Episode 61 Flipping Disabilities into Abilities and the Impact on Executive Functioning

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Erica: Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer podcast. I'm Dr. Erica Warren.

Darius: And I'm Darius Namdaran. And we're your hosts. Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and explanations for everyday life. We explore executive function and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind.

Erica: Come learn to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals. This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages. This podcast is brought to you by goodsensorylearning.com, where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning. Finally, you can find Dr. Warren's many courses at, learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Darius: This podcast is sponsored by dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com. We give you a simple productivity system for your Apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your dyslexia.

Erica: Hey, Darius, I am super excited about this episode that we're doing today. We're going to be talking about flipping disabilities into abilities.

Darius: Yeah, Erica, I'm really looking forward to talking about what a disability is and what abilities are and the whole world of disability. It's a very interesting topic to talk about. Let's kick it off.

Erica: It is. Yeah. It can be a very disabling topic, or it can be a very enabling topic. And really, the idea here is that we want to flip it into something more enabling.

Darius: Yes. And also not to give the whole game away, as it were, in our conversation, because we're going to explore this, but we all have abilities as well as limitations. And how do we flip our disabilities, making them abilities, and how do we use our abilities to compensate for limitations and disabilities as well? That whole dynamic of, I suppose, being empowered as well. There's a whole lot of stuff to talk about here, but I think we should probably start talking about what a definition of disability actually is. And let's work from a common definition of disability, because it's a bit weird for me to be talking about this and you because I've got dyslexia, which is regarded as a disability in the UK, and it's also regarded as a disability in the USA. But do I feel disabled? Am I disabled? If I've got ADHD, am I disabled? it's a bit weird.

Erica: It's not only weird, but it makes me really realize that for anybody that has a disability, we're really telling them from the get-go, you're not enough, because if you just pull it apart, dis not ability, not able to learn. You're not able or you're not able. And that feels very disempowering, and it makes you feel like there's something wrong with you. But before we get into that, let's get into the definition. So I looked up the American definition, and you looked up the British definition, and according to the Americans with Disabilities act, they define a person with a disability as someone that has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

Darius: Yes. And in the UK, you're disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. So it's interesting that both of them agree in terms of physical and mental. Okay, they're both using the word impairment and something that substantially limits one or more major life activity as the American version. But we say something that affects your ability to do normal daily activities instead of major life activity. It's interesting, the difference in emphasis, isn't it?

Erica: Yeah, it's very interesting. But it's also interesting to note, how similar they are.

Darius: Yes. I'm really quite struck by the term impairment now. You're much more, on the medical side of things in terms of psychology and assessments and so on. This term impairment is quiet. Is it a technical term? Because it doesn't do very much. It doesn't elicit a very good emotional.

Erica: Reaction from me, whether it's disability or impairment deficit. All of them lead you to feel like there's something wrong with you. You're missing. There's a piece missing, right. Or you're all muddled up somehow. And, yeah, I think it's a shame, because if you just take the word apart, as I was saying earlier, disability, saying not able. That's not true. Most people, even if somebody is in a wheelchair, you can't say that they're not able to walk, because they probably can. And we have technology now that can assist them with walking, that they can actually put things on their legs that enable them to walk. So even with something as concrete as that, as physical as that, they're not always disabled. This is a big topic that comes up a lot, is all. It should be a learning difference, right? That you learn differently. But when we're talking about the brain that we can't even see, we don't know that it's broken. And there's this implication that it's broken. And then postmortem studies of people that have, quote unquote disabilities show that they rewire the brain, and different parts of the brain take on tasks that a normal brain doesn't do. Normal, you see, typical. Then we become abnormal, which is even worse. You're abnormal, not normal. And we wonder why so many people walk around feeling like they're not enough.

