good with, you know, air quotes there. Hasn’t learnt, you know, during the day, because probably getting very hyperactive at lunchtime and probably falling apart as soon as I get home.
[00:36:06] Yeah. Because of just that intensity
[00:36:09] Allison Davies: yeah. Also creating stories of shame in their mind, like, why can’t I do this? I can’t do I’m dumb. I’m silly. I’m like too silly. I’m not good enough. And we need the kind of stories.
[00:36:24] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. I did a podcast only recently with Dr. Geraldine Townsend about self-concept into a kids.
[00:36:33] And she was saying how at these very early ages in these early schooling years, that negative cycle is, is impacting a child self-concept already, which they then inevitably carry on through for most of their life. So that you can imagine this small child in reception grade one grade two, sit on the Matt, sit on the Matt.
[00:36:58] No, don’t do that. Sit on the Matt. No, don’t do that. Sit on the Matt and the messages they’re getting is I’m not good. I’m bad. I can’t sit on the Matt like everyone else. And that’s becoming a part of their sense of identity. That’s really scary.
[00:37:13] Allison Davies: It is. Yeah. Yeah. The mental health of, of neurodivergent people who have an expectation on them to achieve in the same way as non neurodivergent children.
[00:37:25] And that’s often the ones who the world calls high functioning, which we don’t like that word, and that word is misleading and it’s a myth and there’s no such thing as high or low functioning. But they’re, they are typically the people who are expected to be able to achieve or do things the way non neurodivergent children are doing them.
[00:37:45] And it’s, it has a huge impact on our mental health. And yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a real, it’s a real problem. A real problem.
[00:37:55] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so for any of the listeners who haven’t come across. I am either the terms high and low functioning or the challenges around those tens and why they’re not actually very representative of those two groups.
[00:38:12] Do you want to quickly explain that? Sure.
[00:38:14] Allison Davies: I can speak in a context of autism because I’m an autistic person. So I’ll do that. You know, often we think of autism as a spectrum and when we think of a spectrum we think of a line it’s it’s. We think of it as a linear thing, like, like a volume knob where it’s minimum and maximum and every, and as you turn the knob, you’re somewhere on that line of volume that’s and, and that’s the way a lot of people think autism is we think there’s severe autism or low functioning at one end.
[00:38:45] And then at the other end, it’s high functioning and. I think initially those functioning labels were brought in to determine like, support needs and funding and stuff like that. And it’s become part of just the narrative of how we talk about people. And it’s, it’s detrimental to everybody that’s autistic on your own to Virgin because when you call, when you think of people who are non-speaking or who have very complex support needs as low functioning, we’re completely undermining their intelligence, their capacity their potential, you know, what they can bring to the world, their potential and the fact that they can live very fulfilling lives without meeting the milestones that the world says you need to meet.
[00:39:33] And when you call people high functioning, you are undermining. Their trauma, their pain, their absolute, like the way we spend our entire life, trying to work out what the hell we’re meant to be doing so that we can fit in to all of these neuro normative expectations around us. And it’s very, very painful and traumatic and it’s harder than you can imagine.
[00:40:03] And so when you use any of those functioning labels, you are completely miss identifying what autism is in the first place. And you’re really also diminishing individual. They’re very harmful functioning labels have a very harmful, but you know, people don’t know that. So thank you for asking, because a lot of people don’t know that and they think, well, that’s just this, they’re just the words we use.
[00:40:28] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Yeah. And, and also just quickly, cause we’re talking about kind of labels and perceptions, it’s that idea around, you know, people will say, well, it’s a spectrum, we’re all on the spectrum somewhere. Do you want to go into that one
[00:40:45] Allison Davies: quickly? Yeah. The thing is we do all have brains. We do humans have brains, so all of our brains will do things like have meltdowns, be in survival mode be anxious, be hyperactive have preferences for routines that help it be predictable.
[00:41:03] So all of us will experience all the things that brains do, but it is very, very different to be neurodivergent where everything. About our entire life depends, or is a brain that foundationally only works that way. So when someone says we’re all a little bit on the spectrum, what we’re, what they’re saying is what’s happening is the, our neuro type is being denied and invalidated.
[00:41:39] And also it’s a sign that they are not, they do not understand how complex our support needs are. So it’s very invalidating. It’s a very hard thing. People say that to us, I think to be kind. ’cause they’re like, oh, I think a lot of people say it like, oh, we’re all a little bit on the spectrum. As people say it to me a lot.
[00:42:06] And I think they do it to be like, it’s okay. You’re one of us. We’re all like, we’re all a little bit like that. And you know, it’s not the case and I don’t want to be, I want people to understand that my identity is autistic. I’m not, non-autistic nothing about me is non-autistic. And so for me, when I hear that, the hardest thing is that people think that the kind thing or the compassionate thing is to help you feel less autistic.
[00:42:38] And the autistic community are like, Hey, we’re here. We’re celebrating. Like we are autistic. And that I would not change. Yeah. And I’m not imagine the kind of person I would be if I was not autistic. Like, there’s nothing about it. Apart from the real difficult difficulties that we live with w which are not to be minimized, I still wouldn’t change a thing.
[00:43:00] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. , so one of the things that I wonder is that I think some of that ease, , the struggle of understanding, like the many strengths that come with, not just autism. Being neurodiverse you know, as, as an autistic person there, there are many strengths in terms of our brains and brain function, we ADHD or being dyslexic, , unlocks a lot of creativity in people.
[00:43:35] And so for me, it’s, I think a part of that is about always focusing on the deficit and not really understanding or seeing actually they come hand in hand with many strengths as well. So it’s kind of like, yeah. So I think that’s part of it. And it’s also sort of, yeah, you know, we’re all a little bit quirky and it’s like, I didn’t know, cause I know a lot of quirky folk, but you know, they’re, they’re all very neurodiverse.
