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Talking Autism And Neurodivergence With Carolyn Kiel

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Children with autism have tons of unique gifts that they can hone and enrich for further personal development. But what if you are diagnosed with such a condition as an adult? To celebrate two years of Care More Be Better Podcast, Corinna Bellizzi talks with Carolyn Kiel, who got her diagnosis of being autistic as an adult. In this conversation, she explains how this newfound truth changed her perspective and approach in interviewing people within the realm of neurodivergence in her show, Beyond 6 Seconds. She explains how hearing stories of people with autism, Tourette’s, dyslexia, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and other neurodivergent cases made her realize that these conditions are not disabilities but extraordinary abilities. Carolyn also discusses how they should not be forced to conform to societal norms but must be approached from a different and multicolored spectrum.

About Carolyn Kiel

CMBB 127 | AutismCarolyn Kiel is an experienced instructional designer of employee training programs. On her award-winning podcast, Beyond 6 Seconds, she features neurodivergent entrepreneurs, creatives and advocates who shatter misconceptions, break stigma and showcase the diversity of the neurodivergent community. Carolyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vassar College and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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Additional Resources Mentioned

Show Notes

0:00 – Introduction
4:49 – A new reality
11:50 – Lessons from the past year
23:07 – Aha moments
28:13 – A vastly different spectrum
42:17 – Beyond 6 Seconds
47:13 – Conclusion

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Talking Autism And Neurodivergence With Carolyn Kiel

In this episode, I have a couple of treats in store for you. For one, I want to share that this is going to air around the second official anniversary of this show being around. I invited someone to talk with me who was gracious with her time before I even recorded my first episode. Podcasting is a journey. It takes an army of collaborators to help you get it into the world. Sometimes those collaborators look like people that you’ve had the opportunity to connect with that are already in the game, that are cheering you on from the sidelines or helping share your show with the world.

It doesn’t have to mean you have a bunch of employees. You could be a fully solo operation like myself here. I started this show a few years ago, specifically because I wanted to bring more attention and shine more light on issues that I felt deserve more attention to connect with thought leaders to share their stories, some of whom might be the unsung heroes that are in your lives.

Many of the guests I’ve featured have come through networking with guests I featured and in other cases, it’s individuals whose paths I crossed that are working to put good work into the world. I’ve been tapped on the shoulder by press agencies wanting me to interview thought leaders that are out there doing some big things like the creation of Monarch Tractors. I’ve gone on location to press events. I’ve even been privy to some trail systems before they were even open to the public with the San Vicente, which apparently I always insist on pronouncing wrong. I believe it’s San Vicente Redwood Forest in Santa Cruz County, California.

All of that being said, I’ve made a couple of decisions about where I’m heading with the show. Ultimately, I want to be more transparent and share a little bit more of my journey. I’ve done this in phases along the way with the show but I’ve always kept, let’s say some distance from certain topics that we cover. I don’t think that always makes for the most connected reading experience for all of you.

Our guest is someone you’ve heard from before. Her name is Carolyn Kiel. She has a podcast called Beyond 6 Seconds. After getting to meet her in person at She Podcast Live back in the fall of October 2021, which is hard to believe, I felt like we connected even more deeply. I recognized in her leader that I respected somebody willing to also take their podcast and make a pivot a bit to be more transparent about her experience and ultimately dive deep into the world of neurodivergence.

This has come with some success for her and her podcast. She’s been acknowledged by multiple awards from Signal Awards to the Positive Change Podcast Awards and also w3 Awards. Her deep dives into various types of neurodivergence and her willingness to share honestly about her diagnosis of autism have made her someone whom I want to continue to look up to and collaborate with. Without further ado, I’m going to bring her up and share some further news with her once we get this all kicked off. Carolyn, thank you so much for joining me.

Corinna, it’s good to see you. Thanks for having me on the show.

