2022 in Review: Towards an Inclusive Society, w/ Dr. Angelique Harris, David Geslak, Dr. Jennie Trocchio & more | EDB 285


Highlighting 12 people working towards inclusion in 2022

In this second year-in-review episode, we are going to hear from neurodiversity change makers in medicine, education, therapy, and more we spoke with in 2022. Featured are:


DR. ANGELIQUE HARRIS – Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Boston University School of Medicine / Associate Professor in General Internal Medicine, in the Department of Medicine / Executive Director of Faculty Development for Boston University Medical Campus (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/diversity-in-medical-school-with-busms-angelique-harris-phd-ma-edb-279/ )

For more about Dr. Harris’ work: https://www.bumc.bu.edu/medicine/profile/angelique-harris/



DR. PETER JENSEN – Board Chair and Founder of The REACH Institute / PREVIOUSAssociate Director of Child and Adolescent Research at the National Institute of Mental Health (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/onboarding-doctors-in-neurodiversity-featuring-peter-s-jensen-md-edb-262/ )

For more about REACH: https://thereachinstitute.org/  


LAUREN CLARKE – joint MD/MA in Education student at Stanford University working towards improving the quality of medical education related to caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/training-doctors-in-neurodiversity-with-lauren-clarke-bs-mha-edb-275/ )

For more about Lauren: linkedin.com/in/l-clarke  

Twitter: @laurenclarkemha 


DRS. GEORGE AND OKSANA HAGERTY – Dr. George Hagerty if the president of Beacon College, and Dr. Oksana Hagerty is director of the college’s Center for Student Success (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/beacon-college-helping-neurodivergent-students-succeed-with-drs-george-oksana-hagerty-edb-270/ )

To find out more about Beacon, visit: beaconcollege.edu 


DR. JOSEPH LENTO – educator / neurodiversity advocate / Conservatory-trained professional Musician (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/effective-teaching-for-neurodiverse-students-with-joseph-lento-edb-266/ )

To find out more about Joseph Lento, visit him at http://www.brasscomets.org/  


DR. JENNIE TROCCHIO – autism educator / speaker / Developmental Therapist / Vice President of Clinical Operations at Positive Development (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/autism-drbi-therapy-with-dr-jennie-trocchio-edb-276/ )

For more about Jennie’s work: positivedevelopment.com 



DR. JANICE RYAN – Founder and Director of Attunement Solutions, LLC / Doctor of Occupational Therapy / Human Systems Dynamics Professional (full interview: https://differentbrains.org/navigating-sensory-sensitivities-with-dr-janice-ryan-edb-273/ )

To learn more about Dr. Ryan’s work: https://attunementsolutions.com/ 




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/ 


DAVID GESLAK – Founder and President of Exercise Connection (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 David and Ben Boudreaux: https://exerciseconnection.com/wp-content/uploads/Exercise_is_a_Life_Changer_for_Those_with_Autism-2.pdf 


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  


JHILLIKA KUMAR – ADHD 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:









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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 second year-in-review episode, we are going to hear from change makers in medicine, education, therapy, and more.  Let’s start with hearing about making health care more inclusive. Here is Boston University School of Medicine’s Dr. Angelique Harris.  

HR: In your experience, what would you say is the biggest problem, the biggest roadblock to inclusion and diversity?  

DR ANGELIQUE HARRIS (AH): Stigma, I think is the biggest. It’s somebody this strange– So Erving Goffman, who’s a sociologist, I had wrote this book called Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. And it was like the book on stigma, came out in ’69. But anyhow, one of the things he talked about was that we’re all being held up to this person that doesn’t exist. This like quite often and even Audre Lorde talked about this as well as a black feminist theorists where we’re held up to this like: a white, straight cisgender guy who’s tall, but not too tall, muscular, but not too muscular, college educated, but not because basically, he’s Christian. He’s so specific that this person doesn’t exist.  

HR: Statistically, there is no average. There’s no average. I’m sorry to interrupt.  

AH: No, no, but that’s the point exactly, is that the we’re holding up, we all — there’s so many people in society, our society are holding everybody up to this weird standard, that doesn’t really exist. And so as a result, everybody in some way, shape or form is stigmatized, or feel some form of like, some people are privileged in some way. So people are oppressed in other ways, but we all feel stigmatized in some way, shape or form, no matter how privileged we think we are.  

