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In this episode, you meet Hunter Hansen, a tech professional who put his writing skills and charisma to use as a blogger, YouTuber and Instagrammer — to be a champion for the autistic and neurodivergent community to which he belongs. By the end of today’s show, you will think differently about autism and how you relate to other neurodivergent people “on the spectrum”. It may just cause you to question whether you are one of the many undiagnosed autistic adults wandering the world today. You’ll learn through Hunter’s story that some of your mannerisms may even be the hallmark of The Life Autistic.
About Our Guest, Hunter Hansen:
Hunter is an autistic content creator on YouTube and Instagram and a blogger on thelifeautistic.com. After discovering his autism in his late teens, Hunter tried to outgrow and suppress his autistic traits for years, until coming to terms and embracing his identity as an autistic adult. He has since turned that suppression into passion, advocating for greater understanding and appreciation of autism and autistic people. Hunter works for a major tech company as a business analyst and lives in the Denver area with his wife and three daughters.
The Life Autistic Blog: https://thelifeautistic.com/
The Life Autistic Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_life_autistic/
The Life Autistic YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxyGdIDgSyXnhKlnrC88S0A
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01:45 Growing up as an undiagnosed autistic child; diagnosed at 16 years old
13:00 Recommendations for parents of autistic kids
18:13 Language of autism: ASD, asperger’s syndrome, neurodivergent, neuro-typical
28:50 Autism in the workplace
35:18 Am I autistic? Are you?
41:30 Understanding & supporting neurodivergent communities
48:45 Raising authentic autistic voices – not just those of allies & advocates
A very special thanks to Carolyn Kiel of Beyond 6 Seconds (https://www.beyond6seconds.net/) for introducing me to Hunter Hansen.
Hello, fellow do-gooders and friends. I’m your host, Corinna Bellizzi, an activist, and cause marketer. Who’s passionate about social good and sustainable. Today, we’re going to learn about what it means to be on the spectrum with autism. You’ll hear terms like neurodivergent and neuro-typical and why Asperger’s syndrome maybe falling out of favor as a diagnosis before we meet our guest, I’d like to invite you to visit caremorebebetter.com.
You can sign up for our newsletter to be the first to gain access to new episodes. You’ll also find an action page for things you can do to make a difference. Today I am joined by hunter Hanson and autistic content creator on YouTube and Instagram and a blogger on the life. autistic.com after discovering his autism and his late teens, hunter tried to outgrow and suppress his autistic traits for you.
Until he came to terms with and embraced his identity as an autistic adult. He has since turned that suppression into passion, advocating for greater understanding and appreciation of autism and autistic people. Hunter works for a major tech company that all of, you know, and as a business analyst, he lives in Denver area with his wife and his three daughters,
Hunter, welcome to the show.
Hey, thank you for having me.
Growing up with autism without a diagnosis, must have posed unique challenges to both you and your parents. So I’m really curious to learn what that was like for you.
It was interesting. The long story is, I mean, I was the way I like to tee it up is when my, you know, my parents had me, I was, I was their first born and I don’t know whether they had never come in contact with other children aliens or what have you.
But they didn’t quite pick up on my difference, uh, until like my brothers and sisters were born, I’m probably the best and I never, I’m never going to fail dunk on my, uh, the eldest of my younger brothers for this. But when he was born, they thought there was something developmentally wrong with him because he couldn’t read at age two.
You know, or he wasn’t a memorizing car makes and models or the countries of the world. And then they realized, wait, no hunter, there’s something not right with this boy. He does some strange and interesting things, but, um, he has some cool talents, you know? So I think from my parents’ perspective, you know, uh, I was, I was an eighties, baby.
I mean, it was pretty cool. They were in California. So it was like apex. Cool back then. And you know, there was in San Diego, they were just trying to figure out parenting and. Figuring out small children. I, uh, it was an eclectic and interesting itinerant childhood, irrespective of autism. But I think all throughout my, uh, younger and young adult life, the challenges became more.
Pronounced, especially comparatively where, you know, I wonder why, why is it that people forget things? How can you not enjoy using big words? Why is math so difficult? How come I can’t make friends? Like, why is it that I get along better with adults and understand this? So it was a lot of just not knowing why was different, but knowing I was different and not really having a good set of tools or frameworks or tribes to better understand and modify a lot of that.
And, you know, my parents, I will admit they did it. There were five of us. Right. So they did the absolute best. That’s a lot of children. Yeah. So it’s, uh, they did their absolute best, but there were just some things that I could do to compensate that, um, you know, gruesome independence with me, but also.
Flummoxed up a little on challenges. Like what do we do to kind of keep hunter sane and happy? And do we just let him do his own thing? Do we try to like, you know, trap other teenagers or kids so that he can talk to them and corner him and make friends. There was a lot of discovery and a lot of figuring out.
And then I moved out at 16 and, you know, fast forward, you know, a few years and here we are. So it was, it was a lot of just navigating so many unknowns and frictions and just having, you know, some of it was cool. Like, Hey, I could win spelling contest. Hey, I, you know, was doing like high school vocabulary work in grade school, but then others was just perplexing, social challenges and fitting in, or just struggling with math, like dumb things like that.
So you mentioned moving out at 16 that’s around when you were diagnosed. So when you were finally diagnosed, was it a relief or was it something else? How did you feel. Like a neutral kind of emotion, you know, I think it’s typical for autistic people to process something and really just have it not sink in.
Um, it just takes it’s time to work through, into more practical outlets. At 16, I had been working full-time for a department of defense subsidiary for a year. I had a routine. I came home from work and just, you know, got what was left over for dinner because I got off of work later than when they all ate.
