Episode 38: Neurodiversity and Executive Functioning

Below you can view or listen to Episode 38 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.  

Neurodiversity and Executive Functioning 

neurodiversity and 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. Come.

      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, www.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: Good afternoon, Darius. I'm super excited about today's discussion on neurodiversity and executive functioning. What are your thoughts on this?

      Darius: Yeah, it's going to be really interesting to talk about the relationship between neurodiversity as a word, as a concept, as a movement, in a way, as well, and executive function and what the relationship between the two are. It's a great topic you've chosen, Erica. So what we're going to start off with?

      Erica: Well, let's just start off with some simple definitions, because I think it just brings everybody up to speed. Executive functions. We often talk about the three players of working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. But basically, the set of cognitive skills enable us as individuals to regulate and manage our thoughts, our emotions, our behaviors in order to meet daily demands and to reach our goals. Now, neurodiversity, i, uh, love this word. It just so resonates with me. I'm very much of a social constructivist where I don't believe in disabilities because they are socially constructed, and neurodiversity just blows that out of the water. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go with a definition that was by Harvard Health Publishing that they had in a blog. And they say it describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways, and that there are no right ways of thinking, learning, and behaving, and that differences are not viewed as deficits. That really resonates with me. What do you think?

      Darius: Yeah, well, one of the things we do on this podcast is turn things into something that's a picture and you can imagine. I think it's sometimes it's like describing our brains and people as vehicles. Let's say we've all got brains, okay? And those vehicles aren't necessarily all just cars. They have different sort of abilities, strengths, weaknesses, you might call them. You might say a truck is very weak at dropping off the groceries at the store and picking something up, but is great for delivering a huge amount of stuff to the back of the shop and reloading. So is that a weakness? No, it's a difference. So it's all about how you judge a person's abilities, essentially, in all of this. And so it's like, how do I judge a car? Does that vehicle serve me in my current circumstances? Maybe they're not a car. Maybe they're a boat, maybe they're a plane. And so what would it be like taking your groceries to the shop in a plane? It's like, no, it's not quite the right vehicle for the job. And I think it's the same with some people and some minds. You've got different minds for different jobs. Some people are very their minds are really general, designed for a general purpose vehicle. And then there are other minds that are much more specialized vehicles for specific roles and tasks. And the thing is, when you're born, you just don't know what kind of mind you've been given. And there's this journey of discovering what your mind is. And really, neurodiversity is a term for saying our brain have a whole range, a, uh, diverse range of abilities and functions.

      Erica: Yeah. And I believe that because we can't see the inner workings of the mind, we can't see how diverse people are. We assume that they're more similar to us. And so I think in the classroom, teachers often teach the way they learn because they think, oh, that's what works. If it works for me, it works for everybody. But unfortunately, really, our faces are very simplistic. They're only so many features. Yet you walk down the streets of New York City, and it's amazing how everybody looks completely different, right? And that's just a limited number of features. If you look at the brain, it's extraordinarily complex, and it has many different features that interact with each other. So even twins, for example, have similar cognitive makeups, but they're completely different because it experience. All sorts of things make us different.

      Darius: I, uh, have a student that I worked with, and she's an identical twin, and she has Dyslexia, and her twin doesn't. And they go to the same school in the same classes, and you can actually see compare. So they're in the same context, raised by the same parents with the same aspirations, same time studying, same teachers, same everything. And you can see it so clearly. And she just, uh, had this wonderful interview with her at the end of basically three years of working with her. She really overcame so much stuff. But they're identical twins, uh, very different minds, same levels of intelligence, same levels of ability. But one had Dyslexia and one didn't. And so she started to become self aware early on and saying, what's wrong with me? There's something wrong with me? And really hit the rock bottom. But once she started to understand her brain, she started to work with her strengths rather than fixate on her weaknesses. Then she actually started to beat her brother in the class, which is what her main thing was. She's very academic. But that's a nice little case study of how important it is to become self aware in this.

      Erica: Absolutely. And it's funny that you mentioned twins, because it's amazing how many twins I've worked with, both identical and fraternal. And yeah, I really don't notice similarities at all and within families. So when I first meet with families, I give everybody a processing profile because I want to see how they process. Because, again, Mom's always going to push the ways that work for her, and Dad's going to push the ways that work for him. And I want them to see how neurodiverse everybody is in the family unit, even though they're related, because there's an even greater assumption within a family that your children need what you needed.