Dr. Peter Jensen  

DR PETER JENSEN (PJ): Now a lot of what I’m doing now — So I’ve devoted my last 10 to 15 years on retraining doctors and therapists, teachers and others. And so I don’t directly — I pretty much all along my career, I’ve still been treating children and families. But now I’m devoting 100% Time to trying to change. Doctors, say it’s a primary care, he or she sees 10,000 people, kids are adults in their career. 20% of those that’s 2000 are going to have issues that that doctor or therapist, if they’re armed with the right tools can change their lives. So I’m trying to leverage the fact that if I change one, that one can change 2000. So now the biggest obstacle is getting people on board to say, All right, I am willing to change old habits, the way I learned 30 years ago, what I always have believed, and my preconceptions about neurodiverse brains, you know, it’s bad parents, it’s this, it’s that. And so, so that’s the biggest obstacle. Now we are having great success getting doctors in. But we’ve trained 5000 doctors. In a six month long change program. It’s not just a workshop. It’s six months of mentoring. I noticed on your website, you’re talking about mentoring, the importance of mentoring. So we mentor doctors and therapists, nurses, whomever, for six months, before we’re ready to launch them — and then they can always come back to us. But it’s a six month change process. And what we’re changing is the heads, parts, preconceptions of myths and misunderstandings that those healthcare providers might have been harboring for 20 years. So that’s a big challenge. And we’ve done 5000. But there’s 60,000 doctors to go.  

Lauren Clarke  

HR: What is one thing you wish that all medical students knew?  

LAUREN CLARKE (LC):  I wish all medical students just met and had the opportunity to talk to a person who has an intellectual disability or autism or is neurodivergent. We actually just did a study at Stanford. And there’s a large portion of students that said that they had never even talked with a person with an intellectual disability before in their lives. And I think, you know, in medical school, everything is a pathology, everything is something wrong, that we study and we learn how to fix but that’s not the case with with this population, right. And so I just wish every medical student went to, you know, a Special Olympics track knee or had coffee with someone and just sat down and talked with them and begin to see people as people and not as something, you know, scarier or something wrong. And I really hope we’ll get there one day.  

Now let’s hear how we can make education more inclusive, starting with Beacon College’s Drs. George and Oksana Hagerty.  

DR GEORGE HAGERTY (GH): Students show up without a lot of confidence in the educational system and in the educational systems ability to deliver on the promises that are made. And so part of what is very important at this institution is that we keep our promises and one of the promises that we have as we want our students to have first. So, coming to Beacon, it’s not a learning disability college. It’s a college where we specialize in, and are totally devoted to, students who have learning disabilities, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, we are strictly devoted to instruction and the wraparound services necessary for them to have a successful collegiate career and then go on to what we call the abundant life.  

DR OKSANA HAGERTY (OH): My purpose and all learning specialists, their purpose is really to help the students be productive participants of the learning process that is happening in the classroom. Which is happening also during the job interviews, internships, everything that other students may enjoy. So we want our students also be able to do it. And there are ways, and our faculty are doing a lot of evidence based best practices, education, learning specialists are doing a lot of teaching students how to attend class, how to participate in class how to do the work. But together, we’re creating a perfect college environment in which students feel that they are college students.  

Dr. Joseph Lento  

DR JOSEPH LENTO (JL): Get to know your students, get them to trust you, they’ll, you know, kids have a way of knowing who’s real and who’s not. It’s as simple as that. You cannot lie to them. If they’ll know in a second, if you know what you’re talking about or not, develop relationships with them, let them know you care about them more than the classwork itself. I’m more concerned with how a student feels because, you know, you go back to all the developmental psychologists, Maslow, and Hertzberg, and all these people, they talk about all these things, well, we need to do it, we need to do it. And we need to do it from administration, to the faculty, which, again, Maria Regina high school, they are doing a beautiful job of taking care of their faculty, emotionally and supportive. It’s wonderful. And we need to continue to do it with the students, which they’re doing a beautiful job also. So I’d like to take that model and try and get more people to do it. That’s the key. Not everyone is going to be everything we want them to be. If you have that approach, you shouldn’t be in the classroom. It’s: we want them to be what they need to be.  

Let’s explore inclusion in therapy, starting with Dr. Jennie Trocchio.  

HR: What is one thing that you think everyone should know about building connections with neurodivergent loved ones?  

DR JENNIE TROCCHIO (JT): Building connections with neurodivergent loved ones is so much easier than so many people think people think it has to be hard or structured. But really, I think if you take a moment and watch and see what an individual is interested in, and join them in it, I think that’s really the best place to start. You don’t have to overthink it. You don’t have to buy things. Just watch, wait, and join.  