The big news, a few years in and you’re getting a little more comfortable sharing more of me. You can probably relate to that. The other reason I wanted to be sure I brought you on is you introduced me to Hunter Hansen, who is an autistic adult who was out there with his YouTube channel, which seems to have since gone dark. I don’t know if he’s producing any content anymore, as well as a blogger. He was helping people understand what it might be like to be an autistic adult because this seemed to be the thing that we stopped talking about.

We talk about autism in kids but in adults, it’s this silent struggle. I wanted for you to have the opportunity to talk about your experience since it’s been over a year since you got the diagnosis. You’ve been out here podcasting specifically about neurodivergence from a variety of perspectives. What is this new reality like for you?

It’s been a very interesting journey. I’ve been podcasting for a few years. My show passed its five-year anniversary and most of that time it was a general interview show. Once I got my diagnosis of being autistic, I decided to refocus and interview other neurodivergent people. In some ways, I honestly wanted to learn more. I was excited to learn not just from autistic adults but other adults with dyslexia, ADHD, Tourette syndrome and all different types of neurodivergence. It’s been an incredible learning experience for me.

One that I don’t think I would’ve understood as much about is all the different ways that humans think, process information and live their lives and how similar and different we all are. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me. I’ve also tried to challenge myself to share more about myself, whether it’s about my late diagnosis of autism and what that feels like, that process and journey to other thoughts I have about things in the media or other experiences I’m trying to process. I find that other people relate to that as well. That has been a challenge for me because I’m much more comfortable interviewing other people than I am spontaneously sharing about myself.

You’re being in the hot seat.

It’s important to be able to share that on the show. People connect when the host shares more about themselves. That’s what it’s been like.

I wondered too because you have interviewed somebody who is non-verbal. I will admit that I didn’t get a chance to listen to that show before this. I intended to. I saw the title and was like, “How do you interview a nonverbal person?” Can you talk specifically about this episode?

That was an interview I did in April 2022. There’s a significant percentage of non-speaking autistic people. We tend to say non-speaking because they have language capabilities. It’s the act and the motor act of speaking is something that is a challenge for them. There are all different ranges of abilities there. I knew I wanted to interview someone who was non-speaking because several advocates out there are sharing their experiences.

That population tends to not get to share a lot about themselves because of their communication disabilities. I wound up connecting with Noah Seback. He is a non-speaking autistic advocate. He’s a writer. He has a small business where he mentors other non-speaking autistic people and their families. Every interview is a little different. That one took a lot more preparation. I always write out my questions in advance and that’s what I did for this interview.

[bctt tweet=”There’s a significant percentage of non-speaking autistic people. That population tends to not get to share a lot about themselves because of their communication disabilities.” via=”no”]

I shared them with Noah and his parents. His mother was what’s called a CRP, his Communication Regulation Partner. Noah spells out his answers on a letter board. This is a board with the alphabet letters on it. She either writes it down or can remember and read it out. His father was there during the interview to read the prepared answers. It was a group effort in terms of recording the actual episode. Noah was especially gracious to me with his time because he recognized that I had never spoken with a non-speaking autistic person before.

We had a pre-meeting. He sent me a lot of things to read, to educate myself about what non-speaking autism is and a lot of the issues and challenges that people face. He spent a lot of time educating me and helping me get prepared and feel comfortable. I’m grateful for that. We had a great interview. Some of the questions were pre-written and some of his answers were pre-prepared but I also asked him some spontaneous questions, which he spelled out during the conversation.

I love that interview because he’s charming. He is witty. He has a lot to say. It was very easy to communicate and have a conversation with him. That’s one of my favorite episodes. That’s one of the episodes that was recognized with some of the awards that you mentioned upfront, that one I got at w3 and a Signal Award called out specifically. I’m proud of that one and appreciate Noah spending time with me.