Uh, like, so it was strange, but I remember, um, I remember it being more of like, oh, like there’s a name for this. Oh, like, it’s this, this Aspergers syndrome thing. Like, okay. That’s great. Now what, and then I think I just had dinner and then went to work the next day and just kind of motored on through, and really didn’t.
I don’t know if it’s because I just couldn’t or didn’t want to really apprehended and make it a special interest, but I didn’t, I had different goals. I needed to get ready to ship off to college, start my life as, you know, a grownup at 16, basically. So it just, I think the self identity part didn’t really.
Um, spur a lot of, uh, introspection and reflection at the time. Uh, but you know, Hey, here we are. It really, you know, I think it grew and there was, there was a little bit of shame with it as I, you know, had to navigate some of the challenges. And I just thought like, Hey, maybe I could grow out of this. Hey, maybe I could learn some tricks to, to camouflage.
And what I learned was masking. Um, but that’s, uh, again, I ran into some different challenges trying to be less of that. Who I was and who I could be rather than embracing who I really was. Um, so yeah, it was, you know, it wasn’t like a huge shock. It wasn’t like I had a lot to look into my, my interest and focus, or just more immediate at that time.
Wow. Let’s, you’ve introduced a couple of thoughts that I’ve had over the years. One is masking, ultimately trying to fit in right code, switching, whatever you might call it. Um, but then also Asperger’s or Aspergers. I’ve heard it pronounced both ways syndrome. And I understand that that term is essentially falling out of favor.
So how has that changed for you? I for me, and this is where I’ll kind of give a big caveat. I know in America and the U S specifically, it’s no longer folded under like the DSM five. It’s just generally classified as autism, which is handy because one, I elaborate on this in a video of mine. I don’t like the way that word sounds either way.
It’s either like Asperger’s or Aspergers, both of which have a certain vulgar touch to a tour. I don’t need any more ammo for, you know, where I’ll juveniles senses of humor to a cost way. Right. Uh, so for those kinds of folks who are listening and basically. Stupid dumb and boyish. So not like they’d get those words, but, um, just in case.
So I, um, so it was kind of a relief to know that, like I wasn’t dealing with autism light or trying to like kind of evade the whole autism diagnosis. Like, no, no, no. I’m not like autistic, autistic. I just have this syndrome. That basically means. Well, no, I’m just autistic. So it’s been a little liberating.
And for me, it’s nice to just realize like edit at the root of it. I’m I’m autistic and that’s it. There are others who, you know, their formal diagnosis is on Aspergers and they’ve clung to it. They’ve made YouTube channels about it and they’ve kind of branded that identity usually outside of America.
And that’s, that’s fine. I think people are on different tracks of what I call pre enlightenment until enlightenment. So to speak a lot of differing and, uh, various. Uh, ineffective opinions, you know, given, uh, the diagnosis was named after, you know, uh, a doctor who worked during the Nazi era. So there’s all kinds of interesting, problematic connotations for me.
If they ask it’s like, um, I just know, I believe it at that.
Well, I think our audience would get this by now, but in other podcasts, including Carolyn Kiel’s Beyond 6 Seconds, where I first heard you and learned about you, as well as on your own YouTube channel and your blog, you’re very candid about what it’s like to live in your shoes and you seem to invite people into your home to get a glimpse behind the camera so that we don’t just simply have this one frame of reference in mind. Like we might’ve seen rain, man, when it came out years ago. And that’s our idea of what an autistic adults life is like.
And of course, you know, we’re talking about something that is a spectrum of. Types of symptoms that somebody might actually have. So, I mean, I just keep going back to this one, thought I’d like to know, if you think your life could have been different growing up or how it might’ve been different if you’d have this diagnosis earlier, if you’d had it recognized earlier, if your parents had known, how do you think your life might have been different?
That’s a tough one. And as much as I liked the hypothetical’s, they ended up stopping at a phrase I’ve adopted because there’s, there’s so many what ifs, but I do look at like the, what is.
For me, I can go back and think of a lot of different pivots that may have been drastically more influential in my wife. And then simply knowing, oh, Hunter’s autistic on the positive side. It may have been, oh, Hey, hunter is autistic. He has this special interest. Maybe we should get this boy in a chess club because he loves memorizing chess, grandmasters.
He’s obviously keen to play. Why don’t we encourage that and do that? Or, you know, Hey, there’s some things that I think, you know, maybe hunter needs to talk to a counselor, like another grownup who may understand neuro divergence, walk them through some career stuff, but then conversely, um, had they known.
What if the right things were not done that even best intentions may have led to further ostracizing to where oh, you know, yeah. Hunter works the sound booth in the corner and whereas all black, because he’s, you know, he’s, he’s autistic. Uh, you know, so there may have been some other social pressures could have fed into a stereotype is what you’re saying could have been.
Yeah. So I think I, as I told you, and she like hates that, I say to somebody, look, my ship has sunk, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help others. Sail on. So I feel like, Hey, if this is going to come up in your son or your daughter is diagnosed as autistic, here’s what will really help support their whole person.
Here’s how you like, don’t hide it or don’t make it, it’s like a harmful stereotype or think that. The way they present their specific types of support needs in autism symptoms mean you have to do this, or you got to put them in remedial math because Hunter’s autistic. And so except math, well, no, that’s very different or, Hey, we’ve got to take them away from all kinds of sensory triggering things.
I learned to handle noise, grew up in a household of seven people, dogs. I, I I’m actually okay with that. And that’s rare for autistic people to enjoy, like, you know, just kind of dating us here, but like fireworks, it’s a huge trigger for many autistic people. Me, I love the Sonic intensity I’m near-sighted so I don’t really see much of it, but I love the feel of it.
