Episode 30: Celebrating Neurodiversity, Overexcitabilities, and Giftedness

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with guest Katy Higgins Lee

Release date: March 12, 2023

In episode 30, Chris and Emma were joined by Katy Higgins Lee, MFT, a therapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in Santa Rosa, California. She works with neurodivergent adults with a focus on giftedness and twice-exceptionality. This episode is our contribution to Neurodiversity Celebration Week, March 13-19, 2023.

We kicked the episode off by defining neurodiversity with a quote:

“Neurodiversity is the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.” Dr. Nick Walker

We learned about the terms neurodiversity and neurodivergence, and the appropriate application for individuals compared to groups. Katy talked about the way that neurodivergence can be either innate (e.g., ADHD, autism) or acquired (e.g., PTSD, traumatic brain injury).

We asked Katy the question, Is giftedness a type of neurodivergence? We agreed with her that giftedness is more than an IQ score, and fits the definition of neurodivergence since this is an experience of reality that diverges from what can be considered typical. Asynchronous development was mentioned, which is a definition of giftedness from the Columbus Group that incorporates the overexcitabilities:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” Columbus Group, 1991

Katy discussed being neurodiversity-affirming and non-pathologizing. We learned that we can view these differences as identities or neurotypes, rather than disorders or disadvantages. This perspective is not meant to minimize disability, but we are taking the perspective of the social model of disability rather than the medical model. We talked about the fact that giftedness is not the advantage or blessing people may assume.

Neurodiversity-affirming means using identify-first language rather than person-first language. For instance, autistic person rather than person with autism. We also talked about not using functioning labels such as “high-functioning” vs “low-functioning” autism and instead considering differences in support needs.

It’s also critical to be trauma-informed and LGBTQ+-affirming. Katy said it’s especially important to remember the need to be trans-affirming as part of a neurodiversity-affirmative practice because many neurodivergent people are also trans, nonbinary, or otherwise gender non-conforming.

We discussed overexcitabilities being part of the gifted experience, and the autistic and ADHD experience, and how that wasn’t clear from Katy’s introduction to OEs in the gifted community. Chris had a similar experience, and they shared a little about their work to figure out if OE was really something different from ADHD or autism. Chris feels it’s time to change the narrative and help the gifted world catch up—OEs are a part of the neurodivergent experience beyond the connection with giftedness.

Katy pointed out that the term giftedness is losing credibility in the neurodiversity community partly due to OEs not being seen as types of neurodivergence, which can hinder people on their journey of self-discovery. It’s not an either/or proposition of OE or ADHD (or autism). Missed identification of neurodivergence types in gifted individuals is a cause of trauma for many.

We talked about the overlap between ADHD and autism, as well as the way that other differences seem closely connected such as giftedness, gender differences, Ehlers-Danos Syndrome, and OCD. Last year, Katy created a diagram based on the overlap between ADHD, autism, and giftedness, which we’ve included below.

Katy’s diagram of the overlap between common traits of ADHD, autism, and giftedness. Not to be used for diagnosis or identification. 

Katy’s diagram of the overlap between common traits of ADHD, autism, and giftedness. Not to be used for diagnosis or identification. (Katy updated this diagram after the episode was recorded.)
We discussed how stereotypes about ADHD, autism, and giftedness, and even their names, have caused problems in understanding these experiences. Giftedness is a term with a lot of misconceptions, but it is an important difference to acknowledge and understand. Even though parents of gifted children are often gifted themselves, they don’t necessarily see it in themselves or recognize its impact on their lives. Intergenerational trauma was mentioned as one of the factors that must be talked about and addressed in order to shift the patterns that hold us back.
Bio: Katy Higgins Lee, MFT is a therapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in Santa Rosa, California. She works with neurodivergent adults with a focus on Giftedness and twice-exceptionality and is also a homeschooling parent.