Darius: Okay, so let me take the other side of things. All right, so are you saying that disabilities don't exist then? Are you saying that the word disabled are not helpful? Or. Let's just take this word disabled and the concepts behind it and start unpacking it a little bit. There are so many different ways to look at this. And please, if you're listening, this is quite an emotive topic. please. Because there are many people who have invisible disabilities. They're not visible. They get in the way. There are visible disabilities. You can see that someone has no legs, you can see that someone has no left arm, or maybe they're know, you can see, completely blind. But then there are some people who are partially blind, there are some people who have hidden disabilities and so on. It's such a massive range. I think when I looked at the statistics on this in the UK, round about 20% of the population is disabled in some way, like meets this definition. Somewhere between 15 and 20%. Whether it's physical or nonphysical, they fit within some form of area of their life where it gets in the way of their ability to do daily activities. Now, I actually find this definition of your ability to do normal daily activities, something actually, I really like that part negatively affects your ability to do normal daily activities. I like that. So let's go back to the whole thing about disabilities and how we understand the framing of disability.

Erica: So, yeah, I would love to get rid of the word disability. And I always tell my students that, just understand that by embracing that, it'll get you reasonable accommodations, but even then, it just doesn't feel right. I think being able to say that you're neurodiverse, I, like that neurodiversity that feels more honest and truer and hits the mark, and it doesn't seem to have a negative connotation there. Diversity feels like a really sweet way of describing it. This is the other thing is everybody is neurodiverse. None of us are the same. And there's some kind of judgment that we're placing on people that the saying that they are disabled, it's socially constructed. We're saying you're not the norm. So you have a disability. Well, that's not cool. That's very shaming. It's very disabling. When, in fact, people are just diverse. We're different from one another, we're not all the same, and we have different needs. Right.

Darius: Okay, so there's. The socially constructed view of disability is that you can say that there is a problem with you, the individual to do something. You cannot walk upstairs, or you can say that there's a problem with the way the building is designed, social construction of the environment. That makes it that you cannot go upstairs. you might have a wheelchair, and you could quite happily get into that building if there was a ramp. but if there is no ramp, there's a socially constructed disability. You are unable to get in that building. You are unable to get up those stairs. So let's talk a little bit about this socially constructed disability. The environment disables you or makes it so that you're not able to do normal daily activities.

Erica: I think what we have to do is really separate the physical versus the mental, the visible versus the invisible.

Darius: Okay.

Erica: Because I think that, I don't know, I'd have to ask somebody that had a physical disability whether the word bothers them as much as it bothers me that hasn't. And I don't even want to call it a disability anymore. It just pisses me off to say, oh, I have dyslexia, I have a disability. No, I don't. I don't feel disabled. And I'm tired of people saying it's a disability because it doesn't get in my way. It doesn't limit one or more major life activity. It just doesn't. I suppose people develop compensatory strategies, and if they do that, do they no longer have the disability? That's why it's a misnomer, because I'm always going to have the same brain, but it doesn't have to be viewed as a disability. And there are plenty of people that work through their difficulties and are able, again, to function in a normal way, and it's not impairing them substantially, maybe just a little bit, maybe only when they're stressed out, right? Because when they're stressed out, they lose their compensatory strategies. But, I mean, I'm kind of proud of the fact that I have dyslexia, and I feel that it's kind of a cool badge to wear because I have skills that the average Joe doesn't have. I mean, and they've really discovered that, that there are many people with dyslexia that have skills that people without dyslexia don't have. And same with attention deficit, which is a whole other can of worms, which we will be talking about later. But just getting into this whole idea of what do we call ourselves? What do we call other people that are different than us? Neurodiverse really resonates with me.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: What about you?

Darius: I think neurotypical works and neurodiverse works, as opposed to normal and, abnormal. Because, sometimes when we use the word normal, you're talking about the norm. Really. What we're saying is typical. The typical thinker is a typical way.

Erica: Well, but then they wouldn't be neurotypical. They'd be neuro atypical. right. So instead of being, you could be like, the average person is neurotypical, and the person that's out of that sphere, not in that normal sphere, would be neuro atypical, which is interesting.

Darius: Yeah.

Erica: And I don't mind being atypical. There's something kind of fun about that. You're out of the box. I love that. An out of the box learner. Right? I'm not in that box. And there's something I wish we could word things in a way that made people excited and curious about what their abilities are instead of limiting them, with a term like disability, because so many of us struggled with it at some point in our life, because we really believed it. We believed it. We were disabled. And that causes learned helplessness.