And. That sensory seeking thing is, is not, you know, every autistic person. So for me, I, like I say, if you’ve met one autistic person, You have met one autistic person. You know, I can’t be emblematic of all the presentations types of support needs, but I can try to at least bring the right kind of awareness, appreciation, acceptance, what other, other, whatever, other alliterative, a positive, a words you want to bring into it.
Um, but that’s, you know, it’s more or less my goal. Like if you know, what’s the best way to really enrich your autistic son, daughter, friend, spouse’s life.
Wow. Okay. So I have two sons, their age, three and a half. And so. And there have been some days and their development, particularly my older son who is over six now, he was speaking in full sentences.
By the time he was only 15 months old, it didn’t happen all the time, but it did happen. And it has caused me to keep a keen eye on a little bit of how they develop and how they’ve developed differently. And as you’ve even talked, now I can pick out certain traits that each of them have exhibited over the years.
Wait a minute. Is that a sign of autism or do I need to be concerned? And so I would just love for you to offer a perspective. What advice would you give to a parent who either might suspect that one of their children is exhibiting some symptoms that could be indicative of autism and or if they’ve received the diagnosis and they know like, Hey, you know, what would you suggest?
I’d love your thoughts.
There’s a few, uh, be patient. I mean, I think, I think patience is a good one because it’s a slow. When you mentioned like progression growth, et cetera, it’s just a slow thing. Kids just, they don’t get it right away. I’m a grown man and I still don’t get it. So I think that that’s an abundant caution.
I would encourage you actually exhibited this one, but being a good learner student, you know, figuring out what your children are not telling you, but some of the patterns, um, I think I covered this in another video to where, if your child’s non-verbal or selectively verbal. There’s still some ways that they respond to stimuli, different routine changes to where it’s like a trial and error like, oh, my daughter is, you know, really withdrawing and, you know, shutting down when certain routines don’t go according to plan, or it feels very awkward in these given situations or when an uninvited guest comes over, this happens, you know, do what I suggest, never let on invite a guests over ever, you know, like that.
But you know, those things may like me. Get angry and I verbalize it, but you know, other children just may kind of go into shock or run. So understanding like situations, response and circumstances, kind of a plug for fellow autistic advocates. I don’t mean to be, uh, mean, but I feel like there’s a dearth of adult or actually autistic perspectives that are heated.
And I think part of it is just the human challenge of where, if you’re a neuro-typical parent of autistic or otherwise neurodivergent children, you want to hear your expertise from people who are reflective of you. Like, you know, we talk about the prototypical autism moms. Well, you would probably align with another neuro-typical autism bomb because you have similar experiences.
It does make you feel better, but I would suggest, Hey, there are moms who are too. And have children and can articulate, Hey, I grew up being autistic. I can tell you how to parent, like for me, I’m not an autism mom. I’m, I’m a different kind of autism parent. Cause I’m the parent who is autistic. But I remember my childhood.
I remember what I would have loved to have had. I remember my challenges. I actually know what it’s like to be a parent as an autistic person. So I think. Finding good sources and inputs that really inform your perspective from people who can articulate what autism is like rather than, you know, like rather than prioritizing.
And over-emphasizing more clinical approaches for what people say about autistic people or what they’ve observed. Like we’re not. Animals who need to like have commentary from like somebody with a PhD in autism. So, and there it’s, Hey, we’ve got the internet. There are great sources, better than hunter Hanson who can articulate, Hey, I, I I’m autistic and I have a PhD in autism and I’m an autistic parent.
And I think just finding ways to really put that in your cycle of advice and understanding and dialogue too. So, you know, Hey, I may not be able to answer what it’s like from a child’s perspective. I was young once I can articulate, Hey, I remember doing this as a kid, as an adult. I still do this, but it’s different.
And I can articulate why. And here’s, here’s what helped me as a kid. Here’s other resources. So, yeah, but then above all, you know, I, I think irrespective of autism neurodivergence, um, parents who just love their children for who they are, and don’t want to change them into something they’re not, that’s key.
This doesn’t need to be cured. We just need to be supported in who we are.
Well, I agree with you. And I think you’ve introduced a few terms that are helpful in having conversations around this. One of the things that is jumping out to me from everything you’re sharing is that there is the importance of community.
Like anytime you confront something that might be a little different, you can establish a community that will help you get through. And so if I had a child that had autism connecting with other moms who were going through similar struggles would help me get through and maybe have a better idea of how to approach the challenges that I faced as well.
So I thank you for that. I think you and I both love language a lot, and it’s apparent through hearing you talk, you have a unique love for language, but I also think it’s interesting to talk about what terminology means, because language is important, how we use it as important. And, autism is defined by the Mayo clinic as follows.
Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development. That impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others causing problems and social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive behavior or patterns of behavior. The term spectrum and autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.
Now I have a few problems with this entirely. Definition of autism. And I imagine that you might as well. So I would love to just talk about the language that we use to describe this particular disorder and what you would advise anybody from the outside, looking in, uh, the perhaps is encountering somebody that has autism or is on the spectrum.
So. Yeah. Who, uh, so that’s the first time I’m hearing that. So I’m trying to like write it out in my head. Cause I couldn’t visually parse it a little bit better. I do feel there is some definitive statements that are a little assumptive, like this leads to problems. And I think about it. Well it’s like, why is this lead to a problem?
Wherein is the problem. If I’m talking with other autistic people, usually there’s no way. So the problem is more of like a disconnect between, you know, generally neuro-typical folks and those who are neurodivergent or have different communication preferences. I’ve found that there’s actually been some hesitation on autism spectrum disorder.
And this is something where you’ll get a gamut of opinion on, uh, disorders or disability, or simply different. If phrase I’m fond of viewing is that it’s using rather is that it’s not a deficit. It’s, it’s a difference, but mind you I’m coming from the perspective of, well, obviously being very communicative, my types of support needs are very different.