      Darius: And that assumption can even be transferred over to, oh, you're Dyslexic, I'm Dyslexic, so X, Y, and Z. But it's not always the same. You've got Asperger's. I've got Asperger's or you're ADHD? I'm ADHD the ingredients of our minds. They blend together to make a whole different meal, if you use that sort of analogy.

      Erica: And, uh, I think that disabilities within themselves are extraordinarily neurodiverse. So I do not work with Dyslexics the same way. And I think in schools they tend to do that. They'll put them into a program, and I am very much against that. I really create a unique program for each of my students because everybody's so neurodiverse. And I don't see them as having a specific label. I just see them as a neurodiverse individual. Because as soon as we label them, then we're making assumptions again, then we're making them similar to others.

      Darius: Well, it's a challenge, isn't it? The labels are very useful because there's common. Commonalities. But once you identify a person's got Dyslexia, for example, you can start really honing in on right processing. What sort of processing areas have you got? Difficulties with sequences? Are your difficulties with sequences of numbers or letters or whatever? And you can fractal that out into Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, et cetera. And so let's just break this down. So on the big umbrella is neurodivergence. We are all different, but then again, we're not all so different that we don't have commonalities. So you can find common themes between neurodivergence where, for example, you can see that some people have some autism, um, some people have some Dyslexia, some people have some ADHD. When someone describes neurodivergence to you, is this umbrella of the whole range of thought and mind, and that can be divided into a whole Venn diagram, as it were, of different people and ways of thinking.

      Erica: Well, I think that there's a continuum. Every quality has a continuum, and everybody's in a different place on that continuum. So you could think of it as like a salad. You can never make the same salad. You could have the same ingredients, but you're not going to have the same proportions.

      Darius: Yes. And so each one of the ingredients are a continuum. You can have a tomato that's really small or a tomato that's really big, and it can dominate the salad. And likewise, in different minds, you can have a very strong sequencing, processing side of things, and you become a very sequential thinker and more m associated with autism. For example, very attention to detail, very attention to sequences. And then maybe on the other side of the spectrum, someone who's got very little sequencing in them, but they're very simultaneous. Everything is happening all at once, and they're much more three dimensional. And so there's lots of scales that people's elements in people's thinking and cognition.

      Erica: The other thing that I love about taking disability out of that mix is that everybody, again, has these different qualities. Yes, we all have different ingredients in our salad, so to speak. And some of us have some things that other people don't have. But people that don't have disabilities are neurodiverse. Everybody everybody is neurodiverse.

      Darius: That's interesting. That is very neurodiverse. That's your default. Everyone's neurodiverse. Because it's interesting, because now this is an interesting part of a discussion, because somebody listening might be thinking, well, I don't know what neurodiverse is all about, but it's often used like, we might say, my daughter is neurodiverse. And people go, all right, okay. And they're kind of adding to and to. Maybe they've got ADHD, maybe they've got some dyslexia, uh, maybe there's some autism. That's often what's being referred to in some way inferred right, you're saying by default, actually, everyone's neurodiverse. Therefore, what's the purpose of the word?

      Erica: It really focuses in on that we're not the same, that there's nobody else like you, at least. But then understand that this is my own take of it, because the history of neurodiverse, it actually emerged in the 1990s. Um, and of course, the aim was to increase acceptance and inclusion of all people and embracing different neurological differences, which, in fact, we all have. But it began with autism spectrum, and I think people loved it. And this is actually what happened with learning disabilities. People were like, oh, I love that. I love that term. And then everybody started using it, including, uh, those with intellectual disabilities. And then those that didn't have intellectual disabilities were like, oh, I don't want this anymore. And so then neurodiverse came out for the autism spectrum, and everyone's like, oh, I like that. So next thing you know, those with learning disabilities are like, oh, I'm neurodiverse, and ADHD, I'm neurodiverse, and emotional behavioral disabilities, and then even intellectual disabilities, where, oh, I'm neurodiverse. But I think what's kind of beautiful about this is that everybody is and if you take it from the place of executive functioning executive functioning is not a disability, but it is a condition associated with many different types of disabilities and many different neurodivergent conditions. So maybe the people can have neurodivergent conditions. We're all neurodivergent, but some people have neurodivergent conditions.