Darius: Yes. And we did a helplessness on that. That was really interesting. But there is still a usefulness to the term. And that's the challenge in all of this, in that if you look at Stephen Hawking's, he was disabled very extremely through his disease, and he could hardly move and he could hardly speak. And he's very famous with his wheelchair and his robotic voice, but he was very able. He was a very able thinker. So looking at him, you're saying, is he disabled? in one way, through day-to-day activities, there are certain things that get in the way. But in another way, he's incredibly able. And so you are more than individual parts. There might be one part of you where you're blind, and so that part you're less able or disabled in that area. But then you've got a blind dog that gives your eyes to see and move around. So I think there is still merit in keeping the invisible and visible close together because there are some metaphors. And there are some direct analogies there because there are many people that I meet who don't have compensatory strategies. I. E., They don't have a wheelchair, they don't have a, walking stick. They don't have glasses on top of their eyes to correct their eyesight. They might seem small and trivial things, but without them, you can be really quite impaired in your normal day to day life. Like, if you don't have your glasses on and you're short sighted, you really should not be driving because you're dangerous to yourself and others. And that would impair, I'm, comfortable.

Erica: With impaired or disabled if you truly have an impairment. But the problem is sometimes we're saying to somebody, maybe a dyslexic child, that you have a disability or an impairment. And I think it limits them. I think it creates a ceiling. I think it puts them in this disabled box that they struggle to get out of. And I think there are times where they think, oh, well, it's just my disability. I don't have to push through this.

Darius: I can't.

Erica: And I think that we can. I think we can. And I just think the term disability is terrible. And even for people that are paralyzed, maybe if we didn't call it a disability, they would have pushed harder and would have walked again. But because we call them disabled and we gave them that little badge, we gave them an excuse to not try harder. Now, that's a difficult thing to say.

Darius: Because it's a really hard thing to say.

Erica: It's a hard thing to say, and it's not fair for some people, but for some people, it does disable them. The term itself disables them. And I just think that's why I like neurodiverse better. Because literally, a disability means that you're not able.

Darius: No, not necessarily, no. I think this is the importance in understanding the term disability. I think we all need to shift our understanding that the disability doesn't lie with you, but it lies within your environment. So, for example, if you have dyslexia at school and you're not being able to read, it's probably because you're not being taught in a way that works with your dyslexic mind. So we give children with dyslexia, change their environment of their teaching structure for learning to read, and then they can learn to read. They don't have an inherent inability to read. They have an inherent inability to read the way the school system is doing it for typical children. And so the system is disabled. The school has a disability, not the child.

Erica: I totally agree with that. I totally agree with that. However, that's not the way it's used. They put the disability onus on the individual. Right. You're right. The school is not accommodating the neurodiversity, but that's not the way it's used, unfortunately. But even then, just the word disability, it just gives me such a bad taste in my mouth. Can't we just pick another word? It's like an oxymoron. You're throwing dis and ability together.

Darius: Well, do you remember the times when people were called retarded?

Erica: Oh, yeah.

Darius: Because when I was a child, I was called retarded.

Erica: Me too.

Darius: And I also remember the times when retarded was the socially acceptable way of describing what we're describing. It was actually politically correct.

Erica: And kids use, it all the time. You retard. Yeah. They would just say that.

Darius: No, but what's interesting about these words is, yes, it turned into, a slur, but it didn't start as a slur. It started as a term to sort of honor and respect that your growth is slower. You're just growing a bit slower. You're a bit retarded in your development or whatever. And someone is well-meaningly trying to shift away from a previous word. And I don't know what the previous word would have been because that was before my time. And then now we've shed retarded because it's got all the negative connotations, and the same thing keeps happening with words. And disability is now the latest word in this. I wonder if we got a replacement for the word disability if it would solve. Because at the moment we're using neurodiverse as a replacement for some of these different ways of thinking. And at the moment it's useful, but it's going to get to the point, at some point where people say, oh, well, everyone's neurodiverse, everyone's just different. And that's it. And then they'll go, but I've got dyslexia. oh, well, everyone's just a bit different. And you're like, we're all a bit different, and we just need to do things a little bit differently and you'll be okay, and you'll eventually get it. We're all just a bit different. And you go, no, hold on a minute. Yes, we are all very different, but I don't learn to read the same way as you. I don't learn to tie my shoelaces the same way as you learn to tell the time. Learn to do certain processes, like writing an essay, learn to drive a car, learn to do standard operating procedures in the workplace. These are all processes. And because dyslexia, is a processing difficulty or difference, we learn processes differently. We have to use different parts of our brain because the standard, typical part that does these processes doesn't work for us in the same way. So we find alternative know. Guys, if you're listening, the whole point of this podcast is Erica and I having really honest conversations with one another as practitioners in this workplace where we're not sort of giving you the formal teaching on disability and so on. We're actually working through some of these gnarly perspectives rather than giving you a party line.