Links for this episode

Katy’s Tending Paths accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

Katy’s website

Katy will be joining us as a presenter at the 2024 Dabrowski Congress! Click here for more information

Dr. Nick Walker’s website

The Origins and Conceptual Evolution of Overexcitability

Reexamining Overexcitability

Autism as a Disorder of High Intelligence

Emma’s video on looking at the tiger (Integrating Perspectives, YouTube)

Types of Increased Psychic Excitability by K. Dabrowski (PDF)

Giftedness: The View Within by M. Morelock (PDF). We’ve included this paper because it’s where asynchronous development made its debut in 1992. The book Off the Charts by Neville et al. is a great place to learn more about asynchrony and giftedness.

**Thank you, Bee Mayhew, for helping us produce this transcript!**


Emma: (intro) Welcome to Positive Disintegration, a path to authenticity. This episode we are celebrating Neurodiversity Week, and we're doing so with a conversation with Katy Higgins-Lee. We're talking about neurodiversity, neurodivergence, giftedness, overexcitability, what neurodiversity means, and how to be neurodiversity affirming. This is a fantastic conversation. We hope you're going to get a whole lot out of it, because this conversation really is a celebration of neurodiversity.

Hello dear listeners, and welcome back to another episode of Positive Disintegration. I'm your host Emma Nicholson, and with me is co-host Dr. Chris Wells. Hello, Chris.

Chris: Hello, Emma. It's great to be here with you again.

Emma: It's always great to be here with you!

Chris: I'm excited for our episode tonight. We have a guest who is going to talk with us about the topic of neurodivergence, and I'm very excited about this, because I just feel like it's a little shocking that we've gone this many episodes before tackling this head-on. I'm excited to have Katy with us tonight.

Emma: Me too. It would be good to also get some advice and direction on how to talk about neurodiversity in the first place. We did our values episode, and we spoke about how we want to be affirming, so it would be good to get some guidance in that direction too.

Chris: Exactly, yes.

Emma: For our listeners, our guest today is Katy Higgins Lee. Katy is a therapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in Santa Rosa, California. She works with neurodivergent adults with a focus on giftedness and twice exceptionality, and is also a homeschooling parent. Welcome to the podcast, Katy.

Katy: Hello. Thank you for having me.

Chris: Thanks so much for joining us. We're excited to have you here.

Katy: I'm very excited to be here. I'm a big fan of the podcast and of both of your work, so I'm very happy to be here.

Chris: Well, and we're fans of your work.  I'm going to jump right in and ask—Katy, what is neurodiversity? What does that mean?

Katy: Sure. I like Dr. Nick Walker's definition of neurodiversity, which is, and I'm going to read it so that I get it right: “the diversity of human brains and minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.”

The Neurodiversity Movement was created by autistic advocates, but it was later applied to a lot of other things. A group of people can be neurodiverse, but an individual can be neurodivergent. So, for example, each of us, the three of us, are neurodivergent, but together, we, as a group, are neurodiverse… just like with cultural diversity and biodiversity—is a similar way of using that word.

In terms of neurodivergence, there can be innate or acquired neurodivergence, and it all fits under that umbrella. So, innate being things like autism, ADHD, giftedness, dyslexia, et cetera. And then acquired would be things like PTSD, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, et cetera. Pretty much anything in the DSM, which is the manual that we use for diagnosing, at least here in the States, and I think some other places use it too.

Almost everything in the DSM would actually be examples of neurodivergent. Very often, though, when people use the word neurodivergent, they're referring to autism and ADHD. There is a push to start to be more specific when talking about yourself. I often will just say that I'm multiply neurodivergent, because that's a little bit easier than listing all of the things. But I also do state which specific neurotypes I am.  (Light laughter, wondering) That was the only question, right? I just forgot.

Chris: Well, now I feel like that really opens the door to saying, is giftedness its own neurotype?

Katy: That's something that's debated. I personally believe that it is. And it seems like most people in the giftedness community believe that giftedness is a neurotype, because it's not just IQ, there are other things that go along with this intelligence. So yes, giftedness is our neurotype.

