2023 In Review: The Self-Advocates | EDB 313



In the first part of our review of 2023, we hear from the neurodivergent self-advocates that have appeared on the show.


JR HARDING – full interview | learn more about their work here

HAYLEY & MATTHEW LEACH – full interview | learn more about their work here

KAYLAH TAYLOR / AUTISM THEATER PROJECT – full interview | learn more about their work here

TRAVIS MISURELL – full interview | learn more about their work here

SHANNA ANSSARI – full interview  

JOSE DEL CUETO – full interview | learn more about their work here

CYNTHIA HAMMER – full interview | learn more about their work here

GABRIELA GUARDARRAMA – full interview | learn more about their work here

MICHAEL ELLENBOGEN – full interview | learn more about their work here

BROOKE SCHNITTMAN – full interview | learn more about their work here




Or look for us on your favorite podcast provider:

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud


Note: the following transcription was automatically generated. Some imperfections may exist.   




Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman. Welcome to Exploring Different Brains. In this first part of our urine review episode, let’s hear from some of the great neurodiversity self advocates we have highlighted in 2023.



Let’s start with disability champion, self advocate, FSU professor and author, JR HARDING (JRH).



Through our inclusion, through our accessibility standards, we’re starting to realize like we have, through the COVID that accommodations work for everybody that everybody needs a little helping hand, and that it shouldn’t be perceived as special, but appropriate and necessary tools for everyone to excel. And so it’s been exciting to move the bar in areas like employment, physical access, cruise ships, air travel, and employment issues for people with disabilities over the past 40 years.



Autism advocates HAYLEY (HL) AND MATTHEW LEACH (ML).



When people listen to your podcast, what do you hope they take away?



What I want them to take away from the podcast is to show that autism is not a bad thing. A lot of people nowadays like to see it as a label. And they often say, oh, you know, this is not a very good thing. I want them to understand that simply having autism is not a bad thing. If anything, it’s a good thing. It makes us more unique. It makes us more human.



Well, I think that’s really powerful Matthews perspective, I think is what’s most important. And I think it’s that’s something we want to share because Matthew can be that self advocate and can advocate for others on this spectrum by sharing his experiences. But when I was growing up as well, I didn’t have a lot of siblings that really understood what it was like to have a sibling on the spectrum. And one of our other roles was to kind of be a resource for those on the spectrum or parents and trying to navigate this diagnosis. But also siblings as well, who are also going through some some challenges. So I think sharing those two different perspectives is kind of a unique role that we have. And we try to get others involved in the important advocacy work, their messages and their ideas out there as well.



Autism self advocate and perform a KAYLA TAYLOR (KT) of the autism Theater Project.



Oftentimes, like people who have disabilities, and are often overlooked, because they have that they’re like, oh, I don’t want to work with them. And what Gina does with the autism theta project, she takes in people who have autism and different dis disabilities, and we’re able to showcase ourselves because not a lot of times when you look at Hollywood or on cameras, you see people that have a disability. And oftentimes, when reading articles, many people have to hide their disability. And it shouldn’t be something you have to hide, because it’s a part of you and you don’t know who you may help by telling your story of what you have and who you are. And as being an educator, I want my students to come into my room and just feel included and have fun and what the autism Theater Project when I first did this screen reading. I think that’s what it’s called. It was fun. And I felt included. And I was like, I can’t wait to do this again. So it was it’s very nice to have be a part of this because it’s inclusive. It helps people to understand the stories of people that have disabilities so



it’s inclusive, and it’s fun and fun. often gets overlooked things yes.



TRAVIS MISURELL (TM), autism self advocate and founder of the Future Is Now Coalition.



I feel like neurodiversity is really key to understanding consciousness, understanding the human mind understanding how different each of our minds can work separately from one another. And it should be a really big focus and and I see it just talking to people even neurotypical people talking about neurodiversity and about seeing other perspectives that can really relate to being able to see the world from different perspectives and talking about it from the way the way I’m talking about it that like, you know, it’s not as simple as like, you know, the way TV She makes it out to be of like everything just so black and white. And like these, these are good, these are bad and like, there’s a lot more gray in society and like people, try to oversimplify how the world works. But humans are complex. And like there’s so many complexities, and we’re still figuring out our potential. We’re still learning what we’re supposed to do how we’re supposed to work together, find better ways to work together as one, one country, one planet. And so I think neurodiversity and studying different people’s perspectives and comparing it is a great way to have that understanding. Like another way to say it is like, like, as if we’re all blind, and like, we’re trying to feel out what the real reality is. But like, each of us sees a piece of it. But none of us see the whole picture. Because we all have different experiences. None of us have had all experiences. And so if we piece together different pieces from the puzzle, eventually, one day we could start really mapping out like, this is what reality is, and kind of come to like a consensus reality of society. So yeah, so I think neurodiversity is such a huge piece. And it’s like, it’s really built into the fundamentals of everything we’re doing at Future Is Now.



Psychology students SHANNA ANSSARI (SA).



