Interview between Speaker 1 (Meg) and Speaker 2 (Christa Holmans)
Hey, it’s Meg! 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 22 with Christa Holmans. Christa is an autistic self-advocate from Texas who runs the neurodiversity lifestyle blog, The Neurodivergent Rebel. Holmans is also known as the pioneer of the #askingautistics hashtag, which is most often accompanied by a short question about common autistic experiences such as burnout, special interests, and accommodations needed for accessibility. This hashtag connects neurodiverse people who would not otherwise have a reason to engage with each other, and fosters collective understanding of the autistic experience. In this episode, Christa and I talk about Christa’s own experience as a gender-fluid autistic person. And we tie this into authenticity in general, including what we can all be doing in our work supporting autistic people in order to foster positive identity around gender and sexuality. Here’s the interview.
Hi, Christa! Welcome to the podcast.
Christa: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here chatting with you.
Meg: Let’s dive right in. Tell me a little bit about your own journey as a gender-fluid autistic person.
Christa: Yeah, so, me in a nutshell — I would say, I am a late-discovered multiple-neurodivergent adult. I’m also gender-fluid, as you mentioned, which means I have floated along the gender continuum throughout my life. Gender-fluid is an identity under the trans and non-binary umbrella, and someone who’s gender-fluid doesn’t identify themselves as having a fixed gender, and people kind of get confused with that because they don’t understand being gender-fluid. It’s not — it’s an internal shift that I may not always choose to express externally and outwardly, and so it really drives home the idea of like external presentation not necessarily matching how someone is feeling on the inside. And it isn’t just, “Sometimes I cross-dress,” it’s a bit more complicated than that. Whereas people might think on the surface and, you know, growing up not knowing I was autistic, my self worth was at a very low point when I found out the truth about myself. And for a lot of years people had told me that who I was wasn’t good enough, or I was a broken person, and I really learned to hide who I was, and be who I thought people expected me to be. And live the life, you know, I thought I was expected to live versus the life I even wanted to be living.
People around me didn’t seem to struggle in the same ways that I did, and were constantly pushing me to do better, accusing me of being lazy, or not trying hard enough. Even when I was putting in extra effort, I was falling short of what other people expected of me, and that really did a number on my mental health. If you’re working so hard to do your best and you’re just constantly told that your best isn’t good enough, and you need to try harder. I slowly really lost myself and been tricked into believing that I was flawed, and I wasn’t good enough. Learning I was autistic late in life was like hitting the reset switch in my life, and I realized for many years I’ve been working against myself, instead of with myself.
It was that pivotal moment where I realized that, you know, I need to be able to feel proud of who I am, just like with my gender, or my sexual orientation, or anything else because I’m someone who’s come out of many closets in my life, not just the autism closet, which is very similar to coming out of the queer closet. In my experience, very, very similar, but there’s a need to have pride in being autistic. People are like, “How can you have pride in something you have no control over, like being autistic, or being queer, or any of that,” and, you know, being autistic influences and colors each part of my experience — my sensory experience, my identity; it impacts my interests, how I view the world, my choices even, honestly, my gender expression, my gender identity, and my ethics. Because of this, a lot of autistic people — myself included — we feel that autism is a very big part of who we are, and being ashamed of this isn’t helpful. It gets you kind of stuck and trapped, and there’s this need for autistic people to be able to be proud, authentic, and be open. And this was kind of my Aha! moment that led me to everything I’ve been doing over the past four and a half years since starting my blog, and trying to say, “Hey, we have this right to live authentically as neurodivergent human beings in the world that sometimes is often telling us, ‘You need to change and adapt to fit in the world’,” and it’s like, no. Let’s meet in the middle. Give us a little, you know? We’ve been doing a lot of the giving, and the bending, and the flexing. It’s time for the world to give a little flex too.
Meg: I love your perspective on how learning that you are autistic, and learning and exploring your gender expression let you love, and accept, and celebrate yourself. Because we have historically heard parents, therapists, teachers ask the question, or even make the suggestion that we shouldn’t tell kids they’re autistic. That labels don’t matter. And it’s so misguided. And you’re really highlighting that in your experience, that you knew you were different. It was misinterpreted by everyone. And when you found out you were autistic, you were able to learn about that, and celebrate that rather than fighting against it. And that you went through a parallel process with your exploring your gender identity.
