Highlighting 9 self-advocates we heard from in 2022
In this first year-in-review episode, we are going to hear from a handful of the amazing neurodivergent self-advocates we’ve had the privilege of speaking with. Featured are:
JUDE MORROW – Irish autism self-advocate, author, and speaker (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/loving-your-place-on-the-spectrum-with-jude-morrow-edb-258/ )
For more about Jude: https://judemorrow.com/
TARA LERMAN – Journalist & Tourette Syndrome self-advocate (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/demystifying-tourette-syndrome-with-tara-lerman-edb-263/ )
For more about Tara: https://www.taralerman.com/
TOM OLIVER – autism self-advocate, TEDx Speaker, and Global leader on autistic individuals caught up in the justice system (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/autism-is-not-a-crime-with-australian-self-advocate-tom-oliver-edb-269/ )
To find out more about Tom’s work, visit: https://tomoliver.biz/
His TED Talk can be seen here: https://youtu.be/i_j5jOadcVc
RYAN LUNDY – NVLD self-advocate (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/understanding-nvld-with-ryan-lundy-edb-272/ )
To find out more about the NVLD Project, visit: https://nvldproject.org/
BEN BOUDREAUX – autism self-advocate, a researcher, and a full-time graduate student at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/fitness-and-autism-with-david-geslak-ben-boudreaux-edb-265/ )
For more about Exercise Connection: https://exerciseconnection.com/
For an article by Ben and David Geslak: https://exerciseconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/Exercise_is_a_Life_Changer_for_Those_with_Autism-2.pdf
DR. JAMES WILLIAMS – autism self-advocate and Beacon College’s Director of Career Advisement/Development/Partnership (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/career-advisement-for-the-neurodivergent-with-beacon-colleges-dr-james-williams-edb-283/ )
To find out more about Beacon, visit: https://www.beaconcollege.edu/
JHILLIKA KUMAR – ADJD self-advocate, co-founder & CEO of Mentra, a Georgia Tech graduate, and honorary degree recipient, and previous Grace Hopper Keynote speaker for neurodiversity empowerment (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/mentra-creating-a-neurodiversity-employment-network-w-jhillika-kumar-edb-281/ )
For more about Mentra:
SAMANTHA SALVER – dyslexia self-advocate, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the Program Coordinator for Joshua’s Path and BOOST at Jewish Family Services of Broward (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/joshuas-path-careers-for-neurodivergent-adults-with-sam-salver-lcsw-edb-259/ )
For more about Joshua’s Path: https://www.jfsbroward.org/
BEA MOISE – ADHD self-advocate, autism mom, cognitive specialist, and parenting coach (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/navigating-a-neurodiverse-household-with-bea-moise-ms-bccs-edb-282/ )
For more about Bea: https://beatricemoise.com/
Bea’s book “Our Neurodivergent Journey” can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Beatrice-Moise/e/B0B64MJMDK/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
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DR HACKIE REITMAN (HR): Hello there, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman and welcome to a special episode of Exploring Different Brains. In this first year-in-review episode, we are going to hear from a handful of the amazing neurodivergent self-advocates we’ve had the privilege of speaking with. Let’s start off with Jude Morrow.
HR: What is one piece of advice you would have for an autistic individual who is feeling a little bit down about things in general?
JUDE MORROW: The first thing I would say is: you have gifts and talents, whether you realize it or not yet, were like me, you probably lived a life where you were told so many things that ultimately were false, but they appeared true to you, like, you can’t communicate properly, you won’t have a job, you won’t have successes in life, because you have X, Y and Z amount of deficits. And I just want to tell you know that that’s not true. Where you do have talents, you do have gifts. And I suppose after having had a lifetime of having to suppress these to please others, it’s time for you to take control, to make that conscious effort to showcase what you’re good at, to follow the passion that you have to follow that dream that you have. And whenever you live life on your own terms and take control, that’s when good things happen. Because nobody’s going to take control of your life on your behalf unless you allow them so I would just get out there and do what you want to do for yourself.
HR: What is one thing you wished everyone knew about Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders?
TARA LERMAN: Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say, I, I wish people knew that, you know, not everyone with Tourette’s is what you see in the media, what you see kind of on TV, I think there’s a lot of jokes around it. But you know, to those of us who have it, it’s, you know, it can be funny when we’re when we’re making fun of ourselves, but it’s not, you know, it’s not something to laugh at, in it. It is a serious condition. Some people have kind of different tics, more severe tics, some people have less severe tics, you know, there’s no one size fits all. So, you know, you might have a friend with Tourette’s, but that’s, you know, you might need another person who doesn’t have Tourette. So, you know, really just knowing that it’s a complex disorder, but also, you know, it can give, give people who have it really interesting kind of attributes as well, I would say, I’m more creative because of it, I have more empathy because of it. So you know, as many frustrations as there are, there’s also kind of little, you know, really good things about it, too.