Chris: Something you just said just sparked me to realize that… especially when you're thinking about giftedness as asynchronous development—which includes the overexcitabilities, the heightened intensity as part of it—is a certain kind of giftedness. Not everybody who is identified as gifted experiences overexcitabilities. But if you do, and you have that high intelligence as well, or the advanced cognitive abilities, then that's an intense experience of reality!

Katy: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, and that's the idea with a neurotype is that it's anything that diverges from what is typical. With the overexcitabilities and the asynchronous development that comes with giftedness, that makes it even more clear. But even if it was just IQ, it still would be an example of diverging from what is typical.

Emma: With giftedness as well, I guess the way you learn and process information may be different and that in itself would be a form of being neurodivergent, would it not?

Katy: Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean… I think anyone who…  being gifted, we experience that, but then observing it in kids makes it so clear to me. I've seen teachers where if they're not familiar with gifted kids, they'll be concerned that a child is not doing a certain thing that they're supposed to be doing at the grade that they're in. And then, the parents will often know, well, you know what, they're going to be okay, because they are going to all of a sudden do that thing without us even teaching them, or it's going to happen just in a split second. That asynchronous development is…  such a different way of learning and experiencing the world that it's so just markedly noticeable when you witness children as they are, as they're learning, as they're going through the process of development and the asynchronous development that just causes things to go… seemingly, supposedly very slow and then suddenly (snaps fingers)  just jumping ahead, not going through all of the steps that are more typical development for learning.

Chris:  Right. When I was a kid, I was reading by the time I was three, that was a very different experience of childhood and learning that happened in a flash. I don't remember learning to read… I only remember reading. I know a lot of people who remember being a kid and the struggles.

Emma: I do.

Chris: Do you?

Emma: But I was really young, that's it. [They were like] “you were reading when you were two”. But I remember having this distinct thought that they, my parents were going, oh, well done, you're reading, but I actually memorized my favorite book. [chuckles]  I was just following along because I knew which words went with which pictures. So I was kind of like, faking it.

Chris: Oh, that's interesting… one of the participants in my dissertation study, she described how her son was reading a book and she was like, oh, I'm going to read this book. Her son was reading really early, but her husband didn't believe it because he thought that he was just memorizing the books. And so she describes having to pull, randomly pull, books off the shelf, and have the kid “prove” that he was actually able to read. So, it's interesting because some kids do memorize and so it seems like reading.

Katy: Right. And I think that is so important, what you just described…  that is part of the way that giftedness is an example of diverging from what is typical, even though there's so much (privilege) there is definitely privilege in giftedness, in certain ways. There's also the misunderstandings that happen like that, where someone thinks, oh, you couldn't really be reading that thing, but the doubting of someone's experience that happens when someone is gifted?

I definitely experienced that. I remember a teacher who… I think it was first grade, who I shared a poem that I'd written and the teacher said, oh, you couldn't have written that and went to my parents and said, did Katy actually write this? And they said, yeah, as far as we know. But the teacher never believed that I actually wrote it. And I remember another time reading, I think it was To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it at a pretty young age. I don't remember how old. And again, it was a teacher who said, oh, you couldn't have read that. And when I said, no, I did. I really did. And then they said, oh, well, you couldn't have understood it, though. You must have read the words, but you didn't understand what it was about. Right? So I think that is again, it's another example of how being gifted can cause these ruptures in our experience and in our relationship with, say… educators and parents and others.

Chris: That's right. Because the sad part to me is that I think for the most part, it's so unintentional—this experience of invalidating children by adults. Of course, there are exceptions. There are malicious adults that exist out there who are just mean to children… but for the most part, people are well-intentioned, and they don't realize that they're invalidating kids when they say that kind of thing.  Like, oh, you couldn't have really understood it, though. No, I did.

Katy: Right. Exactly. And I think that that’s similar to what happens with autism and ADHD. Where I don't think that people are trying to be invalidating of people's experience… they're not trying to be unsupportive. It's just that because this person in front of them, that is neurodivergent, that their experience is so different from their own, they just can't even understand why or what this person needs. I think it is part of the Neurodiversity Movement, to be neurodiversity affirming [is] to recognize that every person is different and every person's needs are valid… That it's important to ask and find out what this person needs and to validate what they need, then to provide those supports, even if it seems like something that makes no sense to you at all.