Erica: Right. Well, and it's interesting you're right, because sometimes these new terms come out, and I remember when learning disability first came out, it was really popular, and everybody liked it. And then what ended up happening is that people that were lower functioning started using the term learning disability. Then everybody didn't like learning disability anymore because other people were using it that they didn't want under that umbrella. But yes, that's what happens. But the nice thing about neurodiversity is it's just neuro brain diversity. We're diverse, so it feels better. But, yeah, I hear what you're saying. If you take away the disability, then sometimes you lose the accommodations, which is what I tell my students is just embrace it for the accommodations, because that's what you need. Right. And it's about giving people what they need. It's just if we could find a nicer way of doing it. But for some reason, in our world or, in our species, if you're not of the norm, there's something wrong with you and you have to be accommodated. It's a social, it's internal. Nobody wants to be different unless it's in a positive way.

Darius: Yes. There are so many disses that dis people. There's disability, there's dyslexia, there's dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia. There's just so many dises. Okay. And I sometimes say to myself and others, I'm going from the DS to the I. So I'm an idea person. I'm an innovator.

Erica: interesting. I thought you were going to say Alexia.

Darius: Yeah, not Alexia. It's this dis. It's like, what is the positive of the dyslexia? Is an advantage. But some people go all the way to the point where, oh, dyslexia is just an advantage that you go, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a minute. There are some challenges with dyslexia as well as advantages.

Erica: Well, I have a great thought. What if we called it Alexia? Just like atypical means not typical. Alexia would be not reading.

Darius: Yeah, that's, too clever for your own good.

Erica: To me, that feels a lot better. Alexia. I have Alexia because I had trouble reading. It was difficult to read.

Darius: Someone, someone goes, but you mean dyslexia, and you mean Alexia. That's what I mean. I've got dyslexia. You can spell it any way you like.

Erica: But I also like the Alexia.

Darius: Alexia.

Erica: I have trouble to read Alexia. I'm, Alexic. It's kind of funny, right? But anyway, but yes. Can we just get rid of all the dis?

Darius: We're never going to get rid of all.

Erica: Huh? We know that anything with a dis in the beginning means not, and that's already a negative.

Darius: Yeah. You're not enough.

Erica: Not enough. Right.

Darius: You're not enough. But the biggest irony with something like, let's just take dyslexia, for example. Dyslexia, not enough with words. Okay, let's just say it like that. You're not good with words, dyslexia. But actually, there are some people with dyslexia who are incredibly good at words. They're incredible authors. And this dyslexia is the reference towards. You don't deal with words in a typical way, but you can learn to read. You can learn to write beautifully, eloquently, really well structured. You can learn to spell. Even my daughter's got dyslexia. My goodness. She's an incredible speller, but she's still dyslexic. So just because you can spell doesn't mean you're not dyslexic just because you can be an incredible author. You're not dyslexic just because you can speed read. I can speed read. I can read like, 600 words a minute if I want to. My natural reading speed is way slower. But I've been trained myself to speed read. Now, speed reading is a whole different kettle of fish. It's not the same as normal reading anyway. But the point is, it's not your typical way of doing that. Dyscalculia. you're not learning maths in the typical way. Dyspraxia. You're not moving in the typical way. You need other ways to learn to move and not drop things or other accommodations, physical aids, or tools or whatever. Normally it comes down to tools and technique. When you've got a difficulty in one of these areas it's like, right, you need a tool, or you need a technique or a combination of both or a new curriculum. A different curriculum, yeah, but that normally involves a different technique, right.