TOM OLIVER: I get a lot of questions about parenting. And I do, I will say, before I answer that, I do get a lot of concerning propositions to the effect that, you know, you’re obviously cured of autism, how can I cure my son or daughter? And to that, I say, yeah, there’s, there’s, you’ve mixed up the presupposition, there is no cure for autism, you wouldn’t want to cure it. It’s a way of life, it’s, it’s who you are as a person, and there’s no cure, nor should there be. It’s a strength, it’s not purely a disability, like any person, there are strengths and weaknesses, wouldn’t take my autism back for a second, I also get a lot of questions around, you know, where the line is between pushing an autistic person out of their comfort zone, they obviously, typically love structure and routine. They, they, they, in light of having special interests, they tend to gravitate towards the same thing over and over again, they it’s a, it becomes a way of life. And parents often think that they ought to try and push them out of their comfort zone. But at the same time, you don’t want to push them too far out of their comfort zone to the point where they’re having, you know, anxiety, induced Comins, you know, meltdowns if they can’t cope, and so it is it is a fine line, and I’m not a parent myself. And so I can only sympathize. But I would say it’s important. I think it’s important to listen to the autistic person. And I think I will, I will say, and I’m really struggling with this open ended question, so I apologize. But I will say, I will, I will touch upon the correlation between employments and the justice system. And I think it’s, it would be unwise of me to unwise of anybody to think that the two are mutually exclusive.
Because I think the studies show that nearly 20% of autistic people are currently employed, which is, which is baffling to me, because they tend to be good at one thing, they tend to be very specialized. And so if they can just go into that area, you know, I talked about Darius earlier, if he could be employed by that, by that train station, why not, he’s doing a perfect job. But because he has a criminal record, he can’t, he can’t be avoided. And, and so I think we ought to rethink the way we employ people, I think we ought to refine down what actually matters in an employment setting. Because in the in terms of the way in which it affects the criminal justice system, if you don’t have a vocation, you’re more susceptible to getting in touch with the wrong crowd. And because autistic people tend to mask around mask other people’s behaviors, it’s all the more important that they’re surrounded by people who are of good influence people that they can relate to so potentially, or preferably other autistic neurodiverse people.
HR: What is one thing that you wish that everyone knew about nonverbal learning disorder?
RYAN LUNDY (RL): One thing is, I wish that there would be more of an acceptance of it. People have not heard of it, meaning people think it’s really — you’re nonverbal, you’re not allowed to speak you can’t speak so it’s like a misconception of it. So I really want people to not take that misconception and really look into what exactly what it is and accepted for who it is and not try to say oh, it’s something else. But it’s that’s what it is.
HR: And remind our audience again, a brief definition of what nonverbal learning disability is.
RL: Nonverbal learning disability is you cannot read social cues very well. For me, it was jokes. For me, it was had a communication back and forth with texting and messaging over the internet reading there’s verbal nonverbal cues. Low gross motor tone, you will have low gross motor tone. So the motor tone and sometimes it’s visual. So you cannot see you know.
HR: But when you’re speaking when you’re having a conversation on just the speech aspects?
RL: Yes. Reading body language too. How person’s feeling their emotions, what they’re trying to convey, when to pause, when to interject — those kinds of things.
HR: Tell us about the importance of building a routine for these individuals.
BEN BOUDREAUX (BB): Well, I can definitely speak for this. Ah, well, I definitely say routines are so important for our community. Well, I can say pretty much like simple question I get asked by a few people is what’s your typical day like? Well, get up you know, um, get up around try and set my alarm for six 630 Get up. Go exercise that’s the first thing I’m gonna do right when I wake up. Then I’m gonna do is eat my breakfast and clean up And then either I’m gonna teach or catch up on research and then you know, do my normal like lunch and then catch up on other things. And then I’m back home by six 630. And then you know, I always say I’m coming home man, and my body is I’m watching the news, and then I’m going to bed at nine o’clock, there’s nothing wrong with you know, you’re, you hear oh, I’m 22 I should be going out party. No, well, I’m 29 years old, I go to bed at nine o’clock. There’s nothing wrong with that. And you know, I think, you know, every so often maybe having a, you know, deviate of having a little bit of social gatherings, that’s fine. But, you know, I find that if you keep your routine going, and rhythm going, and you’ll be fine. Like, you know, that’s the one thing I’ve noticed with my success is if I keep my routine going, you know, that’s how I feel mentally happy, because then I feel like, Oh, I’m not behind on something, or, you know, if Oh, I didn’t exercise that day. Well, I exercise every day, even if it’s like, 30 minutes, that’s the bare minimum, I always set myself. So if you said, you know, like, realistic goals for yourself, then it’ll help, you know, in the long run.
Dr. James Williams
HR: What is one final piece of advice you’d like to give to an autistic person in our audience who wants to find a career?