Christa: Oh yeah, definitely. And it’s like, when I started to kind of take that mask off, and be more authentic with myself, and stop masking my neurodivergence, gender was just naturally something that started to fall away too, because I realized how much of those things were all so performative and were part of me trying to blend in, and hide, and be what I thought I needed to be instead of what I felt I really was on the inside, or what I needed to be. But then also you talked about the labels, right? Parents don’t want to maybe tell their children they’re autistic.
I almost got evaluated for learning disabilities in elementary school, and my guardians pushed back really hard, and we’re like, “No, no, no. You’re not putting a label on this child, it’s gonna follow them around for the rest of their life.” Let me tell you, I wish I would have known sooner. I wish I would have had that label because when you don’t have the correct label, there are all of these other labels that you and society will put in the place of the correct label. So, my labels growing up — and until I was almost 30 and found that I was autistic — were ‘not good enough’, ‘lazy’, ‘stubborn’, ‘difficult’, ‘stupid’, the ‘R-word’, like all of these things I believed about myself, because I didn’t have the correct label.
So, if I would have known I’m autistic, I have different way of thinking, it’s okay. I have different weaknesses and everybody else, that’s why. I also have different strengths, that’s cool too. You know, that would have been so helpful to know. But instead, there was this other narrative where it’s like, I was keeping tally of all the ways I fell short, especially when it didn’t stack up against my neurotypical peers. I was comparing myself to my neurotypical peers because I thought they were my peers. I didn’t understand how different their experience of the world was from my own because I didn’t understand that there wasn’t this neurodiversity, and that there are so many different ways for people to experience and interact with the world. You know, I didn’t know I had a different way of thinking or processing. I had no idea. I thought everyone experiences the world the way I did, you know? It never would have occurred to me.
Meg: Yeah, hopefully as we start to make these shifts, you hear the resistance in professional communities against even identity-first language, which highlights that we’re still looking at autism as a disability, something to be remediated, something to be fixed, something to even be hidden. And hopefully, as we make all of these shifts, that will come too, right. Saying, “Here is something to know about yourself. It’s something that’s awesome in these ways, it’s something that will give you some challenges in this world in these ways, and it’s something that you can’t be and don’t need to be separated from.” I do want to ask you more about gender identity because I know you’re really plugged into communities of autistic adults and the research coming out, and I get a lot of questions about, “What’s the relationship between autism and gender expression?”. So, what are you seeing with both sexual orientation and gender expression in the autistic community? What’s the relationship?
Christa: Yeah. I joined the community five years ago next fall. And so, I had a lot of time immersed in it and then also getting to go to in-person conferences, back when that was a thing — remember that? Once upon a time when we got to go meet people in person.
Meg: Its sounds like a dream. [Laughs]
Christa: Before all of this. It was obvious to me there were a lot of us, you know, but recently I actually did a Twitter poll because it’s fun to nail these things down, and I’m gonna put a disclaimer because it’s a Twitter poll. So, it’s not scientific, but still very interesting that out of 3670 autistic people that participated in this poll, with one question with only two responses — and the question was, “Do you consider yourself to be LGBTQIA+”; “Yes,” or, “No”. 75.3% said, “Yes”, and only 24.7% said, “No”.
So, even though this isn’t scientific, it is really interesting and it is a substantial number. Like, I’d love to have a more scientific count on this, but it’s amazing to say, “Okay, there’s a lot of us. Maybe even the majority of us are, if not gender diverse or gender non-conforming, are in the LGBTQ umbrella somewhere, whether we have different sexual orientation or gender representation”. I think it’s really interesting because, you know, we talk about autistic people. And we have — they say, we interact with social things and interpret social things differently, right? And in human psychology they say gender is a social construct, right? Hmm, it makes sense then to me that gender is just another social construct that autistic people don’t fit neatly within, we don’t fit within social constructs very neatly. We kind of make our own. So, that’s why we even have concepts like autigender, to talk about the relationship between autism and gender. Because a lot of us say, “You know, this is definitely connected because I think about gender and go, ‘Hmm, no thanks,’ or, ‘Hmm, I think about gender and that doesn’t make sense to me,’ or, ‘Why is this way, instead of just saying, oh, yeah, okay, and just going with it,'” it just, like, you know, a lot of people would do. I’ve never been wired that way.
Meg: Yeah, I think that in the absence of social pressures and social conformity, those numbers would be very different among neurotypical people too. It’s almost like we’re good at fitting in boxes, and we’re used to fitting in boxes, so a lot of us do without questioning them in ways that probably doesn’t serve our own sense of authentic self and ways of freely being in the world. So, for people who are playing catch up, can you define all of the letters for me?
