Cover Image - B.R.I.D.G.E.: Stigma-Free Connections For The Neurodivergent

B.R.I.D.G.E.: Stigma-Free Connections for the Neurodivergent

By Renee Rosales, M.Ed.

Building the B.R.I.D.G.E.

In July of 2021, I left the comfort and stability of a successful 25-year career as a leader in public education to launch Theara, an organization focused on advancing the Neurodiversity Movement. Given the economic uncertainties resulting from the Pandemic, many might argue that this was not a wise decision. However, as a school administrator and mother of five, who had firsthand experience with the negative impact of systemic ND-based discrimination, the decision to launch Theara was unquestionable. I left public education determined to build a bridge between the Neurodiverse and Neuro-Typical. Theara is the digital home for a revolutionary movement that will fundamentally transform the way we work with, relate to, and impact one another. Neurodivergents need a structured system that helps them easily build connections and overcome stigma. The B.R.I.D.G.E. approach provides that system; promoting efficacy, equity, and empowerment everywhere in everything. At Theara, we: Build for bounty, Relate with recognition, Integrate for impact, Develop thru demonstration, Gather for gain, and Empower for efficacy.

Build For Bounty

Building involves risk and potential failure. Yet, we have engaged in this risky endeavor for centuries because of the resulting bounty. The purpose of bridge-building is to overcome an obstacle and create a connection. The benefits of a well-constructed, effective bridge have proven over centuries to outweigh the cost or risk involved in the build. I believe that bridge-building for the Neurodiverse is one of the most profitable endeavors of our time. The ND mind likely holds the key to the necessary innovations of our future. Many of the great innovators and artists of our time have Emerged ND, including Elon Musk, Stephen Spielberg, Billie Eilish, and many others. The Neurodiverse comprises at least 20% of the country’s population. The value of the perspective this minority population offers is unparalleled. A bridge built to successfully transcend the obstacle of ND-based discrimination and create a synergistic connection between the 20% and 80% would result in exponential positive impact. According to USBridge, the first step in bridge-building is determining where to break ground. Experience has led me to conclude that home, school, and work are the most impactful bridge-building sites. Let’s begin building bridges to those we hold most dear through relationships.

Relate With Recognition

Relating involves association, connection, and belonging. We all desperately seek a sense of belonging and acceptance. For this reason, many are currently seeking to eradicate discrimination through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion movement. Neurodiversity is an overlooked, high-impact pillar of this movement. A glance at the limited research related to ND-based discrimination highlights the profoundly negative impact this oversight has had globally. When creating cultures that promote equity and empowerment for the collective, we must include this critical pillar of Social Justice. As Robert Brown of Bloomberg Law reports, “Neurodiversity remains D.E.I.’s least tracked metric.” Neglecting this area of discrimination is a mistake. Intersectional discrimination is an essential focus of D.E.I. education, and Neurodiversity is the epicenter of intersectionality, permeating all other aspects of human diversity. We must not overlook ND in matters of intersectional discrimination. We must recognize the needs and value of the Neurodiverse. When we relate to others recognizing the full scope of their intersectionality, we can begin the process of integration.

Integrate For Impact

Integration involves struggle and discipline; it requires self-evaluation. Many of us avoid the mirror. We like to keep our lack locked up in the dark where reflection does not exist; this is the very reason so many of us remain silent about our ND status. Neurological variances are stigmatized; people almost immediately associate these variances with low intelligence, ineffectiveness, and lack. This association creates a sense of shame and inadequacy. Emerging ND, like Coming Out, should invite celebration and encouragement. We cannot fully integrate wellness concepts into our lives without first reflecting on our challenges and failures. Highly successful people understand the extraordinary value of self-reflection. These individuals move beyond their fear, embrace their lack and lead with their worth. When we establish environments that embrace Neurodiversity and value the individual in an integrated way, we create a powerful impact and opportunity to develop innovation.