I’ve had some experience with non-speaking individuals and correcting my language here from non-verbal to non-speaking because this individual was using a computer to read letters with their eye. They’d move their eye around on a screen and then the computer would speak for them. It was amazing to me how quickly they were able to converse this way. The eye can move quickly. I was somewhat surprised. I wonder if that technology is something that’s also being used by other non-speaking autistic individuals.

I’ve read a study or evolutions around it but there are different communication methods. Some of them depend on the person’s ability. Since I’ve recorded a few more interviews with non-speaking people, they’re not out yet. They’re coming out in March and April 2023. Some will type on an iPad or have a special app on the iPad that lets them type or text-to-type technology. It depends on the person and their specific disabilities and abilities in terms of what communication method works for them.

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Autism: The approach to educating neurodivergent people depends on the person’s specific abilities and what communication method works for them.

Eventually, we’ll get to a space where we have a neural link and they’re able to think it and it comes out. I’m sure that’s on the horizon whether or not we think it’s here in the next 5 years or 50. That’s a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things. Another bit is I’m reflecting a lot on past episodes. Every time I come up to an anniversary or some waypoint like the 100th episode, I think back about all the earlier content. I’ve been pausing on the Hunter Hansen content a bit because somebody reached out and asked me if I knew how to get in touch with him because he’d apparently come off social media. I can imagine there’s a variety of reasons someone might choose to do that.

They might simply say, “I’m at a different stage in my life. I don’t want everything in my life to be public anymore.” You might run into some legal reasons you needed to do that. There are all sorts of craziness. I also had been thinking a lot about whether I am personally on the spectrum. I took a bunch of online tests and every time I do, I show up as being autistic.

People whom I talk to that are close to me will going to joke about me like from the Simpsons or something like that or having what others would call OCD tendencies of needing things a certain way. The reason I chose to do that too was because I was confronting some behavior issues in my younger child that I identified as likely being autistic.

He was diagnosed officially as autistic. This gives us new tools and support systems. At least now we know. Going through a four-hour in-person psychiatric review where they are asking you all sorts of questions while also observing the behavior of a child and running them through certain tests only revealed further the same thing that I’ve suspected. Whether I choose to go through a formal diagnosis at any point, I don’t know if it matters.

At this point, I feel like I know it and I’m going to own it. We will see if that reveals new ways that I can perhaps support my child with this unique understanding, reflecting on moments in my life where I struggled in school, probably through fourth grade and then even through my early teens because I was different.

All of the other students respond to you because they see that you’re different. I want to create a soft landing for him so that being different even isn’t something that makes him feel singled out. I am wondering from a personal perspective if you have any knowledge to impart to somebody like me going through this new struggle. I’m sure that we have readers to this blog who could also personally understand your learnings of recording episodes along these fronts.

I’m happy that your son has this diagnosis now because there are tools to help him. He’s young enough that you can come in and support him. One of the things I hear from a lot of my guests and probably you’ve experienced as well with this newfound knowledge that you’re likely autistic is that there are a lot of things in childhood that if we had known or if society had been in a different place, that probably would’ve helped us a lot. Now you’re in a position to be able to get him the tools and the support that he needs. That’s a great thing. Some people might think it’s odd to say but I’m very happy for him that he’s not this diagnosis so he can get the support.

I’m happy for you as well to have this realization about him and yourself. It’s hard for me to advise because I’m not a parent myself. I try not to give a lot of parenting advice because I don’t have any real perspective on what it’s like. I can only speak from my experience and the experience of some of the guests that I’ve interviewed. One thing I would say that’s come up in a couple of conversations as I talked to adults who are looking back on their childhoods is that some of them got their autism diagnosis earlier in life but their parents didn’t know how to tell them, didn’t want to tell them with the best of intentions. They then found out in some way that wasn’t ideal later in their life.

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Autism: Some people got their autism diagnosis earlier in life, but their parents didn’t know how to tell them or didn’t want to tell them with the best of intentions. They found out in some way that wasn’t ideal later in their lives.