Christa: Oh, yeah. Okay, and there’s a plus now because it is a growing acronym. Because language is always evolving, right? So, it’s L-G-B-T-Q-I-A-plus. Thank goodness they just the plus at the end, because that’s getting to be a mouthful. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex is for ‘I’, ‘A’ is for asexual, and then ‘+’ is for everybody else in addition, because we’re still adding more terms, and everybody’s kind of included in that, to be more inclusive. But it’s a big, growing community. And it’s really fun to see how much of that was reflected with autistic people, just in general. Like, all the multiple identities get to kind of come together and intersect. And it’s like, “Oh! I’m home! My people!”.
Meg: That’s great. I love that. So, for OT’s and other professionals working with autistic kids and adults, what are some kinds of things we can do to support positive identity around gender and sexual expression?
Christa: Yeah, so, one thing. Remember, just like being autistic, we didn’t choose to be this way, you know. We didn’t choose to be autistic, and we didn’t choose to have a different sexual orientation, or have a different gender. It would be much easier not to have that going on, you know, life would be easier. It’s not something you would necessarily choose. Our brains are wired differently. And because of that, the best thing you can really do is accept us as we are, support us, empower us. And it’s true with sexual orientation, gender identity, neurodivergence. You know, we need to be loved, we need to be encouraged and empowered, we need to be safe, and feel like it’s okay to be our true selves.
Because, as many neurodivergent people already know, wearing a mask and trying to be something you are not can be very harmful for your mental health, or just exhausting in general. And, you know, when people don’t accept you, you could have those feelings, back then when I was saying in my own story, feeling like you’re not good enough, feeling like you’re defective, feeling like you’re broken, and feeling like you’re capable. And a lot of autistic people have these self-esteem issues because we’ve been told things like this over and over in our lives, and that’s when people are constantly saying, “Hey, you need to be something you’re not.” And with all of these issues in general, we just need to say, “It’s okay who you are. You are an individual and that’s great.” We need more of that.
Meg: Yeah. Do you have any concrete examples of what that could look like in one-on-one work with somebody? How do we send that message?
Christa: I mean, little things. Like, okay, if somebody you’re meeting with, you can ask their pronouns. Well, you know, when you’re meeting someone new. And respect their pronouns. Like, “What are your pronouns?”, “Mine are these,” you know, “Oh, okay, that’s great. These are mine.” And you just share. Someone might be, if they’re coming out and going through the social part of that transition, they may be changing their name and things like that. So, it’s like, “Oh, you know, what is your new name?” And call them by their new name. Don’t deadname someone, as it’s called.
And respecting someone when they’re coming out, because coming out is kind of hard, and it kind of sucks because it is an endless process, whether you’re coming out autistic, or coming out with gender, or your sexual orientation, you have to come out over and over again, and you never stop coming out. Basically, every new person you meet, if you choose to disclose to them, you’re coming out all over again. And you get better at it, because you practice and you keep doing it, but it doesn’t mean it necessarily gets easier because of the people you’re sharing information with, depending on their response. If you can be the person who is the safe ally when someone’s going to come out and share with you, “Hey, you know, I’m trans, and I want to change my name to this, and I’d like for this to be my pronouns,” or, you know, help them maybe with other people. Say you’re in a group and say someone gets it wrong, say, “Actually, hey, no, the pronouns are this,” you know, helping them learn to advocate for themselves, especially with a young person. Because a young person may not know how to advocate for themselves just yet, so helping them learn to advocate for themselves as well.
Meg: Yeah, that’s so helpful. So, obviously we’re going to find out what pronoun somebody uses and respect that; use their name if they’ve changed their name. But then taking it a few steps back, we want to reduce the work that they’re having to do; the emotional, mental, risk-taking work that we hear about all the time from autistic people, how hard they’re having to work all the time. And this is just one more thing, right, I’m having to decide — can I tell you this, can I be my true self in this way with you, how about in that way, can I tell you what I like to be called, can I tell you how I identify; and then we can open up and create that safe space to take some of that burden off, some of that worry off, some of that stress off, and open it up early.
Christa: Yeah, because there’s a lot of spaces that aren’t safe, unfortunately still, you know. And so, just knowing who those people that you can really count on as an LGBTQIA young person. Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. There weren’t many when I was growing up. There were a few, you know, and my parents, my guardians, were supportive enough in that respect, but they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
Christa: You know, so that’s not what everyone has. So, you may even, if you are supporting a young person, their parents may not even be supportive of this. You may —which is terrifying and sad, because you imagine like your own parent not accepting something that is essential to who you are as a human being, and not having a safe space at home. So, that can mean the world for a young person if you are a safe person when they don’t even have that.