DR JAMES WILLIAMS (JW): To be patient and intentional. For a lot of us finding work is a, it’s a challenging endeavor in and of itself. But it’s also not one that happens fast. The average individual who’s applying for full time employment, it takes six to nine months to find a job. And people with — on the autism spectrum, neurodiversity are no different. So being patient is a big part of it. But then also being intentional and treating the job process. It’s an active process, right? There’s a lot of effort that you’re going to have to put into it following up with employers, you know, doing applications, you know, doing interviews, all of those pieces, and the more patient you are to persist, and the more active you are to make it be successful. And get to that end goal, the better off you’ll be. So that’s my best advice.
HR: Why don’t you share with our audience some of the tools that you have found very helpful for yourself for ADHD?
JHILLIKA KUMAR (JK): Yeah, that is a great, great question. And something that, you know, I’ve sort of experienced and struggled with for a lot of my life, you know, and a lot of times, because my brother’s you know, condition was, you know, he’s on the spectrum, and he’s a nonspeaking individual, just being around, you know, him and his story and how that influenced, you know, my own neurodiversity story, and learning about that. It’s, it’s, it’s been, you know, really great, I think, in terms of what are some of the things that some of the tools that have helped me, I would say, you know, it’s interesting, because I have sort of built mechanisms around me to help, you know, be on top of things, I think, especially as responsibility grows, and pressure grows, having, you know, 500 to do lists, sticky notes, whiteboards all around me, kind of keeping me, you know, on, on top of everything, and making sure, I mean, I still, you know, some things fall through, and sometimes it’s hard to sort of, you know, especially be in person, sometimes it’s challenging, with, you know, not wanting to seem, you know, like, I’m not paying attention, or might be like, what other, you know, people see as rude, but really just trying to figure out how to process things and, you know, not necessarily not paying attention in any way.
But yeah, it’s, I think, the mechanisms and tools to sort of stay focused, you know, take decompression break, express myself, I think, now that there’s a lot more talk about neurodiversity, it’s a lot easier to like, say, you know, hey, I need, you know, a few moments, it’s not you, it’s just I need, you know, some decompression time, and then I’ll come back to this. It’s, it’s been a lot more, you know, intuitive, it’s more easy to communicate with others, especially those in the community who understand. So, yeah, developing those communication techniques, as well as tracking techniques have been really helpful to kind of stay on top of things. And I will say, the remote world with, you know, Zoom have kept it so much easier. You know, things like even just giving eye contact, and you know, things like that we’re in person and, you know, different kind of signals in the room. And there’s so many things we’ve learned about that remote work has helped with. So that’s been helpful for me as well.
HR: Can you tell us a little bit about your own dyslexia?
SAMANTHA SALVER (SS): Yeah, um, the long story short.
HR: Make it a long story.
SS: Okay. Alright, so I, I didn’t speak until I was three and I’m the youngest of three girls. So my mom and dad, I was very communicative facial expressions, noises Bruns, you know, pulling people the way I wanted to, but I didn’t talk till I was three. And it wasn’t until my grandfather told my mom that, hey, you might want to maybe get some testing done, there may or may not be something there. So over the next three years, I had a handful of IQ testing and learning disability testing. And I found out when I was in third grade that I was dyslexic. And it made a lot of sense, I wasn’t able to read yet. My writing was very difficult. And I avoided reading and writing at all costs, like I wouldn’t, I couldn’t. And then once I have the diagnosis, my mom was able to find me tutors who specialized in this and could help me relearn things.
So in fifth grade, I left school for a couple of months and did Lindamood-Bell, where I really learned how to read. Instead of phonetically was more vision, visual, and they changed my life I learned how to read when I was in fifth grade. And I was still never on grade level. I’m definitely not on grade level now. But uh, but it caught me up so that I could keep up with school with the right accommodations. And throughout since I was diagnosed, I’d have accommodations, extended time on testing notetakers spelling, not always counting. And that followed me from middle school through bachelor, associate’s bachelor’s, and Master’s. I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish school or find a find a career that would highlight my strengths. And I had four majors, I went to five universities. And it wasn’t until I took a social work class where I’m like, Wow, this all makes sense is the first class I’ve ever taken, that everything makes sense. And here I am now doing what I love to do. What I know is life changing for the individuals that received that help.
HR: As a parenting coach, one of your jobs, what is the one thing that you think is the most important advice you give? If you had to pick one thing?
BEA MOISE (BM): I am going to sound like a broken record. Because I say this every time I’m asked this question, I answer it the exact same way. And it is acceptance. Once you accept the child that you have, it is a game changer. Once you recognize that this is what you have, this is who you have. This is the child that you have. This is the learning style that they have, once you accept it, all the pieces just come together, I think the reason I was able to thrive as much as I could with ADHD, my mom just accepted my quirkiness. And just really, I think she made excuses for it like, oh, that’s just Beatrice. That’s just Beatrice. So I really never felt like it was a bad thing. It was just yeah, that’s just who I am. So I’ve taken the same approach with my children. And the number one advice I think I try to drill into all of my clients head is the acceptance piece is what children are looking for. Because once they know you accept them for who they are, and how they are. Everything else is cake.