Erica: I love the idea that the disability really lies within, we don't have to say the school, but in their approach in the system. So what, you want it, right? You want to have a menu of teaching techniques that allow you to accommodate the neurodiversity within a school. And perhaps you even have teachers that know how to teach to these different neurodiverse needs so that everybody can learn at a common rate. It'd be lovely because then you wouldn't be making people feel like they're not enough.

Darius: So let's look at this definition and maybe have a try at reframing this definition. So in the UK definition, which I think is a little bit softer and a little bit more, I prefer it. you're disabled under the Equality Act 2010. If you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities, you're disabled. It's saying specifically you are disabled under the Equality act if you have, physical mental impairment that is substantial long-term effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. So what we're saying is actually you are being disabled, right? Yeah. This is my law degree coming in here. you're being disabled under the Equality act if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. So let's see how that would go. You are being disabled if you have a physical or mental difference that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities by the system around you. So really the sort of socially constructed view of disability is that you are being disabled by the system around you. Okay, so I'm not an expert in all of this, Erica. I'm still working through a lot of this because I'm also emotionally working through this as well. Because if I've got dyslexia, which I do moderately, and I've got some ADHD, I am technically, according to this equality act, disabled because it does actually have a negative effect on my ability to do normal daily activities. I don't have a decent system in place with apple notes. If I don't have my phone, if I don't have my computer, if I don't have my assistances, then it has a major negative effect on my ability to do normal daily activities. If I don't have a pen and paper, these tools that I use to compensate for my brain's inability to hold some of this day to day working memory, time management, et cetera, that aren't my natural abilities, that come along with some dyslexia and ADHD. It does have, a negative effect on my normal daily activities. So technically, I am disabled by it. I don't feel disabled. And that's the difference in that I don't identify as a person who is disabled, nowhere near the impact on a person who is much more physically disabled, or health disabled by health, chronic fatigue, and some of these invisible disabilities. But it does have a negative effect on my ability to do normal daily activities. I've seen people ADHD. They're like, I just find it so hard to just do normal stuff in the day. I'm paralyzed, can't get stuff done. Or maybe they're paralyzed by then, can't get out the house. That affects your ability to do normal daily activities. Is it worth them understanding their condition as a disability or not? And we're exploring that. I think sometimes it is.

Erica: Darius, it's a personal preference.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: because I don't like disability. You're okay with it, and that's okay. I think what's important is that everybody should pick whatever term is comfortable for them. If I'm more comfortable with neurodiverse, then it kind of reminds me of these people that say, oh, I know I'm a girl, but I want to have called him, or I want to have the they pronoun or the them pronoun, or they change their pronouns in a way that makes them feel more comfortable. If we're going to be that flexible with what people want to be called due to gender, why can't we be that flexible with what people want to be called when it comes to differences? Oh, I want it to be called a learning difference. No, I want it to be called a learning disability. But then there you go. You run into problems, because then who you're going to give accommodations to and stuff like that. But I do think that, and I want to move beyond this because there's so many other interesting things to talk about. We can get stuck in the dis-hole.

Darius: Okay.

Erica: I feel like we're getting stuck in that a little bit.

Darius: We'll agree that sometimes for some people, the term disability is helpful for them, and other times, it's unhelpful for them. And it's completely up to you as an individual to choose. And I do think there are people with dyslexia. Where their dyslexia are getting in the way of their ability to do normal daily activities.

Erica: They can still choose what they want to be called. You know what I mean? Because the bottom line is there are triggers. Maybe there was a little boy that used to call them dyslexic in a mean way. And that word dyslexia, just makes them go crazy because they have these negative associations. Clearly, there's some trigger for me in the word disability. It really triggers me. And if it really triggers me, pick another word. If it makes me, I'm okay with dyslexia. Although I don't like the dis. I'm all over the Alexia. I think that's the way to go. I got Alexia. I don't know about you.

Darius: Okay. Right. Let's move on. So we talked about what is disabilities. And the unfortunate side. Let's talk about flipping, disabilities into abilities. Because what we've noticed in our work, personally and with clients and children and adults, is that often people with disabilities actually end up having other, stronger abilities. And that they can use other abilities as compensatory strategies, which you see all the time with dyslexia. people go to me and go, you've got dyslexia. You can't have dyslexia. You're intelligent. And I'm like, oh, goodness me. All right.