Meg: Yeah, I do remember starting in maybe middle school, high school, starting to see like in the 90’s, early 2000’s, little symbols on some staff members at schools’ offices that said like, ‘This is a safe space’. And I imagine that was comforting to people who were looking for that, and I hear you saying that we as providers can send that message in whatever way is meaningful to our clients, up front, right?
Meg: Like, “Hey, just so you know, this is a space where you can be yourself in all of these different ways, and we can talk about these things, and we can explore these things,” and making that meaningful for really young kids or for adults. I love that. We’re really expanding what it means to be inclusive in our work.
Meg: One thing that you’ve already touched on, and we’ve really been enjoying exploring here on the podcast is this idea of self-actualization, or becoming more fully and authentically who you are. We’ve talked about the opposite — masking, or trying to present as non-autistic and how it’s tied to very poor mental health outcomes like depression, PTSD, suicidality. So, help me tie authenticity into gender expression.
Christa: Yeah. So, like I did kind of touch on earlier, you know, being autistic. It impacts every aspect of who I am as a person, and that’s tied into heavily my gender identity. So, it’s fundamentally shaped how I relate to gender, and those other social constructs. Like I said, it’s just another checkbox I don’t fit into. I was assigned female at birth. And that’s what it feels like, it’s an assignment. I had no say in this assignment. You know, I remember being four or five years old, and being really distressed about the assignment. And I would tell adults that I was a mistake, I wished I’d never been born, I didn’t feel like a girl, I didn’t want to grow up and be a woman. And I struggled so much being around other girls.
I grew up, you know, talking about the 90’s, right? In the 90’s, ‘tomboy’ was the only term I ever knew growing up concerning gender related to me. And I just never felt like I was a real girl. It’s was like my ‘meat suit’, you know, that people associated with my assignment. So, eventually I just started going along with it, but ‘girl’ — it felt like a lie, right, that everyone expected me to be telling. And so, it’s like I’d lie. I didn’t mean to lie, but I lied for a lot of years dressing in this costume. It was just part of this mask, playing a role, trying to blend in, hoping to be treated better by society, trying to avoid being bullied. And it comes from being misunderstood. In all of that, like I hinted at, was intertangled with that mask of being autistic.
It’s a very elaborate mask, the gender, the trying to pass as neurotypical. You know, I can’t even separate where one mask with gender and the mask with being neurodivergent even ends. These things are designed to help someone succeed in a world that can be very unkind to people who are different. I was doing my best to navigate a system that was stacked against me, and I was, you know, stuck on a stage in a neverending play, right? Acting in the role full-time, living on autopilot. It’s no way to live and eventually you get to a point where you’re just miserable. You’re sick. You’re unwell. And, you know, I started to take all of that off and all of that fell away. The ‘autistic’ mask fell away. The ‘woman’ mask fell away. And I realized how much of everything was performative, and a lot of things I had been ignoring — because you can only ignore things for so long. Eventually it’s gonna come back and you’re gonna have to deal with it. I couldn’t deny how I was feeling. And, you know, it’s that moment where I realized I don’t like living a lie. No one likes living lie, right? And people have a want and a need to be authentic.
There’s a great Brené Brown quote — I wish I would have grabbed it, you know, she has a lot of good quotes about authenticity, ’cause it’s kind of like what she researches. I love Brené Brown.
Meg: I do too.
Christa: But, you know, a lot of her research is in this area too. And it’s like, being forced to be someone you’re not is a soul crushing thing, because it just sends this message that who you aren’t naturally isn’t good enough, and you need to change. And true acceptance is being able to be yourself and not constantly evaluating if you’re acting the correct way. With autistic and neurodivergent children, adults, even society, often is sending that message that you need to change, and be normal, and blend in, and be less of an inconvenience on people around you. All of this harmful messaging creates a narrative that being different, being divergent, is unacceptable. In the current society, it’s saying, “Oh, you need to adapt and fit yourself into society, instead of asking society to change the systems a little bit and flex to accommodate and appreciate the neurodivergent people,” because we’ve been doing a lot of flexing for so many years already. If they could just meet us halfway, even meet in the middle, it would be great. But even then, we see like right now, you hear someone’s autistic. Like one of the most common therapies recommended for autism is focused on the normalization of neurodivergent kids, you know, and it’s based on conversion therapies.