      Darius: All right, okay, but uh, let's just talk, uh, about neurodiversity and the terms that most people would commonly refer to it right now. And most people, when they're talking about neurodivergence, are saying that, yes, there are types of people who are more on the edges of the bell curve. I think it's 4% of people are ADHD. Somewhere around about 10% of people are Dyslexic. Some people say more in America, maybe a bit more. And then I think the autism spectrum is round about the 1%. I'm not quite sure on that, don't hold me to that. But it's still a percentage of the population are towards the bell curve of different ways of thinking and they're often more specialized minds.

      Erica: Well, and of course, I think that if we take the disability piece out of it, I don't have ADHD, but I have qualities of it.

      Darius: Mhm.

      Erica: And I think that we all do. We all have qualities or moments. Moments where we have ADHD. So I think it's kind of nice to because there's a certain line you cross which gives you that label. And there are those people that have those kind of nuances, those tendencies, but it's not enough. It's traits, right? They have a little bit of that ingredient, or maybe that ingredient only comes up under stress. And that's what's so interesting about uh, this. And what really for me, really pushes the idea of how important it is for us to look at everybody as an individual with these extraordinary, unique mixture of abilities and perhaps even difficulties.

      Darius: Yeah, I have a little bit of a pushback on that. Okay, so I like to do both sides of the argument here. Heard people say we're all kind of neurodiverse, we're all maybe a little bit dyslexic, we're all maybe a little bit ADHD. We're all maybe a little bit autistic. And you're kind of like, okay, hold on a minute. Okay, there's a part of me that says hold on a minute. Right?

      Erica: Yeah.

      Darius: There's a reason why we've identified Dyslexia as a very clear, focused area of difference in the way of our thinking. It's not all I'm a bit dyslexic and uh, I sometimes describe it like this. Right? I love the car analogy. There's a lot to work with a car. So you've got a car and you've got a transmission system in the car. It could be manual or automatic. Okay? And let's say that gearbox describes the processing style of that car. You process the power and the engine manually or automatically. And with Dyslexia, some people process information not automatically, but very manually. They have to be very intentional about sequences, about decoding words, recoding words correctly, coding numbers, writing in certain ways. There's a lot of sequencing challenges in terms of dyslexia, and that's a common trait. But you also get so where does this oh, there's a continuum. Well, it's kind of like this you've got some cars that, uh, have four gears in them and they're manual. And there's other vehicles have got 18 gears in them and they're trucks. Trucks have got 18 gears. Both are dyslexic. In my story, okay? In this analogy, both are manual, they're dyslexic. But the 18 gear needs a whole different driving style to drive that mind compared to the four gear. You can't just hop straight out of a four gear car, go into an 18 gear truck, and teach the 18 gear truck to drive the truck on the road safely. It's not the same, but you can take it the other way. What if you're an automatic mind, okay? You get different kinds of automatics. You get the Tesla. The Tesla is so automatic, you don't even feel the gears going up. It's just one gear power, sheer power, and that's it. I love it. And then there's like an automatic car, it just goes up the gears and you can feel it going up, so it's still geared, but automatic. Then you've got a semi automatic car where you use the paddles and you choose a gear to go up into and down. So the clutch is automatic, but the gear choosing is not. And so you've got the spectrum, but one is still dyslexic and the other is not. Now there's a, uh, gray area in between, but a very small gray area in between. But there is a clear difference there.

      Erica: Yes, and I hear what you're saying, and we need these labels if we want to call them that, because they provide reasonable accommodations. In the United States, if you have a diagnosis, then you are granted reasonable accommodations so that the teachers are required to give you the support and they are required to teach you, uh, slightly differently. Technically, they are required to do that. It doesn't always happen.

      Darius: Yes.

      Erica: And then, of course, there are those professionals that have really studied these different disabilities and have come up with approaches that generally work very, very well with that population of learners. So, yes, I see that there is a need to understand the commonalities. And when I work with a student that has dyslexia, and I have it too, I welcome them to the Dyslexia club, I give them a high five. I'm like welcome to the Dyslexia club because we do process differently. And Brock and Burnett the Dyslexic Advantage is a great book which really talks about the gifts of dyslexia. In other words, those with dyslexia are better at some, um, things than people that don't have dyslexia. For example, architects that are dyslexic tend to be outstanding. And I remember learning about a firm that would only hire dyslexic architects. Isn't that interesting? So there is that piece within Neurodiversity which encourages the general population to instead of focusing on what's wrong, it encourages people to focus on what's right.