Find whatever is an age-appropriate way to share this information. I’ll speak out to parents who might be in this situation. You knew that you were different back then and other kids knew you were different so likely your child is having some similar experience. It helps to be able to put a name. It can be a scary thing sometimes when you first hear it but it’s important. It doesn’t necessarily put specific limits on what your child can do.

It doesn’t determine anything specifically. It means that they need different types of support to be able to become successful adults and that will look different for every individual. That’s the one thing that popped out as much for me. Continue to support your child. Don’t try to make them into someone that they’re not.

Sometimes there’s a lot of focus on behaving in certain ways. I’ve felt that pressure growing up. I’m sure a lot of people have that are counter to the way that you normally do. If your kid’s not comfortable making a lot of eye contact, don’t force them to. Things like that are weird social norms that we have but are not necessary for health or communication. They don’t have to act in a certain way. It’s a good balance of the stills that they need to succeed in life versus their comfort level and being sensitive to whatever sensory issues that they may have and understanding that it might look different from a neurotypical child.

I found myself reflecting on a moment in my life. I’m wondering if other adults recognized that I had an issue similar to this because, throughout my earlier childhood, I had a very hard time at recess. I would find myself getting picked on, jokes played on me, all the April Fools jokes were about me or directed at me and things like that. I ended up, by the second grade, volunteering in the special education setup and working with students that were blind, deaf, who had severe autism or another mental difference also individuals who had Down syndrome.

It was a hodgepodge because I grew up in a small town and when you have special education, often you’re dealing with all sorts of different students and learning abilities and styles. I even started to learn braille and sign language. I found it to be incredibly rewarding and also felt like I belonged in this somewhat misfit mix of kids. I’ve reflected on this often over the years. It’s like, “Why did I have such a hard time at recess?” It was because it was a social connection.

You’re all expected to go out there, play and have fun but it was not fun for me. I would prefer to stay behind in the classroom and work on a project or donate my time and do something different like what I was doing with a special education group. There’s different terminology for these things. I’m still learning how that fits and what the options will be for my child, if you’ll need to have more of that type of learning setup where he’s separated from the typical classroom or if he’s going to be integrated continually. We’ll continue to give him what he needs. It’s opened my mind in a new way, in reflection back to my childhood and experience. It’s explaining a lot.

Looking back, once you get either diagnosed or self-identify as autistic, it’ll probably last a long time. It’s this whole long process of looking back and being like, “I wonder if that’s why I was doing that.” Everything that I’d done, I was attributing to something else. At recess, I could play structured games that weren’t too athletic because I was very uncoordinated, which is another thing that tends to go along with autism but not everyone. I was terrible at any kind of sports beyond basic games.

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Autism: Once you get either diagnosed or self-identify as autistic, it’ll probably last a long time. It’s this whole long process of looking back and being like, “I wonder if that’s why I was doing that.”

I was always trying to hang out with the adults. I wound up as I got older doing specific projects in my free time but then I’m like, “Maybe it’s because I’m an only child.” I’m always much more comfortable with adults. I love being by myself all the time. I better like it because I’m an only child. There are not a lot of people around 24/7 who entertain me or for me to entertain myself with. Looking back, I’m like, “I know other only children and they’re not necessarily like that. Maybe it wasn’t always that way.” You probably spend a lot of time reflecting and rethinking.

That same excuse I was making it’s because I only wear hand-me-down clothes and I’m a hippie kid so I don’t fit in with all of the lumber town children here. You make excuses because you don’t know and you don’t necessarily have the tools. It’s an interesting journey. Honestly, I’m getting to the point where I’m excited to see what’s next as opposed to feeling like, “What are we going to do? What’s the problem with Roland?” It’s been almost like the problem with him. He’s not in kindergarten yet. He’s in TK. This is a good time to figure it out in deposition for this next phase.