[00:44:03] I think I, yeah, I don’t know. It’s, it’s, we’re all on the spectrum and that, and one of the. One event that stands out for me was I was having a conversation last year with psychologists that my children were saying, and we’re obviously talking about autism and and looking at that as a diagnosis. And I said to the psychologist, I’m like, I actually think I might be autistic and that’s something I’m looking at.
[00:44:36] And she said to me, well, we’re all a little on the spectrum and I’m kind of went,
[00:44:41] Allison Davies: okay, it’s really hard when it comes from doctors and professionals. Yeah.
[00:44:48] Sophia Elliott: And that really stuck with me because it was like you said, very invalidating of what I just said, but also that person actually assesses autism. And so as I’ve learnt a lot more and the learning curve has been huge in the last 12 months.
[00:45:06] I now look back at that and I’m like, wow, that’s actually really not cool. Yeah. And I think, yeah, most people just don’t have that broader understanding and it may have been something that I have said in the past, but I think it’s something important to talk about and, and just help people understand actually why that’s not, it’s actually not a cool thing because you’re either neuro-typical or you’re neuro atypical and, and that’s okay.
[00:45:37] Do you know, strengths and weaknesses challenges and everything else. But let’s not kind of diminish folk who are identifying as not being neuro-typical.
[00:45:47] Allison Davies: Yeah, yeah, yeah,
[00:45:50] Sophia Elliott: yeah. So some, yeah, some big conversations there. And I actually love that this all comes back to the brain and how the brain works and.
[00:46:00] And that we can actually use that very science, you know, that obviously appeals to me using the science and the data to parents and and have that insight into my children and myself in terms of my own response to parenting and the emotions because children certainly do bring out emotions in us.
[00:46:17] They do so thank you so much for kind of digging down into a few of those scenarios with us today. I absolutely love the idea of looking at all of this through how we can use music to help us sort of calm the brain and regulate the brain. And that’s definitely something that I I’m going to check out your stuff.
[00:46:45] I know you’ve got a couple of eBooks that people can check out your website, Alison davies.com.edu for some more information and tips and to find the cause and the community. And yeah, and, and again, kind of have a look at this different, different approach, which I think is just amazing. Wonderful.
[00:47:06] Allison Davies: Yeah. I, I love it as well.
[00:47:09] It just, it just gives us permission to move away from focusing on behaviors when it’s, it feels, so I think for most of us now instinctively, we feel that it’s not the way. Yeah. And this gives us the permission to be like, actually, you’re right. This isn’t the way. Yep. Try this. Yeah. And, and I mean, for me using music as the tool, as the regulatory tool is.
[00:47:34] Obviously where I’m at as a, as a former music therapist of 16 years, that’s my passion and that’s my area of interest. And, and so to be able to support people, to use music strategically in tiny, tiny ways, it does not mean you have to be able to play an instrument or consider yourself musical, or, you know, do anything fancy.
[00:47:52] This is us using the most basic of music music based elements like rhythm and melody and silence and tempo and volume in tiny, tiny ways throughout our day, you know, as part of our lifestyle when we use those strategically to keep the brain feeling safe and in control like we have, you know, I went maybe five years ago, I was having meltdowns multiple a week and I haven’t had one for more than two years now.
[00:48:21] And, you know, there could be a lot of reasons for that, but I really do attribute it to the way I am just piecing together tiny moments of brains. And controlling my environment and understanding how my environment impacts me and changing it to the way I need. Yeah. And doing the best I can, like, in terms of supporting and accommodating my particular brain.
[00:48:44] And it has just made the world of difference. Yeah,
[00:48:48] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. And as I’ve changed my language and understanding, and just even over the last few months I can absolutely feel the difference. So if there’s anyone out there thinking. You know, and often I think when you’re, you’re getting that mature diagnosis, it’s because someone said, have you looked at autism or dyslexia or ADHD with your child?
[00:49:10] And then it’s kind of a good opportunity to kind of go, Hmm. I wonder where that might be coming from in the family. Does that resonate with me? Because the empowerment from understanding yourself and then that lived experience with your child is
[00:49:26] Allison Davies: huge. Like, I would, it can be scary. I know that it can be scary for people and that’s legit and it’s a big emotional roller coaster.
[00:49:37] But I, I could never, ever, ever imagine going back to a life in which I didn’t know that I was autistic. Yeah. You know, and almost all of us who were being assessed as adults and diagnosed as adults are it’s happening because our children are being assessed and diagnosed. And we know, we know without a doubt that it’s genetic.
[00:49:59] So it’s, it just put, puts pieces together. It makes it makes sense. And it gives us an identity that just like changes can, can change our life. Yeah.
[00:50:11] Sophia Elliott: A hundred percent echo that it’s a, it’s definitely an emotional roller coaster, but it’s exhausting. It’s Word. Yeah, absolutely. So thank you so much for today.
[00:50:21] It’s been such a wonderful conversation. I really do appreciate it. And I think, you know, we talk about our gifted kids is obviously looking at You know, kids who are going through that process and that particular assessment, but that broader conversation is it’s about being neurodiverse. There’s often a lot of complexities going on and some of those behaviors that we see are anxiety, school, refusal depression, sensory, overloads, meltdowns.
[00:50:48] So, you know, what we’ve been talking about today is hugely relevant right across that kind of neurodiversity. I was going to say spectrum that doesn’t quit
[00:50:58] Allison Davies: this conversation throughout the world of neuro exactly right. The world of neurodivergence. So thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.