      Darius: Absolutely, I agree. And, um, I uh, know I've skewed the conversation towards Dyslexia here, but the same thing applies to ADHD. There are core things within ADHD that are commonalities that are very specific to ADHD, especially in the realm of inhibitory control and focus and often working memory, but often more around inhibitory control. So what's interesting with Brock and Frenette, they're bringing up their second edition at the end of February. I've read a bit of it in advance because they're going to come onto my other podcast, dyslexia explored to discuss it. What I really love about that is they regard it as a trade off. So if you're a manual car, you've been designed as a manual car, because the resources you'd have spent on making it automatic have been gone into the big winch that's mounted on the front of your pickup. And you never really notice the winch when you're at school. But once you get out into the real world, you're pulling people off cliffs left, right and center, et cetera, but it's not part of the school's curriculum in terms of teaching a kid to drive their mind, as it were. I think the analogy of vehicles is quite a helpful one because you've got family sedans, you've got cars that are everyday cars, but they've got seven seats in them. Um, you've got sums that are all kinds of different kinds of cars, but they fit within some critical categories, as it were, that make them suitable for some environments and less suitable for others. And the key thing with Neurodiversity, I think, is not just the accommodations, but is the self awareness of what your particular way of thinking is and your way of working needs to be. And in Scotland, we have this legal term called way of working. Actually, in the UK, it's a legal term which basically means educational establishments are required by law to examine and teach a child or a person according to their way of working. And it's an interesting loophole, actually. I did a whole podcast episode on this with a lady who got an MBE from the Queen, who really worked on this in Scotland. And what happens is, you've got a way of thinking and then you've got a way of working, and they're not the same. So there's a lot of people who have got a specific way of thinking, but they're taught a way of working that doesn't suit their way of thinking. And you're not required by law in Scotland and UK to teach someone according to their way of thinking. You're required to teach them according to their way of working. Now, this is an interesting distinction, because there's a lot of people who haven't discovered their way of working. They just do it the way their teacher taught them, or their mum did it and so on. And that's what you're alluding to, is we put on assumptions that this is the way you should drive your car, just put it into this gear, do this, do that and you're thinking, hold on a minute, I'm driving a truck, or I'm driving a plane or I'm driving a boat, but it doesn't seem to work here. But you have no idea what's inside of your head. So you've got to kind of discover what vehicle you're driving to learn your way of working. And once you've discovered your way of working, it's just life is so much better.

      Erica: Yes, it is. You're validated. You're validated.

      Darius: No, I don't even mean validated. I don't care what other people think per se, but I start to work properly because it's like, oh my goodness, that's the way my brain works. I have a way of working. Oh, that works with my brain. Great. Now life is so much better because I'm working with my mind rather than against it.

      Erica: It reminds me of my dissertation where I interviewed individuals. There were college students that were diagnosed with learning disabilities for the first time in their life in college. And I wanted to see how it impacted their sense of self. Mhm, and it was profound. And that's why I used that word validated. Their cognition was validated. They were vindicated. They used such powerful words. They were able to shed all sorts of negative labels because they now understood their cognition better. And it really leads me to something that I created for my private practice and have worked on over 20 years. And I initially called it the eclectic learning profile. It's now been changed to the student processing inventory. But I really look at twelve different ways of processing. So this really neurodiversity, right? Twelve different ways that people process and they're all on a continuum, same idea. And we look at are you a visual processor, an auditory processor? And of course we are all of these on the continuum. Some are very, very little or maybe even really been exposed to it. But anyway, we'll go through it. So it's visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, the common ones that people think of for multisensory. But then I bring in processing areas of sequential and simultaneous and then I bring in some of um, Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences of reflective or logical and then verbal being able to process out loud. And then I have indirect experience, which is vicarious learning or demonstrations, direct experience where you're actually living the experience. And then rhythmic, melodic, which are really interesting individuals that really kind of think to a rhythm or a beat and that really engages their cognition. But it's really helpful and this is something I give to everybody and this is the profile that I give to the whole family unit so that they can see the neurodiversity within their family. But it's also really helpful for teachers to see how a student processes because initially when I work with a student, it's such a great way for me to learn how to connect with somebody. So if I see somebody is a visual and a sequential learner. Then I give them strategies that are visual and sequential and we connect. They like me, I understand them. And then when they trust me, I say let's try some other ways. Because ultimately what we want to be is we as an individual want to be neurodiverse. We want to have diverse ways of processing. So the more we can process in each of the different twelve ways of learning, the more we can accommodate our environment. Because if our environment expects us to learn a specific way, we can recognize it and say, oh yeah, I can do that, uh, and I can do it, and I will do it, but I'm also going to reprocess it my way. But it gives you that sense of flexibility, but it also gives you that kind of ownership of that doesn't really work for me, but this does, and this is how I do it and this is how I can do it.

      Darius: An example of that would be someone is a very sequential teacher. Say they give you the steps and they're going to describe to you how to build a ah, bookshelf. And here are the steps, here are the tools you've got to do. And there's a list, and there's the wood, and there's a cutting list, and there's this and there's that. And when they spend half an hour to 45 minutes teaching you verbally and on a list how to do it, another woodwork teacher might say, look guys, I'm going to teach you how to do the shelves step by step. I'm going to show you one step. You're going to watch it and do it while I'm doing it. And then we'll move on to the next two different learning styles. Neither is right, neither is wrong, but it suits different styles of people. However, what's interesting is like you're saying, often our role is to translate what we're being given into the language of learning that we prefer. And you'll notice that I even do this on this podcast all the time. I'm always translating it into something visual. So I say it's like this a picture or an analogy because I'm translating sequence of words and ideas into something very visual and three dimensional. That's why it's cars and vehicles and landscapes and stories, et cetera. But that's a process of translating it into your language, of processing it. And you can't always expect everyone to speak your language, but you need enough of everyone else's language to get the gist of it, to then translate it into yours and um, really digest it.

      Erica: And what's so beautiful about this is I think executive functioning and executive functioning training can be such a wonderful way to accommodate neurodiversity because part of executive functioning training is helping people to understand how their brain works. It helps them to break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps. I like to call them like micro goals. And we've talked about that in past episodes. Also, executive functioning training can help you with that self reflection and it can help you with metacognition. I love metacognition. It's the awareness of your own cognition. Well, how do you do that? Well, you can do that by understanding your brain better, by taking these types of inventories or resources, but also just learning what metacognition is and learning how to use those tools of our mind like our inner voice and our inner visuals. In fact, our inner voice and inner visuals, as we've talked about, is a part of working memory. And what is working memory? The number one indicator of academic success? The more we learn how to use those tools of our inner voice and our inner visuals. But if we don't even know what that is, we're so far away. And that's what executive functioning training does, at least in my view. I think you and I talk a lot about that and how to strengthen those different areas of executive functioning, which really does accommodate the individual within neurodiversity, but also helps that individual understand how neurodiverse everybody else is.

      Darius: As, uh, you were talking, I was just looking through our past episodes, erica, episode 21 we talked about do I have ADHD and does it impact executive functions? And there's a number where we've talked a bit about this. I can't remember quite the episode. We talked about it, but I floated a theory and we talked about it, which was if you look at the three areas of executive function working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility, I wonder if different neurodiverse, the edges of our diversity in our minds, like people with Dyslexia, often have real difficulties with working memory. It's not automatic that you do, but often it's associated with Dyslexia. And then people with ADHD often have real difficulties with inhibitory control and then people with autism often have difficulties with cognitive flexibility. And so you look at those three areas and these are areas you can really concentrate on strengthening that can lift up the whole of the person and not just target that particular difference. And I've seen it so often with people that, for example, if someone is ADHD and they're super organized, then it is a huge compensatory strategy for their other hyper fixation or distractedness or whatever. And they're like, yeah, okay, I'm going to let myself be a little bit thinking all over the place and enjoying that sort of daydreaming and so on. Because as another part kicks in and saying, right, I know I've got to get such and such done, and I've got a way of organizing myself to get that done. And even working memory with Dyslexia, for example, a lot of people have difficulties with sequencing their words and processes, especially standard operating procedures. When you get into the workplace, you're fine with reading and writing and so on, but when it comes into the process of writing a document, of responding to an. Email or following a standard operating procedure with the way you edit videos or communicate with your team or whatever, you drop the ball on some of those sequences, that's a problem. But if you have captured it with your working memory compensatory strategy like we've talked about in the past, either through one of your memory hacks or you take notes of it in, like apple notes or whatever, and you've got a sequence there you recognize you've got, uh, difficulty in that area, so you compensate for it very often in one of these executive functioning categories of working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility.

      Erica: Well, study strategies is a part of executive functioning because what you're doing is you're kind of taking control and you're using strategies. And the more awareness we have of our cognition, the other thing is the more compassionate we can be with ourselves. Which is really important because I think a lot of struggling learners really beat themselves up.