My next question relates to the podcast content that you’ve been recording over the course of 2022. I’m wanting to hear from you, what have the big surprises or a-ha moments been? I’m sure there are many because you cover many subjects. It’s one of the things I love about podcasting. Neil deGrasse Tyson was on SmartLess, which is another podcast I sometimes listen to. He said, “If you don’t have a mind-blown moment every week, you’re not living right.”

It’s hard to consistently have a mind-blown moment every week. Perhaps, as a scientist, if you’re paid to work with your mind constantly, that is a little bit easier. It’s something that I feel podcasting has helped me with. Specifically having an interview format show when you’re connecting with different people. If any moments remark that you want to share.

It’s a constant learning experience for me. I don’t know if there are specific moments but every episode starts to open my eyes and my mind to neurodiversity, disability and the human condition in general. One is realizing how many overlaps there are between neurodivergent conditions. I hate to say conditions but sometimes I do. A lot of times people who are autistic are also ADHD or also have Tourettes or dyspraxia. I’m rare. As far as I know, I’m only autistic. I don’t think I have other neurodivergencies about myself but what do I know?

A few years ago, I never would’ve said it was autistic. Maybe I’ll learn something more about myself. A lot of people have multiple conditions, which makes it harder to understand, especially if you’re late diagnosed what relates to what and how those manifests differently in different people. There are a lot of things that people who are autistic, have ADHD or dyslexia have in common but it’s not that there’s one type of person and that everybody’s the same.

[bctt tweet=”A lot of people have multiple conditions. This makes it harder to understand them, especially if they are diagnosed late with a neurodivergence. ” via=”no”]

When people talk about, for example, autism being a spectrum, what pops into a lot of people’s minds at first is, “That’s a spectrum from severe to high functioning.” These are the labels that the autistic community hates because they tend to be put on by people who are outside looking in and observing your behavior and don’t necessarily cover what it feels like.

I even said on the spectrum in this specific interview and that gives me the creeps but I still said it.

It’s a tough one. What the spectrum is more like is that some people may have used it like empathy. Some people who are autistic may not have empathy or express it in the same way that neurotypical people do but others may have extremely strong empathy, the whole concept of being a highly sensitive person, which a lot of people think that’s an autistic girl or woman talk but described differently. I took the HSP test and I’m like, “This is 100% me.” It’s because autistic isn’t that associated with low empathy. It’s not.

Certainly, some people may have low empathy but most autistic people have extremely high empathy where we might be personifying stuffed animals and being sad. That’s what the spectrum is. It’s a lot of those types of traits or abilities. It’s a lot to look into. It seemed like we were very different from each other but we all have the same types of things in common with the types of things we struggle with. We may struggle in different ways. Some of us may be very quiet, which is, I tend to be quiet and not know how to be part of a conversation but others may be super talkative. That in itself could be an issue because that doesn’t fit into social norms either for whatever way but it manifests.

Oversharing and getting deep into a particular topic that the person listening to is not listening anymore. You’ve seen their eyes glaze over but you don’t recognize it so you keep doing the mind dump. Guilty. It’s interesting. You have light coming in from the side. There’s almost the spectrum. This is something when I communicate and people are talking about being on the spectrum, if you look at it like a rainbow, then it’s more of a particular way to see it. It’s because you have different colors and representations.

It doesn’t mean that it’s high versus low functioning. What does that even mean? We’ve walked away from terms like Asperger’s. I learned from talking to a friend who’s a psychologist that people who have autism are more likely to also have gender nonconformity, which I then reflected on my teen years when I started dressing as a boy for a while. I was not sure where I was and if it was a sexual preference or uncomfortability in my skin related to going through hormones and being a teenager, which can be an incredibly uncomfortable time for a lot of people.

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Autism: People who have autism are more likely to also have gender nonconformity.

That was before it was as commonplace. We’re talking early ‘90s here. That’s when I was going through a lot of this questioning. Ultimately, I’m comfortable in my skin and it has taken me time to get there. There’s also this assumption when you have somebody who is able to get up on a stage and present or is able to be a part of a board meeting like, “I’ve got an MBA and I’ve struggled through all the academics. I’ve learned how to learn math, which took me an incredibly long time.” This also meant that I didn’t pursue hard sciences in my undergrad.