Erica: Right. Well, there you go. Because it's that a lot of people have this preconception of what a disability is. And unfortunately, there's too many people in the population that believes that disability means dummy or retarded or unable, that they'll never be able to do it. So don't even teach them. Just give them a calculator. They know how to do it. Just let them use audiobooks. They'll never learn how to read. So, yeah, I think we've got that issue there. But I think beyond that, that when people have disabilities, sometimes it leads to these extraordinary abilities. Yes, the brain can compensate really well. And I think one of my favorite stories was about a blind boy who learned echolocation. Like bats, he would click, and he would be able to hear where things were around him because he became hypersensitive. And when we have disabilities, sometimes our other senses become more acute. And just by making these little clicking sounds, he was able to run around his house. He was able to ride a bicycle down the street. He was able to do extraordinary things. And he taught himself this. He figured it out himself.

Darius: And he was blind.

Erica: And he was blind. He was completely blind. No ability to see at all. But I think it's fun to look at some of these, quote unquote, disabilities, like ADHD. That's considered an attention deficit disorder, which is interesting because right there, there's something wrong there, because they don't have attention deficit, they have attention surplus. So sometimes these names just create a misconception.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: for people that don't understand it. And I don't know how many times in my life I've had someone say, oh, you're dyslexic. And they just assume I can't read. They make these ridiculous assumptions. It's ridiculous for me, but you can see how. Oh, and it's so difficult to deal with people that have these misconceptions. But for when it comes to attention deficit disorder, I mean, there's a whole other way of looking at these people. They have these really extraordinary abilities that they. I love to call them panoramic learners. I've worked with somebody that inspired that title, and that's exactly what she was. She's very panoramic. She absorbed everything. Unfortunately, that created a little bit of sensory overwhelm, as you might imagine. But as soon as we called it panoramic, it felt so much better. You're panoramic. Oh, that feels kind of nice. I'm panoramic. Right. And then you can just talk about, like, now? All, right. Your aperture is completely open. How can we close your aperture a little bit so you're less overwhelmed? But you could see it feels so much better to talk to somebody with attention deficit disorder in that way. Because it feels enabling.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: Instead of disabling, because the other.

Darius: I mean, to put it into the context of the panoramic learning, a teacher might be looking at this panoramic learner and saying, why are you not concentrating on this thing right here in the middle? Because she's concentrating on a whole range of things simultaneously. And so that attention is diffused across a lot of things, and so on. That particular thing that you're meant to be focusing in on, you're not focusing, and you're not paying attention. It's just different kind of attention. So it's about meeting those expectations of people around you. When that person ends up going into the real world, they become like an executive who's got the whole view of their company, the whole view of the marketplace senses what things are changing and the shifts and how the business needs to adapt to it, et cetera. Then that panoramic view comes into play. So often the system round about you, the teacher saying, you've got to focus in on this. And this alone doesn't fit within that view.

Erica: If all your life, people were saying, focus, focus. Close your aperture. Close your aperture. Close your aperture. And eventually you do. You're not honoring your way of learning, and now you're even more disabled.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: You're not honoring who you are, what you are. And with this particular person, I'm most interested in opening that aperture and exploring how can we survive with an open aperture.

Darius: I, love this point. I love what you brought up. It's just fantastic, because if we don't focus in on our abilities, then we do become disabled, because we're not using our ability, our strengths. And I think if we are going to go down the route of disability, we need to counterbalance it with saying, what are your abilities? The Stephen Hawkins example can't walk around or talk, but he can certainly communicate. He can write tons of books. He can teach tons of students at university. He can change the way the world thinks about the beginning of time and the universe and the substance of everything. So he had abilities. And I think that's an extreme example, obviously, but it is a good metaphor. For every single one of us, there are limitations in our lives. Every single one of us have got limitations. Maybe not limitations that affect our ability to do daily activities, but our abilities to do other things. But we've also got abilities in other areas. And concentrating on those and honoring them and being aware of them is, a great balancing effect on our limitations.