      Darius: Yes.

      Erica: And then they become just that negative inner voice becomes the biggest discouraging piece and it can lead to a form of learned helplessness. Which is scary. Which is scary. That's a place that you just don't want to be.

      Darius: That's episode 15 Learned Helplessness erica, that was a great episode in terms of being self aware. There's two ways to approach this with neurodiversity sometimes and talking about the learned helplessness. Sometimes you can go to the side of oh well, I'm like this and I can't do this and I can't do that. And actually what I found is and there's sometimes I'm thinking, oh, I just can't write, I can't organize, I can't do this report or this writing. My wife can do it effortlessly in like 15 minutes and I take like 3 hours spaced over three weeks because I'm putting off so much that it just takes forever. And it really gets in the way of business sometimes because I put off writing copy for my website, for blogs, for promoting things on emails. I've actually got a confession to make. I've got an email list of like 12,000 people who absolutely love getting my emails. But I don't send very many emails now because it just so overwhelms me sometimes to think is this communicating it, right? And often I just overthink it and I just need to send out a message and that's it. It's not what my wife would send as refined, but something is better than nothing. But that's my own personal confession on that one. Where am I going with this? Where I'm going with this is that once you start understanding the way your brain works and what vehicle you're driving, you can have compassion for yourself and you can start working with your strengths and not expecting yourself to be able to do absolutely everything. If you're a Ferrari, you should not be saying to people, right, I'll pick up that pallet load of wood and lob it in the back of the car and deliver it to you. No, you're meant to pick up one person in the second seat in the car and get there somewhere really fast in style. And that's what you're good at. Leave the delivering of the pallet wood of stuff to the person who's got a wonderful pickup truck of a mind who wouldn't be any good on a racetrack, et cetera. Just learn who you are and what you're meant to be doing.

      Erica: Yeah. And what it does also is it really enables you to feel more confident about delegating. Yes, delegating to other people that do have those strengths. Creating an, uh, awesome team, I think. And then also using technology to accommodate. So you can use technology, and I know that you do, to help you write copy of some kind, and I do as well. And that can be really freeing as well, so that there are many ways that we can accommodate ourselves. And technology is so interesting, we should dip into that a little bit, because it can hit all of the different ways of processing. Right. Technology can make things more visual. Oh, they can make things more auditory, podcast. They can make things more tactile with maybe touch screen technology. So for the ways that you don't necessarily process so well, you can get these technology supports, like digital organizers, task managers. There's so many different apps that can help you. And, uh, we have both been having a lot of fun with Apple Notes. That's a pretty big one. You convinced me completely now, and I'm absolutely loving it.

      Darius: Oh, tell me more, because we mentioned it in the last podcast, but what have you been doing with it?

      Erica: Out of interest, just use it for everything. But I can find things really quickly and easily, so it's nice. It could be a list of things that I want to take on, uh, my vacation. And then I think, oh, that's so good, because the next time I go on a vacation, I can find it. Right. Or it might just be my to do list. Or I'm putting in a new generator, so all the information about generators go in there. You can put in live links. So then I can find that website again. But it's just so quick and easy to find things, because I open it up and I just put one keyword in and boop. Pops up. There it is. And then you showed me that magical strategy that was bothering me, because I thought it was a limitation in the program, and it wasn't, which is that if I hover over an item, I can then reorder them, because I really like to prioritize things. So that things that I need to do now go on the top, and now I can reorganize them, which is making me feel much more comfortable. Not that I'm a sequential learner. I just like to see what I need to do on the top because otherwise it can get lost.

      Darius: Well, isn't it interesting that you're talking about these different processing styles? Right. And um, often I need to see something simultaneously in a map first to get my head around it. So it's kind of like the 10,000 foot view. And then I need to put it into a list in the right order, very sequential, which is the ground view, what's next on my path, step by step. And often I need to flick between the two. I need to go up to the helicopter view, get my orientation, look at the map of where I am, orientate myself and say, yeah, I'm still on the right path, let's go back to my list, keep working the list, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, et cetera. So it's not to exclusion often it's also to do with in what order do you do it? Because I found that with learners, there are some teachers who will teach you right from the beginning. This is step one, step two, step three, steps four. And it's like a dot matrix painter and they end up printing out the whole picture and you get the picture and other teachers kind of sketch out the picture and say, right, this is a big picture of history or whatever, and we're going to start adding some detail in. And then you end up with the same end results. A, uh, really detailed view of what's going. But what came first makes a difference to the way you process it.