Dr. Janice Ryan  

DR JANICE RYAN (JR): I had a little boy that I saw when he was seven. He had sensory sensitivity, sensory avoidance, and he was also a sensory seeker. So what I do in the environment is help him to feel better about trying new things, he had anxiety, he was seven and was already on anxiety medicines. And so when I take him in there, what I would do would set up the environment, so that he could feel good in that environment, he could feel engaged enough, but not overly engaged, not overly excited or anxious, relax in that just right space. And then I can use do with human systems dynamics models, to help teach him to do hard things, like how to tell his grandmother, he doesn’t like to be hugged. I mean, there are a lot of things when you have sensory sensitivity that you have to help kids learn how to do so they can be advocates for themselves. And that is a really important part of this is helping them know what kind of environment feels good, what kind of environment feels bad, helping the family, so they can advocate in the future…  

Samantha Salver  

SAMANTHA SALVER (SS): Being neurodivergent is such– It’s not one type of person. It’s an infinite amount of types of people. And although most of them probably have some sort of social social communication struggle, where that’s what we really focus on to help them You know, a lot of these guys are very academically inclined or have really niche skills that they would prosper in a community setting with the right social skills or the right. accommodations that not everyone knows that you can ask for, or that it’s okay to ask for those things. So yeah, it’s so it’s targeting what my lessons are and how I’m delivering them. I have nonverbal students and everyone’s an adult, so nonverbal to, to people who use social communication devices. And I have some homebound students that, you know, we bring volunteerism to them, we bring stuff to their home so they can help package things for food pantry for clothing pantry. We’re just trying to give them access to things that maybe no one gave them access to before.  

Now, let’s hear about inclusive fitness from David Geslak.  

DAVID GESLAK (DG): So I think when teaching exercise of those on the spectrum, one routine is a critical thing that we talk about. But I think what I also remind professionals, parents, or maybe new exercise professionals, or therapists coming into it, just because you may learn or hear something that I’ve said or, or whatnot in regard to creating a structured routine, don’t go in change that for the individual that you’re working with. Meaning if you if you know, how an individual’s how they’re successful, whether it’s in speech, OT, ABA, whatever that structure and protocol is, use that because we know they’re having success with other professionals. So, understand that structure. Follow that same structure now with the exercises in place or the practices, right, know the reinforcements, but don’t reinvent the wheel just because you may have read something or heard something from us today or whatnot, find that structure that is that individuals successful and continue with that. Because what I also like to remind people when you’re introducing your child, yourselves, or your students or clients to exercise, it can be quite challenging, right? And then how many programs, all well intended, start to promote it as “ have your kid join our fun exercise class.” Well, guess what exercise isn’t fun. For most people. If it was, we wouldn’t have the obesity epidemic that we do. But if you’re going to transition your student, your client, or your children to exercise, use the structure that you know that they’re successful speech, OT social skills group, now use that same structure and exercise.  

Let’s hear about inclusion in the Justice System from Tom Oliver.  

HR: What’s the main thing… the main thing that people don’t realize related to autism and the justice system?  

TOM OLIVER (TO): I don’t think people understand that’s the sentencing rationales ought not apply in the same way as they do to a neurotypical person. And by that I mean, general deterrence, and I mean, specific deterrence and, and general deterrence is where you’re deterring other people from committing like offenses. And how that applies to an autistic person is, it doesn’t, because it’s like saying, you know, I’m going to punish this autistic person so that other people don’t commit the same offense. But the reality is, the this autistic client that we have doesn’t, it doesn’t have autism, like all of it. The general public doesn’t have autism. And so they don’t need to be deterred in the same way as this person. And likewise, specific deterrence doesn’t apply, because specific deterrence being deterring the person that you’re punishing from committing the offense again, because and that this is the more important one because the autistic person is committing this offense, as we found through these studies through our findings, for the most part, because of their autistic characteristics, which they’re born with. And so, by imprisoning these people, all we’re doing is kicking the can down the road, when they’re released again, because their autistic characteristics are who they are, you can’t take them away from them can’t associate their autistic characteristics from themselves. They end up doing the same thing. They commit the same offenses in the same way. And so the only way to to solve this issue if you like, is through tailored suitable therapy.  

And let’s end with a few words on inclusive employment from Jhillika Kumar.   

HR: What is one thing you would like all employers to know about neurodivergent talent.  

JHILLIKA KUMAR (JK): I would say, something that’s been really important is to that we’ve noticed, especially in, you know, whether it’s fortune 500 companies or small businesses is to really be kind, open minded, empathetic. Understanding that there are, you know, strengths that lie within that individual whether, you know, might not appear from what meets the eye. And especially for someone, you know, like my brother and uncovering his strengths after 27 years of knowing him, I realized they didn’t really know him, because I didn’t have the translation layer, the tool that would enable me to communicate and connect with him. And all along, I kept an open mind, you know, and wondered what if he really is, you know, cognitively way more capable than I could have imagined. And I think that goes true for, you know, every nerd urgent individual that I’ve met, who has their own unique talents and strengths that the world really needs to tap into, because it is the type of different thinking that will evolve humanity, and that will solve all the greatest challenges of our day. And it’s just time for workforces to open their doors. And the way we can start is by being open minded and compassionate and caring, and, you know, changing our ways in order to accommodate and, you know, include the individual rather than expecting the individual to change, you know, we change as a society.