I went for Archeology, which was a pretty hard science of the soft sciences because that’s where my interests were. I couldn’t get past Statistics. I couldn’t get past Algebra II and Trigonometry. As a 45-year-old adult, I graduated with my MBA, top of my class, honors, and everything else, beta, gamma, sigma, all that jazz. I was like, “How did I do it?” I struggled.

I sat there and beat my head against a brick wall, having to relearn Statistics. I had to employ a tutor for a while to help me understand rudimentary calculus because one of the courses I took was essentially Calculus and assumed that you knew the fundamentals. I also figured out through this that with greater than less than, I was flipping them all the time. The only way that I could ascertain that was by having a tutor with me as I was doing some of the work and they helped me identify it.

I was like, “This is this.” He’s like, “No, you said less than but you wrote greater than.” I was like, “I did?” It flips the entire meaning of the equation you’re working on and you’re not going to get the right answer. I had to go through this retraining of even how I did my coursework when I was doing homework and then bring that into how I did my test taking, which is a solo enterprise. Learning that I needed to say it, look at it and say it again to myself to verify that it was going in the right direction.

If you think back to algebra, trigonometry and all of this, you’re using a lot of these signs and representations. My brain was always flipping it. It has its special math dyslexia. I don’t know how else to put it. I’ve not gone through an additional diagnosis but I had to struggle through that. If you see students in high school or college struggling with some of these same things, if you put a layer of anxiety on top of it and you say, “You’re taking your SAT,” this is going to determine your path in life, what college you’re able to get into.

This is a standardized test. I couldn’t finish the math section. My score was terrible. I know that the scoring is different now but I was in the bottom third on math because I couldn’t get through that section. Even the way that we’ve architected scholastics entry into college and things like that, it is not set for all people. I wonder if you have heard similar stories. Do you know about accommodations that can be made for people that might deal with some of these same struggles so that they can go into Ivy League schools and have the same opportunities?

You were telling that story about flipping signs and it remind me of another guest who was specifically dyslexic. She’s multiple neurodivergent but one of them is dyslexic. She thinks she writes down one thing and then the teacher’s like, “You got this wrong.” She’s like, “I wrote 60.” He’s like, “No, you wrote six.” She’s like, “No, I didn’t write six,” and then she wrote six. I’m sure it’s the same for math as well with dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is the math version of dyslexia to simplify it way too much.

That is something that I’ve heard from guests who have struggled with that before they understood or at the beginning of understanding their neurodivergence. Accommodations potentially relate to the person. I’m thinking of one interview that I did with a young autistic author. He’s a college student. He’s interested in biology. He’s doing some Biology degree in college but he struggled, especially in middle school, not necessarily academically but behaviorally.

It was before he was diagnosed as autistic and he couldn’t control his body movement. He couldn’t sit still. He had a hard time focusing in a classroom setting and he was always getting called out for behavior problems and getting disciplined for it. After a lot of advocating by his parents, they tried to get him into a different school and they wouldn’t accommodate him. For high school, he wound up going to a community college. One of his parents was an instructor there.

Somehow it worked out that he was able to go. That setting works so much better for him because he’s like, “Nobody cares if I’m pacing back and forth in the back of the classroom as long as I’m still paying attention. That’s how I need to pay attention. I need that movement.” He did well enough to get his high school diploma or equivalent from finishing high school through community college classes, which I’m assuming are more challenging academically than high school.

In that way, that type of accommodation seemed to work for him because nobody cared that he was not sitting there like a good perfect little student with eye contact and you’re taking notes and being quiet all the time. It’s still without distracting other people in the class. He was still able to learn. That situation worked much better for him.