I’m ridiculously independent, not every autistic person is there may be just some considerable anxieties and triggers and things that manifest more strongly in others. For me, some things. You know, manifest more strongly in my frame of reference may not do so in others. So I think the spectrum part where I think the visual may help in that is that it’s not a linear thing from like high to low.
I look at it as more of like a circular, um, element, which had a way I could draw it. I would, which where you may represent or have different kinds of, you know, deficits or challenges or manifestations like. I don’t really get angry much anymore. I have three kids I’m too tired and too, I’ve got a lot of that squeezed out of me.
But you may find other autistic people, you know, have significant challenges with this, or they’re even more rigid in their routines than I am. Like I can be spontaneous. Some points, you know? So I, um, I think it’s tough because we, you know, as autistic advocates and activists become more vocal, we don’t like to look at being under the broad brush of disability disordered, but rather like it’s okay that you acknowledge that we’re different or in some cases to where.
It is a disability. It is an obstacle. And that sometimes those obstacles are things that can be worked through. Sometimes they’re not, sometimes it’s just, you know, how society fits in and nurtures a culture of, you know, tact never be direct. You have to make small talk in order to get a point across, you need to say yes to a child’s birthday party.
Like things like that to where it’s like, well, It’s a societal construct that doesn’t really jive with how we operate. That’s not a good, bad thing. It’s just a difference that leads to a disconnect, which leads to disruption. And then people hate you and say, you’re mean, that’s a challenge. So that’s kind of my roundabout take on it.
I, I, again, Cause my, my anger symptoms are not as, as high. It doesn’t quite make me angry, but I can see where it’s problematic, but invite some nuance to discuss like, well, yeah, it’s a spectrum, but here’s how I look at it. Or you can call it a disorder or, you know, here’s how I see it as a neurological difference.
And here’s why. So in some cases I don’t, I don’t mind that. Cause then it invites discussion and then it kind of adds a little bit of friction that creates a spark that hopefully lights a fuse of knowledge or wherever that analogy could go.
So you mentioned neuro-typical being like, um, I would think it’s like the autistic, It’s comparative to cis-gender normative in a way.
Right? Like you see, you have to, like, when I say normy, that’s like, you know, people each have their own, own kind of language as that evolved with time, language is constantly evolving, right? Yeah. So, you know, to somebody in the LGBTQIA+ community, I’m a cisgendered woman. That’s married to him. So I’m typical.
Right? And so when you say, neuro-typical versus neurodivergent, I mean, how do you feel about these language bits? And is it something that you think autistic the autistic community is essentially championing? Like this is how we prefer to be recognized, as opposed to just saying you’re on the spectrum.
I would, from my standpoint, I have had to broad. My own perspective on neurodivergence because there’s, there’s neuro divergence and then there’s, there’s autism under the neurodivergent umbrella. You have, you have ADHD, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, Tourettes, um, and then also. So, I, I don’t like to even embrace autism as the premiere neurodivergence because if you’re, you know, if you have ADHD or struggle with dyspraxia, that is still a neurodivergence, you may be fine with routines.
You may have different challenges that are still very valid, and I want to be broadly acknowledging of those. So I will say it, like, when we talk about, on the spectrum, I have seen that as kind of like a, it’s more like a colloquial. Offhand term that has gotten a little bit more of a negative connotation as like is dismissive in some sense. When we talk about language there’s, there’s the connotative elements that sometimes just get, uh, You know, attached to certain words to where it’s like, this was neutral and now it is not neutral or this was once really taboo, but now it’s now it’s embraced by different communities. So that’s the way I prefer it.
And I, I almost, oddly enough, I got this from a star wars book to where. You know, um, I think it was an argument with somebody in princess Leia, and it’s like, well, you’re using human and non-human like, you’re diminishing my status in a way to frame it as non-human. And I don’t even like to do that to say autistic.
And non-autistic you get like a certain in-group out-group mentality to where. I, I don’t want any negativity or ex like exclusionary language applied to, you know, neuro-typical people like I could say, oh, you’re not autistic. You don’t get it. Rather I could go with, you know, you’re neuro-typical, you may not have these struggles that autistic people or other neurodivergent people might have.
And for what it’s worth, I. You know, I’m, I’m by no means an expert or as woken all the terminology and the specificities and it just like I have to. And that’s why I kind of lean and say, like my experiences, my expertise, I, I may advocate and I may educate, but I’m not here to bust out the autism dictionary or, Hey, here’s a term you should never use.
Or here’s why this word is actually bad. And you’re evil. I don’t get too far into that because then it really adds to a certain kind of like, um, hanging in other words, like gatekeeping, like go, Hey, I know all the terms that I know how to use them all correctly. And if you don’t, then you’re bad. And that’s where it very quickly goes.
People will camp upon that re like very quickly acquired expertise without empathy.
Well, and the discussion will devolve into an arguments.
Yes. It comes to semantics and I just, I can’t, that’s why I do not call myself an autism activist because then it does get into just very specific terms, types, and people who just get, like, my word is vituperative about it.
And it’s like, I’m old. I have children, I have a job. I don’t have the energy for this kind of fight that others do. I would rather, you, you know, have a growth mindset and be the kind who is receptive to it. So if somebody says high functioning autism, I don’t pull out my, you know, strident, shotgun and just level them.
No, it’s like, you know, Hey, let’s talk about that. Like, you know, I, I used to consider myself high functioning. But as an autistic adult, you know, I learn and then it’s like, boom, I, I reflect on my experience. I don’t flatten them like a pancake. I just share, Hey, here’s how my view evolved on it. As somebody who used to use that term and you know, where it was once problematic, what it diminishes, you know?