Erica: Well, and you said something which I love too, which is maybe the disability lies within education or the schooling. Right? Because what if all the kids with, quote, unquote, attention deficit disorder, had a teacher that was panoramic and had an open aperture, and that celebrated that, and that helped them to learn how to make that their genius quality? So sometimes people are told that who they are, how they process is wrong, when, in fact, maybe it's not. Maybe it's not. Maybe we actually need to allow them to be the way they are, but somehow change our curriculum to accommodate it.

Darius: Well, I really love Helen Taylor's research on this and working on it, on dyslexia. She talks about dyslexia. As an explorative specialization discovery that dyslexia is part of an essential role in human adaptation. I think all of these different ways of thinking and their proportions of autism, dyslexia, ADHD, for example, those big three neuro differences are there for a reason and probably an evolutionary reason, because we know that people with ADHD have this wider vision. Often people with dyslexia are wide angled thinkers as well. And this panoramic view, but their view is more of a pattern recognition view. They're not looking for details, they're looking for patterns. This pattern recognition, following patterns in an environment. The ADHD approach, you can both be ADHD and dyslexia like I am. I personally identified as ADHD through seeing the traits. Not formal diagnosis yet, but dyslexia formally, but the ADHD is more that panoramic view that, identifies differences and, oh, something's changed here. The alert warning. Look at this on speed. Human beings do that all the time. That sort of snake effect. You see a snake in an environment, your eye immediately goes to it because of evolutionary reasons. But with ADHD, that's on speed. So the autism side of things. People with autism tend to be much more systematic or focused. And I'm, not an expert in autism, but we're caricaturing here in many ways, but just seeing patterns in this. The general principle is that these are not abnormalities. These are like the yeast in bread. There's a little bit of it, but it's very necessary, like the salt, the sugar, it's not the flour and the water and so on. The big, bulky, typical stuff that's in that bread, you need other things in it to give it that richness. So I love this evolutionary approach to Helen Taylor and I think the hunter and the farmer view of looking at dyslexia and ADHD, for example, people with ADHD tend to be much more hunter like people. They're always hunting for the new latest hobby activity, solution, problem, whatever it is. They're hunting, they're always hunting.

Erica: But that open aperture allows them to pay attention to things that the average person would miss because they were focusing. So I often tell. I think I've used this story before, but I often tell my students with ADHD, I call them chief, because in an American Indian culture, they needed to have an open aperture, right? And by having that open aperture, you wouldn't miss the buffalo, you wouldn't miss this, you wouldn't miss that. You're absorbing the whole environment, which is what you needed to be successful, and because you had an open aperture, you probably would be the chief. But you can see there's another way, in which disabilities are socially constructed. In an American Indian culture, they would have very different disabilities than we have in our current American culture. So it all depends on if we read from right to left instead of left to right. We may not have dyslexia, and that's been researched. And they even say it's even easier for dyslexics to read from top to bottom. So instead of the letters going from left to right if you are just.

Darius: Read down the page, aren't Chinese characters like that, they go from top to bottom in rows?

Erica: I think they might, but I remember reading research that in cultures where they don't read from left to right, they have much less dyslexia.

Darius: Fascinating. because I used to read from right to left in Iran when I read Iranian FRSI. But if you think of ADHD as hunters or dyslexia as hunters going out hunting, why 40% of entrepreneurs have dyslexia. There's that hunter. You're looking for a pattern, you're looking for changes. You're in a discovery mode. You're hunting, but you also need farmers. You also need people that are back at base who are looking after what you've got. And there's this balance between hunter and gatherer, hunter, and farmer. And we see that in society. You've got the hunters, the salespeople who are hunting for new things. But then you also need operational people who will set up systems and processes and operations, and, oh, you need a sales and marketing funnel. I'm the type of diligent person who will systematically do that and look at the key performance indicators and see that this is going up and this is going down and control it in that kind of way. Whereas someone else, often with dyslexia or ADHD, is like, oh, I don't have time for all of that. I'm the bigger picture kind of guy.