Accommodations again, I haven’t been part of the school system since I went through it and we’re the same age. It was like, “I have no idea how they do things these days.” Try to tune in and listen to your child. A lot of these things come out as behavior issues. That’s the first thing people jump to if they’re not thinking about, “He’s misbehaving. We have to take away his iPad, punish him, ground him or something to stop this behavior.”

Go deeper and say, “What’s causing this behavior? Are there triggers? Are there things happening beforehand? Is it loud in this room? Are there fluorescent lights? Are there weird smells?” Check all the sensory stuff because they could be reacting to some sensory input that you may not think is distracting but for them is overwhelming. Remove some of those distractions or some people need to move around more.

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Autism: A lot of these things come out as behavior issues. Try to tune in and listen to your child. Go deeper and say, “What’s causing this behavior?”

Some people can listen without making eye contact. Forcing someone to make eye contact is so distracting for them that they won’t even hear you. It’s understanding those things about your child and then seeing what accommodations work best for them. It may not even have to be like huge things. It all depends on the individual.

I was smiling a bit there because I went to college for my senior year of high school and got high school credit for it. I found that learning experience to be much more constructive for me. There were a few reasons. One is that I went from the semester system to the quarter system. Things moved a little bit more quickly and therefore I was able to remain more engaged. It helped me to only have to be in a class for thirteen weeks or less than that.

It was ten weeks from start to finish. I could suffer through anything for ten weeks. When you have half the year, you have to come back to it after a break and then there’s more work to do. I found that to be a challenge to get back into the same class but you’re in the middle of it. This is one of the things that we’ve noticed in our younger son.

Change is hard for him. If you think about that, it was easier for me to open a new page after a break. Here’s a fresh book and it’s a fresh class. Even acknowledging that’s the way I learn and you close a chapter, you open a new one. It made more sense to me. We’ll go through much of that. The other piece is that we also know that my older son is exhibiting certain signs of dyscalculia or something like that.

He will say 12 and write down 2 and 1. In his mind, the one that he’s starting with is a two. There are these speech and math connections that he’s having a hard time with. I see it consistently. At 60 and 16, he will often transpose. There are a lot of these that have common pronunciations. It’s a language-to-math tie. We’re working on it and getting through it. He then can’t sit still. They have him in the classroom. An accommodation for him is that he sits on a stool because, in a chair, he slopes. He will start to fall out of it.

I slumped out of my chair. They made the accommodation. They have a stool and will allow him to pace a little bit around his desk. The fact that we’re getting to a space in our education system where we will allow these things because we acknowledge that people learn differently as early as elementary school, to me, is incredibly encouraging and says that we’re moving in a direction of truly accepting neurodivergence not as a disability but as a different ability and style of learning.

I’m encouraged. This is going to allow us to enter a phase of an explosion of creativity. If you enable people to learn the way they learn and you give them the tools that they need, as opposed to saying square peg, round hole, you don’t fit, just push through, then my belief is that we’re going to enter a new era that is ushered in by this greater acceptance of people for all the colors of the spectrum that they might be.

Their education system tends to enforce one way to learn and one way to measure learning. You were talking about standardized tests before and those are not optimal for not neuro diversion kids but many other kids. It would be great if we can value and support the different ways that people learn because there’s no one right way to learn things, work or express yourself. We have people who have different types of talents and express them in different ways. I hope that we’re getting to that point.

CMBB 127 | Autism
Autism: It would be great if we could value and support the different ways that people learn because there’s no one right way to learn things, work, or express yourself.

I want to thank you again, Carolyn, so much for joining me. I want to offer you the floor for a moment to talk about your podcast and the beautiful things that are coming down the road. I’m sure there will be many more awards that come your way from Positive Change Podcast Awards because you are doing so much there, the w3 Awards and also the Signal Awards. I’ve yet to capture any of those so I’m a little jealous.

Thank you. I appreciate you having me on the show, especially such a big show like this with big news for you. Congratulations. My show again is called Beyond 6 Seconds. It goes beyond those six-second first impressions to get more time to understand and explore the extraordinary stories of neurodivergent people from all walks of life.