Chris: Yeah, that's the important part. Even if it doesn't make sense to you exactly, it's about the person in front of you, [the person] who you're trying to help or serve as an educator, a clinician in whatever role, or even as a parent.

I can say there have been many times with my own son where I've unintentionally invalidated him just because I was imposing my own values or seeing things only through my lens and not trying to see it from his perspective or to meet his needs, where he was. This unfortunately is just something that's too easy to perpetuate in our lives, without meaning to, you know? I think that I had to figure out as a parent to stop and see the child in front of me, to respect him and his needs. When you're a parent, it's too easy to be like, hurry up, or I'll do that for you or, just because of the constraints imposed by life and so on. We could have an entire episode on this… on demand avoidance as another kind of neurodivergence, which we experience here in my house.

Katy: (in agreement) What you were just saying is so true. As parents, and probably as educators too, I’m not an [educator, but, yes yes yes] I homeschool. So I do educate my kids just on a…, it's one on one, two at a time because I have two kids, but it's inconvenient when someone needs something different, right?

Like when suddenly their tastes change or their interests change or they suddenly don't like something that they did like, it's inconvenient, right? It makes sense that we would have this tendency to kind of push people towards what is easier for us. And a lot of times what is more typical is easier, right?

In a classroom, I can't even imagine being a teacher. I can't imagine trying to teach to a huge range of different needs, but that is actually what is needed. And I mean, that's a bigger issue of school systems and what needs to change, which is… part of the reason that we homeschool is that it was very clear to us that our kids would not have fit. We had, again, the privilege to be able to do that in terms of having both [of us, my husband and I] having flexible work schedules because we're both self-employed.

We were able to make it work where we share the responsibility of educating our kids because we recognize that a school environment would not be supportive for them in most situations because they're different in various ways.

Emma: Katy, I want to ask, on being neurodiversity affirming, can you talk a little bit about being non-pathologizing?

Katy: Yes, absolutely. So I will talk about this mainly in relation to innate neurodivergence…l like I said, I think that the idea of neurodiversity, the Neurodiversity Movement is to get the perspective of people who have the lived experience, basically. So I don't have lived experience with other neurotypes, so I don't feel comfortable talking about them. But with autism, ADHD and giftedness… I view being neurodiversity affirming, is to view all of them as neurotypes and identities as opposed to pathologies or deficits. To look at all three of these as being somewhat equal in that way, as opposed to, again, giftedness being like a benefit and ADHD and autism being a disadvantage.

But that doesn't mean that with autism and ADHD that there isn't disability that happens with them in our society. Part of that is, in the Neurodiversity Movement, they adhere to the social model of disability, which proposes that a person is disabled by society and environment as opposed to being inherently disabled. So it's using the word disabled as a verb rather than a noun. And that's a very big part of the Movement and of being affirming.

It's also recognizing that all of these neurotypes are just different ways of thinking, experiencing and communicating, they're all completely valid. But it's easier to be certain neurotypes in our society. Again, because if you diverge, it's more inconvenient, it's more challenging for people, and people often don't just automatically accommodate for these differences.

Another aspect of being neurodiversity affirming is using identity-first language as in saying “autistic person” as opposed to using person-first language, which would be saying a “person with autism.” For ADHD, there isn't a great way to do this. So, many of us just say ADHDer instead of saying “person with ADHD.” The reason for that is because we view autism and ADHD, just as we do with giftedness, as being just a part of who we are, part of our identity as opposed to like an illness that's been put on us, right? You wouldn't say a cancer person, you say a person with cancer, because it's an illness that came along afterwards, that you want to get rid of. Autism and ADHD are not things to get rid of, they're not things to cure, which is another big part of the Neurodiversity Movement: not try to cure autism, not try to cure ADHD, because they are just differences that need support and accommodations as opposed to fixing, curing or trying to make someone fit neurotypical norms.