Erica: Yeah. I mean, why can't we just empower diversity? The bottom line is that is the core problem to humanity is we don't know how to empower diversity. We all look for what's similar, and if it's not the same as us, then it's different and it's wrong, instead of just truly allowing people to be who they are and to really feel their strengths. But if we're always focusing on what's wrong with them, that's why so many people are walking around feeling like they're not enough. Everyone I know feels like they're not enough. That's a symptom of our culture. Yes, it's a symptom of our culture, because we're always looking for ways that people are different or what's wrong with them instead of what's right. And why can't we embrace diversity? And diversity is so funny to me because it's such a surface thing. Because if you took all of our skin and organs off of our bodies, we'd all be the same, or just all be skeletons, and you wouldn't be able to see what they were on the outside. Yet we make all of these judgments about people. Yeah, we need some people, even people that are more of the lower functioning. They're great at working in factories. I could never work in a factory. I couldn't handle the monotony. But they love it. So can't we just start to learn to really embrace that and to empower those people to do what we in our society could actually utilize quite beautifully and make them feel like they are enough. Wouldn't that be nice?

Darius: Yes, absolutely. I think just on a personal level, with the people that I meet as, ah, clients in the workplace, there is something quite liberating about when people realize they're dyslexic as an adult. They're like, oh, my goodness, is that why this happens? And that happens? Is that why I get stressed out when I do a presentation? And it's like, I'm really good at talking. I'm really good at explaining things. And then someone says, I want you to get up and give a formal talk. It all goes pear shaped. And it's because they feel like they should write out their notes. And when it comes to sitting and reading out their notes publicly with other people, they're just not good at that. That's not their sort of thing. But if they're adlibbing it, then they're great. But if they find a different way of doing it, like a mind map, for example, or some flashcards or something like that, they go, oh, yeah, this is really helping me. So what's interesting here is there is utility in finding a group of people that think like you. Like, if you've all got an amputated leg at, the knee, finding a group of people who also have an amputated leg at the knee is very useful because they're like, oh, I use this kind of cream for my prosthetic, or I'm experimenting with this new prosthetic that is semiautomatic or I don't use a prosthetic, or I've got this spring loaded one, et cetera. And this is what it's like with me at night. I've got phantom limb, et cetera. So finding people who have your kind of difference is useful and also your ability.

Erica: Can we just say, finding the people that process the way you process?

Darius: Absolutely, yes.

Erica: I think it comes down to just processing style. How do you process, oh, it's so nice to meet people that process in a similar way.

Darius: Absolutely.

Erica: And now we're talking about it in a positive way instead of a negative way. Yeah, I want to take the dis out of it.

Darius: Yeah. it's that general theme of it is useful to find your tribe of people that are like you, other people who have got ADHD, other people who are dyslexic, other people who are autistic, other people who are creative and artistic, other people who are techie. And we just expand it from all sorts of differences. Other people who, like, I don't know, cosplay or whatever. There’re all these different sorts of niches within our lives and society. It's really helpful to find a common theme and explore it with one another. So there are advantages, rather than just saying, oh, everyone's different, there are advantage to identifying some of those differences.

Erica: Right. But, yes, I like the way you're putting it. The advantages to finding people that are.

Darius: Similar and similarly different.

Erica: The advantages to being different.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: But, yeah, this was such an interesting discussion. Thanks for diving into this dis-hole with me and coming out the other end in quite a lovely way.

Darius: Yes. It's still not completely fully resolved. It's still a process. I think this conversation is an expression of the way society is processing disability and difference and diversity. Like, we are all. I think it's tempting to say this is right and this is wrong, and when we get into the right and wrong, it's not always so helpful. This is helpful, and this is unhelpful is probably more useful. I find this more helpful for me, or I don't find that, helpful.

Erica: I want to empower people to speak up and share your preference. What is your preference? If you have a quote unquote disability, what do you want to be called? Let's honor that.

Darius: I've got, a learning disability. Someone might say, great. And someone else with dyslexia says, I don't feel like I've got a learning disability. I'm really good at learning. I don't think it's a disability. I've got a learning difference. yeah, right.

Erica: But anyway, this was a really fun discussion, and thank you so much. Thank you for joining our conversation here at the Personal Brain trainer podcast. This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran.

Darius: Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media until next time. Bye.