I’ve interviewed guests who are autistic, have ADHD, Tourettes, dyspraxia, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, Down syndrome, and a whole host of neurodiversities that I’m starting to learn more and more about. It’s a great way to listen in and hear individual experiences of what it’s like being an adult who’s neurodivergent and getting an idea of looking back on childhood, what that was like, what are they doing and what are they into, whether it’s cool passion projects, great advocacy or professions that they’re in.

I felt like it was an interesting way to hear from people whom we get talked about a lot, especially with autistic children. We all grow up and seem to disappear. I’m trying to find everybody who seems to have disappeared and put them on the show and share what life is like and what their challenges still are, what amazing successes they’ve been able to find and what they’ve learned about themselves, all the great work that they’re doing in the world. Tune in. You can find Beyond 6 Seconds on pretty much any podcast app or podcast player. I’m also at I’ve got all my episodes there and you can check it out. Find me on social media. I’m all over the place. I hope you’ll check it out.

Thank you so much again and I will share with my community here. It is always a great pleasure to receive a written review of your podcast. If you enjoy this one, Care More Be Better and also Beyond 6 Seconds, please write a review and reach out. We love hearing from you and it helps to inform future content. You might say, “What about this specific neurodivergent?”

In the case of Care More Be Better, you might send me a note about specific issues that you want to see more of on the social impact side or measures with regard to climate action, things along these lines. I want to hear from you too. I want to say before we part too, Carolyn, that I met an individual that you should have on your show if you haven’t featured her yet. Her name is Brittany of Brittany’s Baskets. Are you familiar?


This individual has Down syndrome, and she sends a basket to parents of newborn Down syndrome babies every time that they’re born as a celebration. Much like you said, congratulations on the diagnosis because at least now, you know. She’s working to disarm and celebrate new life. The fact that different isn’t bad. We need to embrace one another and give those babies all the love that they deserve. She’s an interesting individual.

CMBB 127 | Autism
Autism: The fact that different isn’t bad. We need to embrace one another.

I spoke with her and her mother in the anticipation of bringing them on the show. It was a little challenging because their audio equipment at the time was not working for me. In this phase, you probably are more used to running a little bit of check on those things and building in accommodations that will work for that. I haven’t dove deeply into that piece yet.

That sounds great. I would love to connect with them.

I’ll make the introduction.

Thank you.

I have appreciated this time with you. I love your podcast and I’m going to keep listening. You helped me on my journey already. You’ve helped me since the very beginning, so thank you so much.

Thank you.

As I’m sure you can read from this episode, I’m looking to explore deeply the topics that we cover here. In this case, this touches my heart, my home life and my family life. The reality is, as an adult who identifies as being somewhat autistic and wherever I fit with that, I’m still exploring. I may go through the official diagnosis, and if I do, I plan to share it on this show and to help other people understand that they are not alone.

Ultimately, that is what podcasting has done for me over the course of the last couple of years because I’m not alone in caring about these social issues, caring about our climate, and wanting to dive deeply into these subjects. I hear from all of you, from our community consistently that you’re grateful for that too. I will continue to post Be Better Challenges each Monday. With the anniversary of the show, the #BeBetterChallenge is likely to focus on autism.

With that, I want to say thank you all for joining me. I wouldn’t do it without you. I do it for you and with you. I am so grateful to all of you for being a part of this show and this community because together we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even make an ideal world for all of the beautiful brains out there. Thank you.

Important Links


  • Carolyn Kiel

    Creator & Host, Beyond 6 Seconds Podcast Carolyn Kiel is an experienced training and talent development leader who helps global companies prepare their employees to succeed in changing business environments. As the Host and Producer of Beyond 6 Seconds, she has created a platform where entrepreneurs, creators and leaders can showcase their candid and inspiring stories. Carolyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vassar College and a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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