And then just,
well, how do you self identify today then?
I’ve just, I’m autistic. It’s like, do you want levels? Like what? I don’t know the levels, like, is there, is it a level 99? Like, do I get some kind of war law com page level? If I hit level 100 and that’s it like, no, and I think
Ok, so you’re also revealing you’re a gamer.
No, I’m not. I’m actually, no. My dad had me sell my Sega Genesis as a young man, and that was actually not part of a lot of my life. I do know my way around Pokemon. So, but that said, it’s like, I’m autistic. And if people want to know, well, are you like one of those? It’s like, no, I’ll tell you what I struggle with.
They’ll tell you about my types of support needs because they’re they’re different. And that way you have a more complete understanding of Hunter. Al in and outside of my autism, whereas another autistic person, you know, they may reflect something completely different. So I, I try not to complicate it the more they get to know me, the more they realize.
Okay. He’s, you know, he, he shares a lot of similarities with other autistic people. I know or know Hunter’s actually very different from the other autistic people. I know, but he’s still autistic because of X, Y, and Z, but I usually just go with it. And smile and then start getting them talking about other things.
So they’ll do the talking. So I don’t have.
Well in your career, you’ve leveraged your difference for good. You talk for a moment about your own superpowers. So I’d like to know a little bit more about how you thrive in corporate America today. And how have you changed the difference that you experience in your daily life and leveraged it as a superpower?
It’s funny. Cause I, one of my future episodes that I want to do is, um, Basically shattering a little bit of myth as the autistic superpower. Not that it’s wrong, but I feel like it’s nice to have some ways that it accentuates and sharpen some strengths, but it doesn’t come without its cryptonite. Or share of faux pas..
So while I may be pretty dextrous at keeping a conversation going, if somebody uses a certain kind of idiom that I don’t get, I’m pretty lost. Pretty quick. Someone mentioned like, yeah, you know, just don’t call me after, you know, five o’clock or I’ll be, you know, hanging from the rafters and they all laughed and I’m like, I don’t know what that means, but I should laugh because everybody else is laughing, but I don’t know if they’re laughing because they understand the phrase or they understand this person.
So I have found that it, it has kind of segmented into where I knew it was, was skilled. Uh, it was really good at communications. I got good at talking to people. I started out as a, uh, uh, technical support agent. Handling phone calls. It was anxiety inducing and I for the first six months and each of the roles I had in that domain, I was sick to my stomach.
Couldn’t keep anything down, but I learned how to like really triage people, their emotions, their symptoms.
I was a first until I learned everybody. Yeah. Everybody responds to different approaches, whether direct whether exuberant. So I got really good at like reading people. And then additionally, um, you know, my current gig is more of like business systems analysis. Um, my strength was actually in like stakeholder relations.
I’ve told people, like I can’t sit and learn a programming language because I’m not motivated to do that. Without context. I am motivated when I want to solve a problem. If I have a good enough problem, you know, I would, I don’t always say this, but it’s like, don’t, I can just let the autism kick in because then it’s this certain, the fangs come out and I’ll just sink my teeth in it.
And it’s like the zeroing in, in this hyper-focus and it’s not because. You know, uh, it’s not because it’s like, you know, Hey, learn Python it’s I need to solve X for Y to Z to do this. And then it’s like, okay, how do we go about it? But, you know, in other cases, probably a good example is that I struggle with them again.
So when somebody asks me a very vague question, other people, you know, even other autistic people may process that at face value, but I know myself, I’m a hyper introspective. I know that it’s a challenge. So I’m the type who will measure six different ways before finally delivering. And I’ll profess like.
Let me like, can I clarify what you meant by that? Hey, do you want to like set up a quick meeting? Like I know it’s, it’s only 10 minutes, but I’ll tell you what if we meet for 10 minutes, I can have this done like 10 times as fast. Cause I’ll know exactly what you’re asking for. So people will ask for what I call like the sushi menu of metrics, reporting KPIs.
It’s like 18 different things. They’ll be like, Let me just, you know, without saying, I need this to be simpler. It’s like, look, I’m, I’m a simple man. I’m sure you have a simple goal. What exactly are you just looking to do at the end of the day? What do you want to report up on? And they’ll just kind of sign and relax.
Okay. At the end of the day, I just want to do this and it’s like, I’m glad you said that because you don’t need these 1800.
What I’m betting is that, that actually serves them a lot too. I, yeah. It’s. I can tell you as an executive, who’s worked alongside other executives. Sometimes we have an idea of what we want or need, but don’t necessarily think through all the steps that it takes to get there.
And so if somebody that’s reporting to us, You know, doesn’t have a clear concept of what that idea is that we think that we’ve shared, then you’re just sitting there spinning your wheels. And so we don’t get what we’re asking for. And then suddenly, you know, it’s like, it’s on your. It’s not your fault, but you could even take the blame for something that really was just a simple misunderstanding.
So I just think that that is a good practice for everybody.
I know. And it’s like, and it’s. Yeah. And it’s one of those where, you know, as an autistic manager, at one point I would break things down. Very specifically or ask like, Hey, do you need me to just kind of like lay this out as much? Or do you feel like you have enough detail?
I would usually default and say, Hey, when I mean, this here’s what it looks like. So there’s no ambiguity. So there’s like a certain, it’s funny how, like even my autistic lens can kind of track and find. The best way to do something or at least try to, because then I know it, it erases that ambiguity struggles.
So I almost approach it from like, Hey, I know this is my deficit. So here’s how I address that deficit, you know? Um, yeah. It’s not always perfect. There’s some things I just like, even with interviews, um, I love talking about interviews because I interviewed very well. Because I can just like brute force all the scenarios and just tell stories for each of them, you know?
And like, most people don’t think about that. They think about like, they think more about like, just pretending, like they would have the answer to specific questions. Like it’s, uh, like it’s a history test and it’s, it’s not, it really isn’t. So there’s certain, uh, autistic self-talk rehearsals that I can do.
There’s certain extemporraneous breadcrumbs. I can leave myself. I know I get so anxious that the only way to erode anxiety is to erode any possibility of surprise, which sounds ridiculous. But it’s like I have thought through and almost bore Haitian fashion, the 686 ways that this interview could go and have planned and accounted for all of them.
So that way I jump in and it’s like, your onus on surprising me is pretty great because I’ve thought through so many of these scenarios is that autistic and strange? Yes. Have I gotten really good at interviews? Also. Yes. So I, but that’s, again, like I’m aware of where I have some innate deficits, but also opportunities to leverage some other strengths and compensate for that.
Okay. So the problem I have with this interview and the research I’ve done, um, specific to this interview, including reviewing a lot of your videos online and doing some reading myself, is that I’m convincing myself I’m autistic. So the here’s this problem, right? Like the, the more you seek to understand things, um, suddenly it’s like, you’re reading a list of symptoms online and you’ve convinced yourself you have cancer.
Um, in my case, I suffer from hyper-focused where I can get so scored into one particular thing that I can think about almost nothing else. Um, I also have tended to over-prepare for just about everything in my life, including, uh, back in the day when we didn’t necessarily have everything off in the cloud. Um, going on business trips, I would have a thumb drive backup.
I would have every adapter possibly. I think about going from a computer into a projection device, I would have printed out copies and basically all of these fail safes, just taking care of because there was an off chance that something could go wrong and I wanted to be prepared for it. Or I would be overcome with nerves and people never saw me as nervous.
Because I would spend all of that extra time and preparation and then I could be more at ease. Still get the stomach butterflies, still get some of the symptoms that I could identify. Maybe somebody else outside didn’t but, uh, yeah, just very revealing. Very revealing this interview and also your podcast.
And I’m sorry, not your podcast, but your YouTube channel. I feel like I’m just obsessed with everything podcast. So another symptom, another hyper-focus issue.
There you go. I, you know, Hey, you may very well be I, and there’s some symptoms that, that. Overlap. I think one of the jokes is that, uh, you know, I’m autistic and I may exhibit a certain symptom of it.
Right. A joke is like, like I like doing a reels because if I don’t do a whole video, I can encapsulate it into something small, but I’m watching movies. I have a very difficult time watching a movie, uh, because I’ll just be on Wikipedia. Be like, Hey, I know that person’s voice and I did this. Oh no, I couldn’t do it during.
Okay. So my daughter is a DuckTales episode, which had to airplay from my iPhone. And it, there was a, it was like, you know, Goldie, the guilt or something. It was Scrooge McDuck, old flame. And I knew that lady’s voice, but it’s like, it was killing me that I couldn’t pause it to look it up. Cause my children would riot.
I know this is David Tennant. I know this is big Bennett. This lady’s voice sounds familiar. It was Allison Janney. I was like, aha. Like the tone. So I had to wait like 20 minutes just to get to the end credits and. And I’m like, is that what normal people struggle with? Is that when neuro-typical struggle with, I should say, like, can somebody just sit and watch an episode of DuckTales and think this is really funny.
This is really clever and not think I have to know who does every voice here, but then I find that some people do that and they’re not autistic. Obsessed with voice actors. Um, my wife, actually.
You have more immediate gratification now because if you’re watching a movie on Amazon prime, for instance, you can pause it and it’ll automate tell you!
Pause and you show the extra, if trouble is when you know, like my wife and I are watching stuff, it’s like, Emily, Hey, do you need to do the bathrooms?
I can pause it or just tap the screen by accident. Hey, hold on. I got to see who did, uh, who was this actor? Or like he didn’t play this. It was a Bobby Fischer movie. I’m like, hang on. Did they actually get this real footage here? Cause that looks like the guy I. But on traits though, like my wife is neuro-typical, but she will get so focused on a task.
I have to remind her like, You know, your poached, egg and toast is getting cold. Don’t forget to eat it. Like she won’t, but it’s one of those where I am for me though, I’m too focused on eating. Like I eat to finish my meal and I have a hyper-speed like, I gotta eat so quick so I can clean it, then deal with the kids.
But it’s funny how I see creative hyper-focus and others, but you know, my wife is introverted, but she. She’s empathetic in ways or she does not overthink to the degree I do. So there’s some overlap to our autistic people have very human idiosyncrasies that, you know, what may be an autistic product. They may not be.
But when coupled with all the other stuff, like if I. You know, if I do some things out of sequence or if I don’t poach eggs in a specific pan with, and I have three specific utensils, which if I can’t use, it’s like anxiety inducing. If I don’t have my little spatula, if I don’t have my one water bottle to pour the water, like very.
Very specific, you know, like if I don’t have my typical white bowl, like I used to make ramen noodles and I was heartbroken when I couldn’t do it in my favorite orange bowl because I had three and they all broke after years. And when I got to the last broken one, it’s like, how am I supposed to eat ramen?
Most other people would just say put it in a different bowl, but I didn’t have my orange bowl, which meshed with the really nice orangy brothy colors. So am I showing my autism? I’m showing my autism, like, it’s just like Hunter stop.
My husband is going to crack up when he sees this interview and he’s going to tell me I’m autistic.
That’s all may very well be if so, welcome to the club. I would surprise you how many people find out and then just realize they put stuff together. Um, and I have some who. I have one very, uh, he’s pretty prominent in, like, I can say the Tableau community and it’s like borderline, but he’s like hunter, the more I watch your videos, man.
Yeah. It’s like, you’re just like the same. And I’m like, yeah, there’s probably a reason for that. Like, you know, just like that, just the way he responds to situations. Although it’s, I mean, that’s, that’s me too, man. Unless you grew up in the same exact circumstance, uh, it might be autism buddy. I don’t know what to tell ya.
I don’t know what to tell me.
But sorry that it’s a problem, but I hope it’s, it’s less of a problem and more of a profound realization and discovery. Yeah, we’re nice. We don’t, we don’t all bite, you know?
Well, we’ll see. Um, I can’t promise that I won’t ever bite just like, uh, you know, you have a dog, right? Like every dog eventually will bite it right.
Yeah, they have the capacity to do so. Yes, I have discovered this.
So just getting back to the basics here, this podcast is really all about social good. And it really is my belief that through understanding our differences and our similarities that we can leverage these differences as strengths, that we can create a more just and good planet world. So I’d like for you to talk to me about what we can collectively do to support people like yourself and possibly even myself and this neurodivergent community.
Yeah. One of the more common questions I get. Yeah. Is, especially in my workplace advocacy where I will list out the things that really stress out a lot of undiagnosed or diagnosed and undisclosed, autistic people, again, mind you workplace thing, but you know, I’ll talk about like, Hey, like don’t ever walk up to somebody and just say, Hey, you got a sec to talk.
Like, no, or even like do the small talk and I go like a whole list of things, but I had questions about. How are you supposed to know when somebody is autistic? Like you’re giving all these really great guidelines to help manage and help better understand and work with autistic people. But what if, like, what if you just don’t know it is an invisible disability.
That’s when you act with the essence of accommodation to where you are operating like this by default, you don’t like you, front-load your request. You tell people, Hey, do you have a second to talk? I just need to cover XYZ. The, this and that here, you know, can we meet, or did you want me to do this? You’re basically front-loading, you’re giving agency options that benefits anybody.
Similar thing is what I’ve learned about alt text and photos. I have a great disability advocate and a coworker where I work and it’s like, I don’t know if I have any visually impaired or blind followers on a lot of my visual mediums. But I always put in alt text to describe the picture. I don’t know my audience, but I want to be accommodating.
My videos don’t exist without closed captioning. Like I will go and I even watch the captioning on my own because not everybody is going to, uh, You know, listen. And in fact, a vast majority of people don’t even watch my videos. They’ll listen to them because they, they don’t like some of the camera tricks or they just like the fact that I sound a little like Owen Wilson.
So it’s more about like a more understanding.
I’m glad you brought that up because you said that there in one of your videos of, you said a specific phrase, it was very…
Well. Yeah. It’s Oh Wow.. Well, oh wow. I do sound like Owen, and yeah, I it’s becoming, I don’t mind that. So it is, if I deliberately do it or I mellow out a little bit and, you know, just use some of the like phrases he uses and segue into that I can, I can get it on that.
I was, but that being said, I think when you have a greater understanding of autism and other neurodivergent people and how it manifests, the goal is that it can change behavior. The way I sum it up is this, like, I really try to promote just listening to more autistic people, articulating their experiences, you know?
Um, there’s always a hot topic, du jour in the autism community that people rally around and get angry about sometimes it’s for good reasons. Sometimes it’s because I hate to say it. People. They don’t have enough to do other than to get angry. And I find that with maturity, you learn to kind of adapt and pick your spots.
And instead of trying to throw bricks against a building, you use your bricks for bridges, you’re a diplomat. Then they let you in to help affect decisions. Plenty of examples. I had one of those actually happened, but my advocacy is less about getting mad about the flavor of the month or that sour taste of the month and more of when you’ve got an autistic woman.
Going into her first job interview and she can’t make eye contact because it’s a struggle and she’s just not doing it and uses a $10 word. Like I would use in an interview. You know, that interviewer who is pre enlightened to autism and how it manifests may think this person’s not even focused on me.
Their eyes are all over the place and they just used a word I don’t understand. And I feel stupid. They’re probably not a good fit because they’re probably just showing off their vocabulary. They seem uninterested. Whereas somebody who has listened to autistic activists, advocates, or watched a YouTube channel of mine or whatever may stop and think, you know, what eye contact might not be such a big deal.
They’re very thoughtful in their approaches. Yeah. They used a really big word, but it’s probably really specific for this. Let me try to draw some more out of it. It’s that kind of advocacy to where you don’t even have to know who you’re dealing with, whether they’re neurodivergent or not your approach and your accommodating stance and the way you’re kind of broadening how you interact, how you, in essence, not shut out.
People. Somebody says something rude to you. Like I do all the time. You know, the more people know. Hunter is not rude. He’s, he’s autistic and he prefers to be direct for economy and efficiency’s sake. And he’ll always follow up to be more explanatory and then go work his ass off to get what I need, because he does care.
He’s just getting to the point, you know, 10 years ago, five years ago, it was Hunter’s a rude ass. End of story and, you know, that’s, that’s unfortunate. I don’t want that same, that same kind of barrier to befall people based on their lack of understanding and their lack of assumption or their rather their assumptions that frankly just need to be eroded and their understanding built to better understand us.
Well, that’s an incredible goal to keep in mind, get to a space where people. Just take a moment to think through their assumptions before they jump to a conclusion that could be really shortsighted when it comes down to it.
And, hurtful, you know, it’s like, I, yeah, I don’t, I don’t always go into the examples, but it’s just like, I, I hate for people to be.