Meg: Yeah, let’s talk about that. So, gay conversion therapy, ABA, and teaching autistic people to mask their autism and try to present as neurotypical are all historically linked. Bring us up to speed on that connection.
Christa: Oh, goodness. And it’s a big mess, right. We’ve got Ivar Lovaas, founding father of ABA, and he was also a pioneer in gay conversion therapy. He was a major contributor to a project that was called ‘The Feminine Boy Project’, and that was basically a compliance-based brainwashing program to prevent children from ‘acting queer’. Whatever that means, right? And so, Lovaas described queer behaviors and autism both as poor adult outcomes. He said that these are things you must be avoided through the use of early intervention. So, he treated both the same way initially. And when speaking about autistic children — this is a horrible content warning, because this is just gross — what he thought of autistic people was — and this is just gross, okay — “You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense; you have hair, a nose, and mouth, but they’re not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping an autistic kid is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build a person.” So gross.
Meg: I hate that quote, and it’s so telling.
Christa: Oh yeah. This is the founder — you know, why they built ABA. Because of these beliefs. And he strongly believed in these very intense behavior modifications, that at the time included very harsh aversive techniques; withholding touch, attention, affection. Isolation, and even electric shocks. And there are still places where people have been given electric shocks in the world today. You know, this isn’t gone from our world. And, you know, in the 60’s and 70’s, gay rights organizations in the United States put pressure on psychiatry and medical people to distance themselves from conversion therapy. In 1976, the mental health organizations took away Lovaas’ funding due to the complaints of excessive use of corporeal punishment against children, but it didn’t stop ABA. They stopped using it on gay and queer children, and gay conversion therapy does still exist, but people are awakening to the harm it’s doing.
And at this point we’ve got 20 states and the District of Columbia that all have laws banning gay conversion therapy practices. But even though that’s happened, and we know it’s harmful to LGBTQIA people, ABA is still today widely recommended by doctors and medical providers as a treatment for autism, despite evidence that conversion therapy programs are harmful to children. And ABA, similar to conversion therapy, trains autistic people to mask and camouflage autistic traits, just as gay conversion therapy taught gay people to act not gay, right. So, we’ve got a lot of research on this talking about the harm in LGBTQIA people, but it is still the only, you know, I keep saying ‘treatment’, with quotes, that, you know, we need. The only ‘treatment’ we need is a heavy dose of love, and acceptance, and empowerment, right? This is the opposite of what we need. We need to not be forced to hide who we are from the world, but we’ve got doctors recommending literally the opposite. Autistic and neurodivergent suppression and repression.
Meg: We do.
Christa: It’s a mess.
Meg: Yeah, it is. And there’s so many of us who that isn’t our intention, and yet the strategies we’re using still come out of the medical model that sees autism as something that needs to be changed. And it’s a process of unlearning that professionals have to do, because we’re taught wrong. We are taught that we need to treat autism. And we observe or explicitly learning strategies that do promote masking. And I would like to believe that none of us set out to generate depressed, suicidal, inauthentic adults. And when we realize that’s what we’re doing, we have to really, really re-evaluate. Because like you said, it’s so important and it’s so slow to change.
Christa: Oh, yeah.
Meg: Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about authenticity, how gender expression, sexuality, autism is all part of being your authentic self, part of existing in the world, part of being happy, and feeling successful, and feeling competent, and loved, and accepted by yourself and others. And I love how you’ve said over and over that all of this work of bridging the gap shouldn’t be on the autistic person. That it is our job as non-autistic people, or as people supporting autistic people, to figure out how to change the context, change the environment, change the culture, change what we’re doing to meet halfway, so that autistic people aren’t working so hard. And you’ve given us these great examples of how we as individuals in therapy sessions possibly can create spaces for people to feel comfortable trying on their authentic selves, and exploring that together with us. So, here’s the hard question — of everything we’ve talked about today, if there’s just one thing you’d like to OT’s start doing or do differently in our work around gender expression, sexuality, authenticity in general, with autistic people, what would that one takeaway be?