One last thing I'll say about being neurodiversity-affirming is also not using functioning labels. We wouldn't say that an autistic person is low functioning or high functioning because, for many of us, functioning varies day-to-day depending on the environment and even moment-to-moment. Instead, it's preferred to just describe a person's specific needs in a particular situation, instead of saying that a person is high functioning or low functioning.

When I started telling people that I'm autistic, pretty much every person said, “Oh, but you're very high functioning, aren't you?” I fit what people have historically talked about as being high functioning, because yeah, I'm married, I have kids, I have a job, I have a master's degree. But that way of phrasing it is not neurodiversity-affirming because there are many people that fit that description and can't manage to take care of their basic needs at other times, or they can't speak at certain times—they will completely become non speaking. So the idea of functioning labels is not neurodiversity-affirming.

The last two things I’ll say: being trauma-informed is really important and trans-affirming. LGBTQ definitely, but especially trans-affirming. That is something I think is really important to say because there are some people who say they are neurodiversity-affirming, and they have very large followings on social media, but they are transphobic and stating things as facts that are not accurate about trans people and their experience. That is very important because there is such a high crossover between people that are trans being autistic—there's a really high percentage of people that are trans and that are also autistic.

So, that's an important part of being neurodiversity affirming as well.

Chris: Thanks so much for including gender in this discussion of being affirming, because I think that's so important. And you're right. I unfortunately see a lot of transphobia in the neurodiversity community and in the gifted community. It's an ongoing battle.

Tell us how you learned about Dabrowski's theory.

Katy: Sure. So I first learned about Dabrowski and the theory in an online gifted parenting group… I think about four or five years ago. And I feel like I need to explain the process of me ending up in a gifted parenting group to hear about Dabrowski. I was identified as gifted as a kid when I was about seven or so, and I was very privileged that there was a gifted program for elementary school that I got to be in. It was actually an experimental program at the time, we were the first sort of cohort of kids to do it in our town. And it ended up to be a wonderful experience. But I remember at the time being really curious and also baffled about what giftedness was. I remember the adults, parents and teachers telling us what it meant that we were gifted. Basically, they said that we were smart, but that description just didn't fit with what I experienced and with what I witnessed in my classmates. I never really got any answers at that time.

I eventually became a therapist and then became a parent and I started noticing some traits that my kids showed at a very young age that reminded me of not just me, but those classmates that I'd had back when I was a kid. So I again became fascinated with understanding giftedness, which is what led to me being in a parenting group for giftedness. And then in that group, reading about Dabrowski, and specifically it was initially OEs, overexcitabilities. That's what I learned about first. And I immediately thought it was just fascinating. I saw how it applied to me and to my family and then also my clients that I was working with.

At that point…, my primary focus as a therapist was working with trauma, but I was really seeing how overexcitabilities were showing up with so many of my clients. So I did more trainings and I read various books on giftedness, which led to the discovery over time.. and this took a while to discover; I'm not just gifted, but also autistic and an ADHDer. And in that process, it became really clear to me that overexcitabilities are part of not just the giftedness experience, but also the autistic and ADHD experience. Again, it was confusing to me that I wasn't seeing that or hearing that being talked about more in the giftedness community. There wasn't, at that time, at least I wasn't really hearing anybody talk about overexcitabilities being part of autism and ADHD. In the neurodiversity communities, I wasn't seeing any talk about overexcitabilities. And then I also really saw this major disconnection between the giftedness community and the neurodiversity affirming community.

Chris: I remember coming to overexcitability from my perspective as understanding myself as an ADHDer and also wondering about that, except I was reading articles in the literature that were saying that they were different. That there was a clear distinction between overexcitability and ADHD. And that especially came from the Misdiagnosis book by Jim Webb et al. I had both editions of that book, like from 2005 and 2016 at some point. I thought to myself, wow, is this really true that it's really overexcitability and not ADHD? Of course, now, that was several years ago, and I know that that's not true.