      Erica: You're right. And everybody is going to need something different. And I know of people, including myself, I am not a sequential processor. In fact, it agitates me. It makes me feel like I'm stuck in a way of approaching something that feels uncomfortable. So, for example, I don't like writing a five paragraph essay in order. My brain starts to flip out. It's like, no, this is too and even when I was a child, I used to read from the bottom of the page to the top. I just didn't like going in an order. I got bored. And it's funny in that really that cognitive inflexibility of mine led to some other ways of processing. So I often teach students, I'll evaluate, is it helpful to write an essay from the introduction to the conclusion or do you just get ideas? And if that's the case, then I kind of teach them to write backwards. So instead of writing from main ideas to details, we can write from details to main ideas. So we put down all the details and we categorize them into likenesses. And then I, uh, just call it writing backwards. Because in a way it is, but it's a different way of processing. So I think you're absolutely right, being very open to the idea that people may have different ways of getting through the process that works for them. But I think another thing that's really important to point out when accommodating these neurodiverse students or even workers is we want to be also attentive to giving alternate forms of assessments, whether you're in school or whether you're in work. Some really matter of measuring whether they have the knowledge. Who cares how they show you whether they have the knowledge? So they might be able to do that on a multiple choice test or they might not. They might just need an oral test. But as a teacher or as an employer, you really just want to be measuring their knowledge and giving them the flexibility to share their knowledge in a way that's comfortable for them, will make them more comfortable, less anxious, and they'll be a better worker because they're able to be themselves. Right? We want people to be allowed to be yourself and that people appreciate it. That's what it gets right down to is allowing people to be their best self and recognizing it.

      Darius: Yeah. And if you're taking it from a business point of view, is allowing people to be as productive as they can be. Mhm and the best way is often to work with their way of thinking, which develops their way of working, which ends up with being productive. I've got an example of what you just described with the oral tests. Got client shout out to Janet Scott, who is a doctor consultant in Scotland. And she got two degrees in Oxford and Oxford as a university. It's a very old university. Does a lot of assessments orally and so very much like a PhD type assessment, but they still do it at undergraduate level. A lot of oral assessments, which is very inefficient. And these multiple choices have been brought in because they're more efficient for the markers to get a reasonable idea of whether you've got an understanding or not. But they're not necessarily accurate as to whether you've got the understanding or not. Because often an oral test, you can see someone, you can go oh, you don't actually know your stuff. You say all the right words but you don't know your stuff. But then, uh, with a multiple choice, you can say all the right words or tick all the right boxes, but you put them in a practical setting, they don't necessarily know how to do it well. And there are limitations to these accepted, more recent ways of assessing. Just because they're efficient doesn't mean they're effective.

      Erica: And so many of them are poorly written too. You're really just measuring whether someone has good language skills, not necessarily the knowledge of that's, right? Yeah. I hate multiple choice tests and in my master's degree in educational psychology, I remember studying that it is the worst type of assessment because there's so much fallibility in it and technically I think it was something like if something like 40% of people miss an item, you're supposed to throw it out. But teachers don't do that because either it was a poor it was a poorly worded question, or you didn't teach the content. And they don't do that, so they don't really use those assessments appropriately. So it's frustrating. And I'll often look through some tests that my students have done, and I'm like, M, I think I would have picked that too. I get your perspective of how you came up with that answer, and I think I probably would have done that too. But let me show you why this answer they think this answer is correct. And sometimes they'll even say, well, there are two right answers, but one's more right. There's no such thing. If it's right, it's right. It's not more right. It's just in different environments. Anyway.

      Darius: Well, that's exactly what happened with her. She was finding becoming a consultant. The final little step was this multiple choice, six hour multiple choice exam, and it kept stumping her, although she knew all the stuff. And in the end, that's exactly what was happening because she thought differently. Her Dyslexia gave, uh, her this kind of bigger picture. That's the trade off. Maybe not so good with some of the itty bitty grammatical details, but you're great with the bigger picture contextualization. That's the trade off. She'll look at some of these multiple choice questions about infectious diseases and say, well, actually, there's a case to be said for number one, and there's a case to be said for number two, and a very strong case for that. And I would probably go for number three, because there's a stronger case for that. But that is not what the examiner actually has even thought of.

      Erica: That's right.