I wasn’t doing well in school, I was far away from home for the first time. So I really struggled to excel in academics, while also prioritizing my mental health, and coping with being away from my family for the first time, and made the decision my first semester of my sophomore year to transfer to Loyola, which would be only 40 minutes from home, I knew that that box would be checked, I wouldn’t have to worry about coping with being away from home. And I would be able to focus more on my grades knowing that my family was nearby. Because I was in a very vulnerable position. So that taught me to, I mean, I feel like there’s a big stigma against transferring schools, especially when you’re first going into college. Everyone’s excited to move away from home. Everyone’s excited to get independent and do whatever they want away from their parents. But there’s nothing wrong with realizing that you’re not ready for it yet. There’s nothing wrong with figuring out what works best for you. Because what your friends may be doing might not be what is right for you. You know, I had to make the decision to really buckle down and do what was right for me. So and it was the best decision I ever made. For myself. I met the most incredible faculty at Loyola. Loyola made me really passionate about about psychology because I applied as a psychology major there. All the classes I took were super interesting, abnormal psych was my favorite class still to this day, and I’ve taken so many classes since then. It was a big barrier that I had to get through. But it taught me a lot of resilience and kind of to put myself first.



Author and mental health self advocate JOSE DEL CUETO (JDC),



I just think that the neurodivergent population which I consider myself an integral part of, we don’t have to take whatever the system tells us, that we’re broken as a as a as a as a sentence. As you know, some judge came out here and say, Well, this is it, you, you can’t do this, you can’t live in this part of town, you can get a Mercedes that you like, now you can have, you can have a watch, you can have whatever a plane you get, you know, that’s not for you, that’s when somebody else. It’s not true accident, actually, I would dare to say that we are the special ones. It’s it’s the non broken brains that I think are probably the slaves of their own brain. Because their brain gets in the way, you know, at least surprising. I think things that much. I analyze them, I look at him, I read the risk. And I think that make my mom’s still to this day. I I very much let my soul my heart and my gut have an integral part in the decision making process. And and I refuse to take a label. So if there’s one thing that I would like this audience to know is don’t take the label. We’re we’re the special ones.



CYNTHIA HAMMER (CH), ADHD, self advocate and founder of the Inattentive ADHD Coalition.



When I talk to these women with combined type. What surprised me is I went over the 18 symptoms that are in the DSM for ADHD and some of the women was that all before my treatment, I had all of those. And now I asked like, now that you have been on your medicine for three years, what? And they’d say, Oh, I have almost all of them. There were just a few maybe I got a little bit better on and they hadn’t improved that much. Actually, at least it didn’t sound like me they improved that much, but they were content. And the biggest difference was that they were more forgiving of themselves. You know, there was less shame base, less negative self talk just because they understood themselves.



Mental Health Counselor and bipolar self advocate GABRIELA GUARDARRAMA (GG).



When you’re a wounded healer, if anyone out there that has gone through addiction, it may be any type like drugs. It could be the gambling, it could be so many outlets for them, right. But if you haven’t been in their shoes in the form of addiction, it might not speak to them. So those similar scars though, addicts have, they can connect better. It doesn’t have to be the same route. But it’s nice to know. Wow, that person knows the daily struggle, the daily dialogue I have with myself, am I gonna gamble today? Am I going to use today? Am I gonna do the same pattern I’m trying to maybe break an addiction has no face. We all have our battles. And that’s why I like to say as a wounded healer, be kind because we don’t know what we’re fighting every day.



Dementia self advocate and author MICHAEL ELLENBOGEN (ME).



To the average Joe on the street. Right now, if I asked them about Alzheimer’s or dementia, what might you think might be their biggest misconception about the whole thing?



You know, they also tend to think that somebody who’s got Alzheimer’s or some type of dementia is somebody who’s in a wheelchair unable to move with their head back. And, you know, just sitting there. And that’s so far from the truth, because so many of us have so many good years left, that can be utilized in good ways to help society. And if we were just given the chance and opportunity, we could do so much more. But the sad part is, they don’t feel that we should still be around in the workforce, you know, especially if you’re a doctor or lawyer, you know, they think, oh, that your liability? Well, we would be if we were by ourselves, but there’s no reason why you can’t be paired with somebody. And there’s a lot of knowledge that can be passed on from a person like myself. I mean, I used to be top notch in my business and somebody people could have learned from me and stuff to shut me out. And I there’s so much that I could have taught so many new people in this industry. Yes, I get it. I can’t. There’s no way I could do it myself today. But there’s also no reason why I could not be paired with somebody to work and still continue to be a part of society and still continue to help out.



Finally, let’s end with ADHD coach and self advocate BROOKE SCHNITTMAN (BS).



With ADHD very often comms trauma, negativity bias, feelings of failure because of unmanaged ADHD. So the biggest and the first tool that I would say is find your people find people who know ADHD or who have ADHD, and get that support from them and know you’re not alone. So that’s like your physiological need of finding safety, finding people like you. I would also then check in with yourself and say, which most ADHDers Say, I’m not productive enough. I’m not doing enough. I’m so you know, I still need to climb the mountain. I’m only here. Check in with yourself and say, Am I doing things for myself? You know, am I getting enough sleep, drinking water eating every three to four hours? Am I taking care of myself, myself parenting myself like I would a baby. Because we are so hard on ourselves that we feel that we are not productive enough. And then once you get to start off building momentum, then you can add more tools like figuring out all the areas of your life that you want to focus on figuring out how ADHD works for you, and coming up with tools for that.