Develop Thru Demonstration

Development involves expansion, maturity, and growth. One of the most effective ways to develop someone’s efficacy is through demonstration, copy, and practice.  We repeatedly show our children how to tie their shoes, assist them in copying us, and teach them to practice until this new skill is acquired. To overcome the stigmatization of Neurodiversity, we must demonstrate bridge-building. Imagine a bridge that spans the obstacle of discrimination and creates connections that result in expansive innovation. Elon Musk, who recently Emerged ND on Saturday Night Live, has forever altered the way we utilize resources, travel, and communicate with his innovations at TESLA and SpaceX. Elon has dynamically altered society without the aid of an operational system to ensure ND to NT communication and connection. Imagine what brilliance we could explore and unlock with such a system.  Theara is building that system through the strategic engineering of language, imagery, life skills, and well-being rules. The B.R.I.D.G.E. approach is a way of being, a system of concepts that when employed remove obstacles and build connections for the Neurodiverse.  B.R.I.D.G.E crosses the great divide of neurological variation. This approach when demonstrated will develop synergy that was never before possible; imagine the result of gathering ND brilliance and providing them an avenue for connection.

Gather for Gain

Gathering involves celebrating, collecting, and sharing. Gathering is designed for gain. We exchange ideas, information, wisdom, and fellowship when we gather. Bridges enable gathering and creating new exchange opportunities, which can develop inclusion. Inclusion is dependent on reciprocation and mutuality. Neurodiversity, like bridge-building, can be intimidating and even evoke fear. As a result, Neurodivergents seeking inclusion often cross the great divide of ND alone, without a bridge. In a recent article from Forbes Magazine, Naz Beheshti states that “If diversity is about getting underrepresented people in the door, inclusion is about getting them an equal seat at the table.” Inclusion is unattainable without appreciation and respect. We cannot establish belonging and overcome stigma unless we create an opportunity to gather with the purpose of mutual exchange. Gain and empowerment are inevitable when we bridge the divides between us, gather together, and exchange the wisdom of the Neurodiverse Collective.

Empower for efficacy

Empowerment involves confidence and fortitude. We develop assurance and strength through increased efficacy. As we grow the capacity to reach desired goals, we become empowered. The greatest obstacle to empowerment is failure, and everyone confronts failure when pursuing goals. The development of self-efficacy requires grit because it demands that you remain unhindered by those failures.  Angela Duckworth defines grit as “the power of passion and perseverance. Fortunately, the Neurodiverse are some of the grittiest people on the planet, many working their entire lives to compete at the same level as their neuro-typical peers. The only obstacle facing a tenacious Neurodivergent is the unconquered divide of neurological variation. True empowerment is unattainable without a bridge, a systemic approach to establishing the necessary connections and overcoming discrimination. 

Moving Forward

The B.R.I.D.G.E. approach is a foundational element of all Theara curriculum and training. Theara aims to ensure efficacy, equity, and empowerment for the Neurodiverse Collective, a movement designed to eradicate discrimination and create connection. At Theara, we are Building for bounty, Relating with recognition, Integrating for impact, Developing thru demonstration, Gathering for gain, and Empowering for efficacy. Spring 2022, we will provide you with premier access to our “Know the Way” curriculum offerings for home, school, and work. For centuries the Neurodiverse have worked tirelessly to cross the divide of neurological variation with only rudimentary tools and little assistance.  Theara will lead ND into a new era, equipping the collective with a structured system engineered to ensure connection, inclusion, and the celebration of Neurodiversity.

Renee Rosales is a dynamic transformational leader. She has established two
successful virtual schools in Arizona; Marana Distance Learning K12 and Northern
Arizona Distance Learning. She continues innovations with the launch of Theara: an
organization designed to support Neurodiverse well-living. Although diagnosed with
ADHD as a young adult, her interest in Neurodiversity did not peak until she began to
recognize this in her children. Theara is the integration of Renee’s passion for wellness,
education and Neurodiversity. She brings her mother-heart to the table and offers a sure
path to efficacy, equity, and empowerment through Theara.

For more about Theara: