Interview between Speaker 1 (Meg), Speaker 2 (Jacklyn Googins), and Speaker 3 (Greg Boheler)
If you’re enjoying this podcast, you’ll love my free 50-minute training, ‘Autism-specific strategies that transform OT practice’. In this training, I dive into the places where many OT’s are getting autism wrong, why it matters way more than we realize, and four concrete strategies you can start using right away. We even talk in-depth about what we know now about autism learning styles, because when we can shift our perspective and truly consider how autistic kids think and learn, we can start generating more meaningful and effective interventions to help our clients find more joy, independence, connection, and acceptance in their lives. Visit learnplaythrive.com/masterclass to start learning right away.
Welcome to the Two Sides of the Spectrum Podcast. A place where we explore research, amplify autistic voices, and change the way we think about autism in life, and in occupational therapy practice. I’m Meg Proctor from learnplaythrive.com.
Meg: Before we get started, a quick note on language. On this podcast, you’ll hear me and many of my guests use identity-affirming language. That means we say, ‘autistic person,’ rather than, ‘person with autism’. What we’re hearing from the majority of autistic adults is that autism is a part of their identity that they don’t need to be separated from. Autism is not a disease, it’s a different way of thinking and learning. Join me in embracing the word ‘autistic’ to help reduce the stigma.
Welcome to episode 20 with Jacklyn Googins and Greg Boheler. Jacklyn, who identifies as a neuro-lurker — maybe neurotypical, but maybe not; she’ll talk about that more in the episode — and Greg, who is autistic, are 2nd year OT students who have already accomplished so much in their pro-neurodiversity careers. Jacklyn is the founder of the inclusive pop-up coffee stand in Chapel Hill, NC, B3 Coffee, and Greg is a B3 board member. Jacklyn & Greg together co-founded the social media movement, OT’s for Neurodiversity.
Jacklyn hopes to carve a non-traditional path as a future OT. She is interested in inclusive workplace practices, neurodiversity in higher education, and post-secondary transition. She considers herself an ally and an aspiring accomplice with neurodivergent populations. Greg intends to leverage his divergent way of thinking and OT background as an advocate and a narrative shifter. Greg is a skeptic by nature who believes in the importance of questioning the way things have always been done, and challenging ableist assumptions that are embedded within the OT profession. This is exactly what Jacklyn and Greg do in this episode. We talk about the content that they share in OT’s for Neurodiversity, from reframing echolalia, to strengths-based approaches, to sensory processing. And we explore the empowering model that B3 Coffee models, and the changes this can inspire in all of our work. Here’s the interview.
Hi, Jacklyn and Greg! Welcome to the podcast.
Jacklyn: Hey, we’re so glad to be here. Thank you so much.
Greg: Thanks, Meg.
Meg: Yeah! Okay, let’s jump right in. Tell me about OT’s for Neurodiversity. What is it, and why did you start it?
Jacklyn: Yeah. So, we are really just uncomfortable with a mismatch between what we were being taught in school about autism, and what we knew from listening and engaging in online communities with autistic adults. OT has really been siphoned into a medical model that approaches differences as a deficit, as something that needs to be fixed. And we wanted to flip that narrative — influence a paradigm shift toward a more identity-affirming and culturally sensitive understanding of neurodiversity.
So, what OT’s for Neurodiversity is, is a space for OT’s to inform their practice based on the voices and lived experiences of neurodivergent individuals. You know, when we think about the occupational adaptation model, the burden of change is typically placed on the autistic person rather than the people, environments, and culture surrounding them. So, as occupational therapists, our role is to break down barriers to participation, and that means acknowledging that oftentimes we are the barriers. Our limited understanding and bias against the way autistic people think, learn, and communicate really just leads to a failure to honor and nurture their way of being, their occupational identity, and possibilities.
Greg: So, one thing that we’ve kind of seen with the field of occupational therapy is that we’ve kind of gotten stuck in this biomedical rut, and we believe that doesn’t necessarily align with what the tenets of neurodiversity are. And I think this is kind of — it’s really a pessimistic and eliminating way of thinking about occupation, and about how we are being and doing in the world. And it underestimates the potential for an occupational lens, and the strengths that can be found in each individual despite their differences.
I’m a strong believer in our differences being in our weaknesses, or what is perceived as weaknesses, being where we really truly reveal our humanity. I think humankind’s most essential trait, or like most prominent trait, honestly, is imperfection. And I think imperfection is a benign word. It’s neither good nor bad. It holds no power dynamics. It’s just a simple fact, and we are all imperfect. But it’s this imperfection that creates the beauty about diversity.
Unfortunately, with society, differences, and vulnerability, and imperfection is not necessarily valued. That’s one of the reasons why there appears to be a disconnect between the disability community and those without disabilities. Because disability kind of reminds us of our inherent vulnerabilities and our own imperfections, especially when it’s a visible disability. Diversity, though, I believe is our true essence, and it’s necessary, it’s beautiful, and I think that’s why neurodiversity is really an important cause for me.
Meg: That’s lovely. And hearing you both say this, it feels obvious once I’ve heard it, right. Like, yes, of course that’s true. But while OT schools are, to some degree, getting better about focusing on racism, and anti-racism, and cultural oppression and domination, and gender orientation, sexual orientation, these issues, it seems like the neurodiversity model is coming more slowly to the way we are trained. And you’re about a decade ahead of me. You two are OT students still, saying these things. So, I’m a little bit curious. I want to get to some of the content that you share. But I’m curious how you both arrived here, given that this isn’t the paradigm that’s in our face; the paradigm that’s in our face, in our training usually, and in our lives is the medical model. So, how, in broad strokes, how did you arrive at thinking the way you do about disability?
Jacklyn: Well, personally, I have always felt like an outsider in some way. I’ve been different socially, and just in the way I engage in the world. I guess I consider myself a neuro-lurker, is what it’s called. So, someone who is not sure whether they’re neurodivergent, but maybe has an inclination toward that, and really can relate to what autistic people share about their experience. I’ve always found it easiest for me to connect with people who are neurodivergent. So, the neurodiversity paradigm, honestly just leads to deeper self-understanding and acceptance for myself. I really just appreciate the authenticity that comes with it, the freedom to be myself. And I think that’s really what OT is about, that we can really embrace our identities, and our natural variation as humans, and that we would realize — I love what you share about self-actualization, because I think that really should be the ultimate outcome of OT.
Greg: I totally agree with that. For me, I feel like I’ve arrived to neurodiversity relatively recently — like, very recently. So, I’m autistic, and I was a late diagnosis. They kind of had the whole collection of ADHD, and some OCD tendencies, and all that before they finally arrived at my diagnosis when I was in my 20’s. So, me kind of exploring this community — the autistic community and the neurodiversity community, has been a more recent development. And I found that the online space, especially social media, and that’s one of the reasons why we do use social media as a platform. It’s a really great place to connect, and learn, and kind of create and share a shared understanding, I guess, with other people that are neurodivergent.
Meg: I love that, and I love how you tied that to the virtual context, as Sarah Selvaggi-Hernandez likes to talk about. And she’s been on the podcast talking about positive autistic self-identity; that people need spaces where they can connect, and reframe, and often the virtual context is where that’s available increasingly. But I also love how you brought it back around to self-actualization meaning not fitting into the box and being willing to not fit in to the box. And I really, as a non-autistic person, am seeing over and over again how this is such a strength of many autistic people. Of saying, “You know, I already don’t fit into this box, let me question that box, and that one, and that one too.” Whereas, if you are used to fitting into the dominant paradigm, it takes a lot more work to think outside of it. So, we really have to be doing the work of listening to people who say, “You know what, question all of those boxes, and you might actually be happier and more fully yourself.”
Greg: I think it sounds like you’re tapping into one of my little passion projects, which is really taking and applying a skeptic’s lens to everything. I was always kind of brought up in a nurturing environment where I was taught, “Question everything, because that’s how you learn,” and that also means questioning the assumed ways of doing things, the supposedly right way of doing things. But we know there’s no one right way. There’s a million different ways, and that’s what makes humankind so amazing and beautiful. It’s because we’re all different, we all have our own approaches and our own ways of being.
Jacklyn: Yeah, and I think it’s important to also point out that when different ways of being and doing are embraced, it benefits everyone. One example I can think of is the Zoom world that we’re in. While it definitely is not ideal for everyone, it’s also opened up new modalities of communication. So, I find myself participating in class mostly by using the chat, but that is most comfortable for me and really allows me to offer a perspective in a way that feels comfortable. And yeah, I just think that when we embrace those different ways of engaging in the world, it benefits everyone.
Meg: Absolutely. Yes, so I could talk to you all day about your personal journey, but you have such good content on your OT’s for Neurodiversity social media pages, and I want to dive into a little bit of it. So, talk me through one example of some of the content that you share.
Jacklyn: Yeah. So far, we’ve released two series of tips comprised of tangible strategies that therapists can use to deepen their understanding and appreciation of autistic people. The first series that we released was ‘Bridging the gap in neurotypical and neurodivergent communication styles,’ so I thought I’d just share one of our favorite tips from that series, and then Greg is going to elaborate on it a little bit and provide a more tangible example. So, echolalia really is so much more than what has often been referred to as ‘meaningless speech’. Really, it always has some kind of association or purpose. Sometimes it’s used in the context of stimming, and sometimes it relates to a familiar movie, and it really brings a sense of predictability in the world. So, really, we want OT’s to know through this tip that all behavior is communication, and it’s important to see echolalia as an opportunity to identify the connections that that person may be making, and really deepen your understanding of them.
Greg: And I’ll follow that up with more of a visual idea of what it is for those that need, you know, analogies and stories to understand things. So, like, Jacklyn said, “All behaviors are communication.” All behavior serves a purpose, and echolalia can be a form of stimming, but it can also be a way to meaningfully communicate or connect with some kind of association. So, the example that I think of is that I do some cooking classes. I teach cooking classes for young adults in the transition age with ID, or autism, or a variety of different divergences. And one person that I work with, he really loves consonant sounds, and he really loves fun words. So, one of his favorite words is ‘Furby’. I mean, it’s got an ‘F’ and a ‘-urb’. I mean, it’s a great word.
And so, we were cooking, and he goes, “You know how Furbies say, ‘Yum’?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and so then he starts saying, “Yum, yum, yum.” And he’s saying it over, and he’s laughing, and I’m like, “Okay, what is this? Where’s this coming from?” I mean, he’s clearly enjoying the word. It took me a couple of weeks, but I found out that when he was a child, he had a Furby, and the Furby was saying, “Yum”. So, he felt Furby was hungry and he gave it some sugar — a spoonful of sugar, you know, I guess to help the medicine go down or something. And it broke the inside mechanism of the Furby. So, anytime in the kitchen, when we were dealing with sugar, he would start perseverating on the ‘Yum’ and using that as his echolalic way of communicating a story, that it was like an inside joke that I didn’t know. But I had to kind of dive in to get and see that connection to his childhood.
Meg: And Greg, remind us, if some of us have forgotten or never knew what a Furby is.
Greg: It’s — oh, gosh. It’s like a little fuzz ball with a beak, and big eyes, and like a plastic nose. It was like from the 90’s. Yeah.
Meg: So, you really did the work to sort of enter his world and understand what this Furby ‘Yum’ thing he was saying meant to him?
Meg: That’s great. I think this is such an important example that a lot of us are taught wrong, just wrong, or we see modeled wrong, to try and stop echolalia rather than trying to understand and appreciate echolalia. And that’s a great example of your content. Because it is very deep. You go way beyond the surface level, it’s very relevant, and it’s also easy to digest. So, you’re inspiring these quick and important shifts. Do you have another example that you want to walk us through?
Jacklyn: Yeah, sure. So, the next example is from our series, ‘Reframing autism: A strengths-based lens’. And this is around the sensory experience of autistic people. So, we really just want to appreciate that autistic people see beauty and experience bliss in ways that many people will never discover because of their sensory needs. And given the appropriate supports and environments to explore in ways that feel meaningful to them, it’s actually really a gift of insight and should be viewed in that way.
Greg: Yeah, as far as sensory goes, I often think, “Man, y’all are neurotypicals. You guys are missing out a little bit.” I think it’d be great if anybody could experience a single walk through the forest through my lens — through an autistic person’s lens — and honestly, wouldn’t that be a great power to have. Like a superpower, you could live a day in the life of somebody else. It’d be good for OT. But back to my forest, I guess — sorry, I got off track. I think it’d be great to walk through the forest through my lens and kind of see and internalize all of the amazing light, the way the light catches, the different types of bark, the different types of textures, the different — there’s like a million different colors within one piece of moss that may be on a log.
As autistics, we are always noticing details. And I think sensory processing is occurring all the time, and it kind of drives this detail-first mentality, which kind of aligns with bottom-up processing, because for us, the details are coming before the content. And I think bottom-up processing is really a unique way of viewing the world. It’s not the only way — we know top-down processing is equally as valid and as valuable. You know, one’s faster, one’s slower, one may be more comprehensive, one may be a little bit more efficient and normal. But I think when you have both of them together, you have really great outcomes, and a really amazing way of interpreting the world. And that’s why we need both people that are neurodivergent and people who may not be neurodivergent.
Meg: That’s so interesting. That’s a really different spin on this idea of central coherence, or the ability to see the big picture versus the details. And we talk about that as a challenge of autistic people. I’ve presented an activity to you, and you’re shuffling the materials, and you’re missing the point of the activity. And you might say, “You’re missing the beauty of the materials, because you’re so focused on the outcome of this activity that you’re not enjoying the experience in the moment, and can’t see the details.” And it seems like there’s two things that we have to do here. One, is appreciate that that might be the experience of the autistic learner; and two, when they really, for whatever reason, need or want to do the activity and see the big picture, that we need to look to their strengths and set our learning materials so that the big picture will be more apparent for how they learn.
Jacklyn: One of our favorite Mr. Rogers quotes is, “Society is more concerned with information than wonder.” And that is just so true. I think neurotypicals, in many ways, are missing out. Autistic people tend to have this curiosity and humility about them that that really just sparks a unique way of seeing the world. I think as OT’s, we just need to deepen our appreciation of that.
Greg: We definitely — I’ll second that — we definitely do feel like explorers on a different planet, not just from the social. I know, that’s used for social aspect, but also just like, I’m always exploring, I’m always seeing new things and asking questions. It gives me questions about it. So, I mean, it’s just a really amazing way of perceiving the world.
Meg: That’s a great message. And I think we, as goal driven therapists, need to make sure we’re leaving the time and the space for wonder, and not overriding it in pursuit of goals. So, what changes do you hope OT’s for Neurodiversity will inspire? And what response have you already seen from your social media audience and the broader community?
Jacklyn: Yeah, so first would be dismantling this ‘fix-it mentality’ that we have pervasive within our profession. It’s just so important to ask ourselves, “Who are we trying to make comfortable?” Is it the autistic person for them to feel safe within their bodies and within the way they present in the world? Or, is it ourselves? So, I think this is so important to keep in mind when addressing autistic traits like stimming, or a desire for predictability.
Authenticity is such an essential aspect of wellbeing. And we know that although masking can be a coping mechanism for many, and it’s necessary, it also can have some really detrimental effects on a person’s mental health.
Meg: So, I’ll just jump in. We’ve talked about masking before on the podcast, but if people have missed it, masking is trying to present as non-autistic for an autistic person. You’re trying to hide their autistic traits, and put on the mask of a non-autistic person. And it’s linked to suicidality, depression, PTSD.
Jacklyn: Yeah. So really, what we’re asking is, “What would it look like if the goal of intervention wasn’t to promote conformity to the dominant social system?” And part of this is recognizing people as the experts of their own lived experience. I think, oftentimes, OT’s come in thinking they have all the strategies and tools, and they’re so ready to offer them. But really, it’s about the person and what works for them, and that’s a part of being client-centered. I think, also, we need to reframe our perception of outcomes. A lot of times in the indicators of quality of life in research are employment, independent living, right?
Greg: Whatever that means.
Jacklyn: Yeah, but that looks very different for an autistic person, and what they consider a good life, or it may look different. And it may not be those traditional markers. Maybe they desire to be well regulated, to have autonomy in their life, to pursue their special interests, to find autistic community. So, I really think that as OT’s, we just need to take a step back every once in a while, and really hear what our autistic clients are saying about what they hope for, and their trajectory.
Greg: I agree with that. One of the things we’d like to inspire within the field is kind of challenging the status quo, and dismantling the harmful narratives and the discourses surrounding disability, especially for us, neurodiversity. We believe that — it’s Hans Asperger, “Not everything that steps out of line and is thus abnormal must necessarily be inferior.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. I think it really taps into what we’re trying to say here, is that there are different ways of being, and doing, and that’s great.
We’d also like to kind of stress, she was talking about thinking about outcomes and what the outcomes are. In the field of OT, it often feels like we are projecting what we think needs to be done, or what a parent may think needs to be done, because we have our own way of existing, and we know what works for us. Whereas what we should be doing is taking that next step and trying to be, I guess, an accomplice with the individual, and come up with what is going to work for them. I think if we take that mindset, we will go beyond what is best practice and seek what is next practice.
Meg: Thank you. So, I will definitely link to OT’s for Neurodiversity in the show notes so people can find you, and follow you, and keep learning from you there. This is not the only thing you two are doing. I want you to help me bring these ideas to life. You’re really modeling these ideas in action through your community level work. I want to talk to you about your inclusive pop-up coffee stand, B3 Coffee. B3 meaning ‘Being, Belonging, Becoming’, some of the central tenants of what OT’s intend to focus on. So, tell me how B3 started, and why you chose to focus on inclusion.
Jacklyn: Yeah, so, the idea for B3 really emerged out of my experience working as a Starbucks barista, and throughout my undergraduate years. I was just intrigued by the way that coffee brings people together, and really fosters these natural encounters between different populations. I saw it as a way to influence social change, and today B3 is a community-based pop-up coffee shop — and online community since COVID — that really serves as a platform of positive visibility, which we’re going to talk more about, and community connection for people of all abilities.
And to your question about our focus on inclusion, I think what we ultimately aim for is actually an equitable distribution of power. One of my favorite quotes from disability studies scholar Carol Gill is, ‘The struggle shouldn’t be for integration, but for power. Once we have power, we can integrate wherever we want.” So, this is why it’s so important for us to have people with disabilities in leadership in all aspects of our organization. And this is something you don’t often see in ‘disability organizations’, which is really quite concerning. But our team members truly have driven the evolution of B3. It’s nothing like what I envisioned at the beginning, and I can truly say that our success can be attributed to really breaking down that hierarchy between people with and without disabilities, and creating these interdependent naturally supportive relationships.
Greg: Yeah, I also want to touch on that positive visibility and exposure. We believe that exposure and opportunities to interact with individuals with differences, and individuals with disabilities is how we learn to communicate and understand with one another. I mean, communication is the impetus for understanding. I feel like there’s the double empathy problem with autism, where people that are autistic understand people that are autistic, because we have that same way of thinking. And people that are neurotypical, I guess, is what we’re gonna say, understand people that are neurotypical, but they can’t cross that barrier.
I think it’s goes beyond just the autistic community. I think there is a double empathy kind of situation with individuals with disabilities, because they’re existing in a certain way that is not relatable to individuals who may not be disabled. And we kind of live in this society where mistakes are avoided and vulnerability is taboo. This is really a backwards way of thinking. Vulnerability, for me, is pure authenticity, and failures and mistakes are how we learn. So, creating those opportunities for communication through coffee as a conduit is one way we help individuals understand each other, and cross that kind of barrier.
Meg: I love that. That reminds me of something from Episode 12, with Dr. Evan Dean and Dr. Scott Tomchek, where they were talking about autistic clients setting their own goals, and that that isn’t a process that we should be micromanaging to ensure success; that trying something, seeing how it goes, and then readjusting based on the outcome is an important part of the process that we shouldn’t take away from our clients. So, your model of sharing power is so much better than this pedantic model of, “Let me support you in making all the right choices and being successful,” which we know isn’t how learning and growth happens. And I love, Jacklyn, that you said, “What’s come of this for you is something different than what you envisioned.” And something better, I’m sure in so many ways. Tell me more about the B3 model, and why you’re excited about it.
Greg: Essentially, the B3 model is a community-building — I mean, what we’re trying to do is build community. And creating this community of inclusivity, where, just like Jacklyn was saying, where everybody is a team member, you know. There is no hierarchy. And when individuals come into contact with our team members at coffee stands, they will see individuals with disabilities and individuals without disabilities working alongside each other, just like you were saying. There is no like, we’re monitoring you to make sure you’re doing right, or whatever. Individuals with disabilities and individuals without disabilities are perfectly capable to put out this quality coffee product. And that kind of confronts a lot of people’s preconceived notions about disability.
Jacklyn: Yeah. And Meg, like you were saying, these interactions across populations aren’t always going to go smoothly, and there’s going to be mistakes along the way. I’ve had to reframe my thinking and my perceptions so many times. It’s just important to be able to maintain that humility when you’re in any kind of leadership role in working with people with disabilities, and really just trust their voice in leading the initiative forward.
Meg: So, tell me about next steps. What’s your future plan for B3?
Greg: Well, right now we’re in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and we’re in conversations with a potential public library space. We believe that the library is an amazing place where people of all ages, and different backgrounds, and SES statuses, and everybody kind of comes to this one place with a common cause. And that’s what we’re trying to do with B3, is create that common community space. So, we think it’s a great place for us to kind of start our, you know, jumping off point. We believe, also, that we’re going to use this as OT’s in our practice.
Like I said, I do a lot of cooking. So, I kind of see it as a test kitchen for practice, or like the nucleus of where we will kind of go with our side projects as OT’s. And one of the things that I’m really passionate about is creating for each team member, using B3 as a starting point for their career, and helping individuals identify what their strengths are, and what their learning needs are, and what kind of supports are going to help them be the best they can be in a work environment. And arming them with this knowledge, whether it be through their own self-advocacy, or through some kind of written way of communicating that, “Here’s what I need to be as successful as I can. Here’s how I best learn. And here’s why I’m a valuable asset to your team.”
Jacklyn: Yeah. So, rather than B3 serving as an opportunity for long-term employment, we hope that it’s going to be a launching pad for people, and that they’ll be able to come away with a support profile that they can share with their future employer. That way, we really maximize our impact and our platform can be expanded.
Meg: Awesome. So, I want to ask you a little bit more about inclusive practices. One of the interesting and surprising things that’s already come out of this podcast is people who are employers, they’re often private practice owners, but who listened to the podcast, have started to make changes based on what they’re hearing. So, after Episode 11 with Emily Lees, she talked about her experience in job interviews and the kinds of supports that she needed. And I heard from people locally and beyond that, wow, they wanted to start providing these supports to make their job interview process more accessible and more strengths-based. I hear so much potential in what you’re saying for people who might be listening who are employers. So, what advice would you give to people who are listening who are employers, and are interested in inclusive practices?
Greg: First of all, recognize that neurodiversity is honestly a driver for innovation and growth. A lot of research has been done, and it’s demonstrated the correlation between diversity and inclusion, and improved performance, profit margins, employee engagement, satisfaction, and just creating a great culture in the workplace. But back to that innovation piece, I think that different ways of thinking and doing really allow for the potential of coming up with things that other people may not have. I think ADHD is a neurodivergency that’s a perfect example. I have ADHD. You have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in your head all at the same time, and what can happen is you have these accidental collisions of thoughts that maybe are completely unique and completely new, and nobody would have ever thought of it if they didn’t have that neurodivergency.
I also believe that for autism, that there is amazing potential for creativity. We go to that kind of hyper-systemizing theory of recognizing patterns, seeing the details, and assembling new ways of perceiving certain things, or of new ways of approaching certain things, is really great. So, I think innovation, creativity, and creating an amazing culture are some of just a few of the benefits for neurodivergent people in the workplace.
Jacklyn: And we also just want to emphasize that inclusive practices are not charity. At B3, we really avoid perpetuating the idea that someone with a disability who has dignified work that that’s somehow an altruistic or feel-good thing. With B3, it’s not about helping people with disabilities. It’s about creating a space where everyone belongs, where everyone can be seen, heard, and active members of their community. And this is also why we really prioritize the quality of our products and the sustainability of our business model, because we hope that employers and the public at large will see neurodiversity as leading to superior outcomes.
Greg: And I guess as far as practices go, one of the things that we got really excited about early in our OT school was universal design. So, like a universally designed space is something we’re striving for, but also universally designed learning approaches, and just a universally designed environment that includes everything. The social aspect, and the physical aspect. And universally designed is not necessarily asking companies or whatever to make changes for individuals’ disabilities, it’s just asking people to make things accessible. It’s opening up the doors of opportunities for everybody, regardless of what their differences may be. And I think accessibility, equity, these are all big, huge, hot topics right now. And universal design really fits in with that. So, that is one thing companies could definitely take to heart.
Jacklyn: Yeah, so one way that we incorporate universal design is through our menu. We have like high contrast and large font pictures of the menu items, really intuitively organized visual information, and we have Spanish and English. My point here is that this benefits everyone. Those who are not able to read, and those who have visual impairments. Those who prefer to see one item at a time because of their sensory preferences, so we also have a card sort version. And maybe those who just benefit from a picture reference and want to know what they’re ordering.
So, you know, it can be that which is a little more complex, or it can be something even as simple as labeling everything, writing down instructions, having clearly defined spaces for certain tasks. All of these small adjustments to the environment can really just make a huge difference.
Meg: Thank you both for those insights. That is really important and something that I think we’re all going to have to chew on, and make the road by walking as we try to even approach what y’all are doing at B3 Coffee. So, of everything we’ve talked about today, if there was just one takeaway you hope people had, one thing you’d like to see OT’s start doing or do differently, what would that one takeaway be?
Jacklyn: This is hard. I would say, give yourself permission to be wrong. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not learning. Looking back to when I first started B3 a couple of years ago, I’m really almost ashamed of how misguided my efforts were. I thought what people with disabilities needed was marketable skills. But what I learned was that the problem never resided in them, it was more so the cultural and social stigma that surrounds disability. So, it eventually became clear to me that really what they need is shared among humanity, is connection, is belonging, is agency, is power. And these are really what you should be focusing on as OT’s, and the skills will naturally arise from there.
Meg: Jacklyn, that really brings to life something that you said at the beginning of the interview, and something we talk about a lot, that the burden of change shouldn’t be just on the autistic person. And it’s so easy to miss how ingrained that idea is in us, that we need to teach skills to autistic people. And you’re saying, “Look, I actually set up and learned along the way how to set up an inclusive culture and an inclusive space. And my neurodivergent staff and otherwise disabled staff could thrive without all of the changing and skill building on their part.” So, I love how that example brings that to life. What about you, Greg?
Greg: Let me just follow that up with what I’m hearing here is growth mindset. One of my favorite things is the Socratic paradox, which has got a lot of different versions, but it’s essentially, “The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing at all.” And I think taking that humble, open-minded approach to your practice, to your life, to everything, encourages growth, and it really facilitates the lifelong learning process. For the thing that I would like people to take home, I’m going to go back to the skeptic’s mindset and the skeptic’s lens. I believe that skepticism drives innovation, and change because it asks us to question the assumed ways of doing things. It challenges us to think of new ways of doing things. And when we do that on a society level, we recognize that society is not built for individuals with neurodivergencies. And it’s not our job as OT’s to help people adjust to these society level, kind of oppressive, ways of existence and expecting people to exist. I also really, really would like people to just kind of embrace curiosity and wonder.
One of my favorite things — factoids, I guess, this is total autism mode — is Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein, all in their journals asked the question, “Why is the sky blue?” And that’s a question that a child asks. That’s a question that somebody that has curiosity and wonder asks. That’s not something we ask as adults. But each of them investigated, each of them came up with an explanation. And I think just maintaining and keeping that sense of childlike curiosity, and wonder, and applying that skeptic lens to your life as practitioners will really benefit you going forward and help you continue to grow.
Meg: Awesome. I will link to all of the places that you can find Greg and Jacklyn, and OT’s for Neurodiversity, and B3 Coffee online in the show notes, so make sure to check it out so that you can follow them and continue learning. Thanks so much, Greg and Jacklyn.
Greg: Thanks, Meg.
Jacklyn: Thanks so much for having us.
Thanks for listening to the Two Sides of the Spectrum podcast. Visit learnplaythrive.com/podcast for show notes, a transcript of the episode, and more. And if you learned something today, please share the episode with a friend or post it on your social media pages. Join me next time, where we will keep diving deep into autism.