Christa: Only one… Let me just — I’m going to add one. I know we’ve talked about a lot of things, but I just want to add one really, really important reminder for anyone to remember, who’s working with autistic and neurodivergent populations, is to drop your expectations and preconceived notions at the door. And why I say that is, each and every autistic or neurodivergent person is an individual. Sometimes we forget that because we’ve got this whole diagnostic manual that defines us and outlines how we’re supposed to be. And maybe that’s how some of us were as kids, we can look very different as adults or depending on different stages in our life, we may match closer to that definition or not. It can fluctuate. And so, just realize that, that individuality, and what works for one neurodivergent human may not work for the next. And even just because I can do something one day, I might not be able to do the next. Or something I can do; another autistic person might not be able to do. And that’s okay. We have diversity even within neurodivergent people. And that’s really true with the capabilities too, you know. Don’t assume we can’t do something. Sometimes you might even see the autistic person you’re helping think they can’t do something, and, you know, push them.
Maybe say, “Hey, are you sure you can’t do that? Maybe you can,” because a lot of times when I was growing up, I didn’t even know what I was really capable of. I’ve met a lot of people in when I’ve done coaching work in the past, who we tend to think we’re less capable than we really are. I don’t know why we don’t know how awesome we are. I think I have a theory that it probably has a lot to do with how society is focusing us to think about our weaknesses so much. Because they’re always in our face, and they become our main focus. All the ‘I cant’s’, all the ‘This is what I suck at’, and it’s like, always here. So, we can’t forget about it to think about what can go right, or, you know, what I’m good at. And so, we have to kind of shift those things. So, helping us to make that shift if you realize we’re stuck in that place where all we can see is our weaknesses, or all we’re seeing is what could go wrong. I had to learn in my 30’s to shift from, you know, what could go wrong and being stuck with all the fears to, what if it goes right. Or, what if it works, you know. That wasn’t even in my mind for more than half of my life, or most of my life. So, it’s like everybody has weaknesses, neurotypical weaknesses are different from their divergent weaknesses, and that doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them different. So, that’s like the closing thought for all of this.
Meg: That’s so helpful. So, we need to be coming in to meeting any autistic person with the goal and hopes to learn about them, learn from them, discover them. Learn what they love, what they’re good at, who they are, how they see themselves, what their goals are, what’s challenging, what are the barriers, how we can help. Not come in with, “You’re autistic, therefore X-Y-Z,” and your other point was such a great plug for this shift to a strengths-based approach, because you are telling us, “Here’s the outcome of focusing on some of these deficits. They grow up focused on their deficits, which does nobody any good.” So, we can shift that, those of us working with kids or with people of any age, in building from somebody’s strengths rather than being obsessed with remediating what we see as their deficits from our limited lens. And then if we’re working with people who’ve already learned that, how can we help them unlearn that. I love those takeaways.
Christa: Yeah. It’s just those little mind shifts. Okay, we see they’re stuck in this place, let’s say, let’s gradually help them talk about what do they love, what can they do, what are they good at, you know. You’re naturally starting to re-steer the conversation. “Oh, you know, I suck at this,” like, as a little kid I might have been like, “Oh, I’m so terrible at this. I hate this, I’m not good at this,” but, “Oh, you’re actually really good at this. What about this? Let’s look at this thing. Let’s go do this thing you’re good at.”
Christa: Steer, nudge. Nudge in the right direction.
Meg: All right, Christa, tell me about your projects, what are you working on now, and where can we find you online?
Christa: Yeah, I’m all over the place. I am currently — one of my main things I do is I work with organizations to do training and educate on autism and neurodiversity. But I also have my blog theneurodivergentrebel.com, which was the hinge pin, I guess, that started all of this and got all of this in motion; theneurodivergentrebel.com, where I do share and educate about autism and neurodiversity. Busting all of these myths that we have, because there are so many. And I’m also, right now, I’m writing two books. Because I don’t know why, I do too many things at one time.
Meg: Wow. Yeah.
Christa: So, those will come out in the next few years, too. So, lots of exciting things happening behind the scenes.
Meg: That’s great. Well, I’ll link to your website and to your social media pages in the show notes, so that people can follow you and be the first to know when the details of your two new books come out. And I love your website name so much, The Neurodivergent Rebel.
Christa: It’s taking that back, you know, those, like I said, those names that are used against us when we don’t know we’re neurodivergent. I was always called a rebellious and stubborn child, and that wasn’t supposed to be a term of endearment. I’m reclaiming that, and I’m taking it back, and saying, “Okay, fine. I’m a rebellious child. You want to see a rebellious child, you’ll see one!” Although, I’m an adult now, but. Same, I guess.
Meg: Yes! But we need you. We need rebellious adults in this world. Christa, thank you so much.
Christa: Thank you. It’s been so much fun. I really had a great time.
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