Dismissed for who they are based on somebody’s lack of understanding and not, not because they chose it, but just because they haven’t been exposed to that perspective, then let’s say the way I use like pre enlightened, like ignorance assumes a willful like stupid component. But I feel like. Those who are pre enlightened stand to be enlightened and feel better about like, Hey, you didn’t know this before, and now you do.
That’s awesome. Your perspective can change. This was a strong opinion. Loosely held, go hang onto another one stronger until you find a better one. And hopefully like, I think even autistic people. Change and grow. I have grown in my own approach and my own thoughts and my own views. And, you know, I like to think that it’s, I’ve doubled down on the more important things and I’ve let go of the more, you know, unimportant things.
The, the trifling matters and, you know, latched on to things that really make more of a difference. But yeah, that’s, that’s kinda my spiel on that.
Well, before we get ready to close, I like to ask all of my guests a simple question. Is there a question I haven’t asked that you wish I had, or some thought or idea that you wanted to leave our audience?
Shucks. I actually got this in an interview once and I think I was the one who asked it and the interviewers were like, uh, no, no further, no further questions. I feel like, you know, I think we covered, I think we covered a lot of ground and I think where you ended it as like, what’s, what’s the goal. How do you take this information and make it a better world?
And what’s tough about it is that I like, it’s not so much, like you can go. And do something like I’ll give a trite example. I, you know, we have like a new recycling service in town. Like if it were, if it was something like that, upcycling or secondhand use or whatever, like you could have a takeaway to find five items that can be loved by somebody else and, you know, part, would those be less of a hoarder?
I’m a, I’m a, self-professed minimalist. It’s nice to have things you can latch on and do, but when it comes to autism appreciation, It’s one of those where your, your actions are more going to be defined by your reactions. You’re going to run into somebody you’re going to get into, like, this may be like the Baader Meinhof phenomenon too, where like, you’re going to find somebody just going on about a special interest off on themselves and just talking and talking and monologuing.
And instead of thinking, man, is this guy just doesn’t get it. They’re so rude in their heart. And then it’s like, well, well, hold on, wait a minute. I listened to this podcast. Where this guy talked about autism symptoms and realize that hyper fixations and monologuing and creating a self, uh, like a flywheel of conversational model with this may be somebody who feels comfortable sharing a topic that they’re knowledgeable about.
And the best thing I can do for their self-esteem is, you know, maybe engage, maybe listen, maybe even take it in a different direction. Somebody asked me about chess and I talk about grand masters. It’s really interesting history. You ever play like a really tough game before to where you got to use one of these tricks.
Like that kind of question, like, you may have nothing to do with chess, but like, wow. I, my eyes would light up. I’d probably stop and think. Well, yeah, I was playing a monk at a Renaissance festival. I paid a dollar to win them out, you know? So like, I mean, it may engage a different part. So instead of like, just nodding and saying, oh, huh, your.
Your perception, your assumptions have been eroded just a little bit to where the opportunity may instead come to you and that’s your chance to take action. So, or if you want to do some practical subscribed to actually autistic YouTubers, you know, help us get the word out, you know, share that abroad.
Cause I, you know, it’s not a zero sum game, but I do feel like the narrative is absolutely friggin dominated by. You know, people, um, you know, like autism parents, I would say, you know, especially in America, if you hear an adult and the word autism. It’s usually, Hey, my children are autistic, nothing wrong with that.
But if all you’re hearing from is people talking about autism? Think about like, am I actually hearing from autistic people, imagine other marginalized communities to where, you know, I like me. I don’t care if I have a degree in like, you know, uh, like native American history. I should seed my platform to elevate.
Native Americans articulating and elaborating on their experience, their understanding their culture, irrespective of how hunter Hanson may have acquired that. Like there’s a, there’s a time and a place to where, Hey, we need to go for more authentic voices. Maybe not the best example, but I feel like there’s a lot of authentic autistic voices that are just being drowned out by, I would say well-meaning allies, well-meaning advocates, and that’s cool.
Happy to have you as a partner, but. Let me step up and tell you what it’s really like. And I like to invite perspectives from, from that standpoint too.
And yours is one of those voices. So how do people connect with and find you, what is the best way to learn more about hunter and his experiences in autistic adults?
Oh, the thing that that delights me find my. YouTube channel. So it’s Hunter Hanson, the life autistic. So you know that it’s, uh, it’s me and definitely autism. Um, The Life Autistic on Instagram as well. So if you want more bite sized content, that’s basically just me and my kids and talking about stuff without, um, It’s a feel good spot.
Like I share a lot of life. It’s not the typical Instagram costs. Cause my camera’s not that great. My kids don’t stay still and I’m not really good at duck faces and poses, but, but it is, it is pretty unvarnished, it’s it? You know? And I just, I like to share a lot of that because it’s what, it’s how autistic adults really live.
And then my blog on The Life Autistic , so if you like to read. How I write and put my English degree to use and just kind of get some more written narratives that you can come back to, uh, feel free to follow along there. So that’s, that’s my trifecta. I’m on other places too. So if you happen upon me, great.
Well, thank you hunter for spending some time with us today, I will include all of those links in my show notes. So everyone can easily find you. I will say it has been a pure joy to interview you today and also to have the chance to watch your YouTube videos. So thank you and keep up.
Now listeners, I’d like to invite you to act. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be as simple as sharing this podcast with people in your community. You could check out Hunter’s YouTube page and his Instagram, give them a follow alike and just keep the conversation, going to find suggestions. You can always visit our action page oncaremorebebetter.com.
You’ll find causes and companies that we encourage you to support. And I invite you to join the conversation and be a part of the community we’re building together. You can follow us on social spaces at CareMore be better, or just send an email to email@example.com. I want to hear from you.
Thank you listeners now. And always for being a part of this pod and this community, because together we can really do so much more. We can care more and be better. Thank you.