      Darius: Because often thinking with such a bigger picture, they're saying, well, this might be associated with this other disease. So if, uh, I was presented with this plus this other disease, I'd be thinking about B. But in the end, you've just got to learn, what are the rules of the game? What are they asking for? They're asking for c fine. Okay. C, it's a form of inhibitory control. You just have to say, right, I am going to blinker myself, think in this focused way, and also cognitive flexibility in that you have to put yourself in the other person's shoes and saying, here's the examiner. What are they actually looking for? Fine. We're not going to have a debate about this. This is your answer. If she was in Oxford, she would have been given a very good argument for B and C, and on balance, she would have said, well, on balance, I would actually go for B. She would have got the mark because she would have demonstrated her critical thinking and her ability to diagnose. And that's the key.

      Erica: That's right. Multiple choice does not honor critical thinking. It does not honor creativity. It doesn't.

      Darius: Yeah. And, uh, if you are neurodiverse, I think it's really helpful, uh, not just to get the accommodation, but to understand why the accommodation is there and start advocating for yourself. So, for example, I do this with clients in the workplace, with Dyslexia, productivity coaching. If you're going to tell someone you're Dyslexic, you say, I'm really good at the big picture, problem solving, improvising, adapting, creating solutions, but I'm actually not so great at the smaller details of grammar and spelling and so on. I'm Dyslexic. And they go, all right. And they've got it in the context. So in that short space of time, what you've done is, number one. You've framed your abilities, your difficulty within the context of your ability. So you've described your ability first. I'm a pickup truck. I'm really good. I can carry tons of stuff. I can drag people out of problems and so on. But when it comes to the details of driving down a tiny little lane around Bollards and things like that, I'm not so good. I need a bit more space. Can you give me a bit more space? Like, fair enough, no problem. So you've created the context of your ability. You've then identified your area of difficulty so that they're prepared for it, and then you label it with Dyslexia. So you don't start with Dyslexia. You don't say. Oh, I'm dyslexic. You start saying, oh, I'm really good at doing X, Y, and Z. I'm not so good at the details and the grammar and the spelling. I'm Dyslexic.

      Erica: Right. I love that you're right, because you're putting forward your strengths first and the label last. I think that's great. But I think going back to Accommodating, the neurodiverse, I think having that positive, inclusive environment is so incredibly important. And that way people are comfortable self advocating. They are comfortable being around that diversity. It's so funny because in this world, so much war and so much discontent is about the fact that people aren't the same. Like, if you're not like me, then you're not part of the group. I think the more we can brace diversity, not only in how we look externally, but how we process internally, the better the world will be.

      Darius: Yeah.

      Erica: And recognizing that within that diversity could be the solution. That's what evolution is all about.

      Darius: Yes.

      Erica: Perhaps some of these quote unquote disabilities are just, uh, really the world creating diversity so that we can ultimately survive.

      Darius: Absolutely. I totally agree. And I think there's probably a good reason to have those proportions of these different ways of thinking. Why is there 10% of people with Dyslexia, 4% with ADHD, and so many percent with Asperger's or with autism? And it's probably because you kind of need that proportion within a team or a village or community or a tribe. You look at NASA, they're like 40% Dyslexic, 40% autistic, and then 20% typical thinkers because they need the Dyslexics for the big multidirection thinking, big picture. And then the autistic. Very detailed, systematic, don't change anything. Let's just stick on this track and go in this direction and really get stuff done. To a detailed level. There's a whole range and mix. And I'm generalizing here, of course, and that needs to be said. I'm generalizing. But there is a reason why these proportions are in the mix, baked into evolution. You know, it's like a pinch of salt is better than a whole bowl full of salt. And like a pinch of autism, um, with a spoonful of Dyslexia and a whole heap full of flour of typical thinkers, per se, you get a beautiful mix. But it's not just all flour either, is it? There's sugar in there. There's all sorts in different proportions.

      Erica: Yeah. Well, I think that this is a wonderful place to wrap it up, because I know that we could definitely go down that rabbit hole, and perhaps we will in another podcast.

      Darius: Erica, it's been good, uh, shooting the breeze. I think we should put in some links to some of the stuff we've been talking about, like the Harvard Review you talked about, your eclectic profile, the Dyslexic advantage, and other links are all in the show notes. Swipe up to see where they are, click on them, go explore, and go enjoy your different ways of thinking.

      Erica: Sounds perfect. Thanks, Darius.

      Darius: See ya.

      Erica: Bye bye. 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 bye.