But that's the problem, that there's a whole literature that tells people that these are different things. But those of us who are neurodivergent, I think it's up to us at this point to kind of take control of this narrative and help people understand that they're not different.

Katy: Right, right, exactly. That same book I had read earlier on in my exploration. And initially, I thought, oh, this book is so great. It's so helpful. Okay, me and my family were just gifted. That's all it is because there's been some question about whether me and other family members were autistic. And I initially read that book and then thought, okay, that's not what it is. And then as I started digging deeper from the neurodiversity lens, I started to recognize that, well, no, the things that were being talked about in that book as being just OEs were actually the seemingly the exact same thing that were being talked about as being traits of other kinds of neurodivergence.

At one point, and I think I've shared this before with you, in my process of discovering that I'm neurodivergent, I framed it as a hero's journey process, because I have a background in theater and film. My undergrad degree is actually in filmmaking. The hero's journey, the monomyth process, has been something that has been important in understanding different things in my life. But with neurodivergence, it was again, if you're familiar with that process, one of the stages is where when you're going through a transformation—that there are allies and enemies that will sort of come up and help you or hinder you in your process. And that's just part of the process that has to be there. It's funny because that book, I actually think of it as being one of the quote “enemies”. I mean, that's a very strong word because I have loved many things that James Webb has written. So it's not, him, but just the way that the book phrases things that was something that actually kind of hindered me in that process. But I also recognize, as all journeys are like that, it's a part of the process that's needed.

Chris: Right. I agree. I went through that, too. It's so interesting to me that we're having this conversation because I think that potentially a lot of people will listen to this episode and recognize themselves and what we're talking about right now. I still see all the time in groups on Facebook, people saying, “Oh, no, it's just giftedness,” and then recommending that the person read Misdiagnosis. And no, it's overexcitability— it's not ADHD or autism. I hope that this episode will just be one step in the right direction in helping people see that that's a false dichotomy and just not reality.

Katy: Right. Exactly. And one of the things that I think the giftedness community needs to recognize, at least in my opinion, is that the concept of giftedness is losing credibility in the neurodiversity community, because of so many people that have had a missed identification of other kinds of neurodivergence. I mean, really a lot of the reaction to some of the social media things that I posted where there's a lot of people loving things that I have talked about. But then there are some people that are saying, no, giftedness is not real. I was identified, this is and this is, things that I've read people saying I was identified as gifted. (paraphrasing synthesis of different people saying) And then years later was identified as autistic and it was just autism the whole time, and giftedness was something that got in the way of me recognizing that.

And my opinion and my experience is that giftedness is also part of the picture. It's not that it's instead of. For me, I know that's true, that I'm also gifted, but that was only part of the picture. So having the focus on giftedness and sort of minimizing the possibility of other kinds of neurodivergence, that there are many people who really have experienced trauma from that. At least that's what I see so often with clients, and again on social media, I'm seeing that [experience]. And because of that, people then say, okay, giftedness is associated with this trauma for them. And so then they just write it off as not being something at all. There's this lack of trust in the gifted label because it's associated with their misdiagnosis or their misidentification of autism or ADHD.

Chris: Exactly. I've seen that. Of course, I've seen threads that you've posted in groups where this has happened. And so, yeah, I've seen it as well. And I think you articulated that so well that [how] their own trauma is causing them now to even reject the idea of giftedness as being legitimate. Yet we know that they coexist. It's certainly not one or the other. And/or they're not mutually exclusive. You can be autistic, be an ADHDer and be gifted as well.

It's a really interesting situation. And personally, I keep seeing a generational divide here. There's just a certain number of people who work in the gifted field, either as therapists or teachers or in whatever capacity, and they just haven't been exposed to what we've been exposed to because of our own research and journey into the neurodiversity community. So, they're just unaware and they, for the most part, I think, are still thinking of autism and ADHD or whatever other exceptionality as something that's wrong with you and not from an affirming perspective.

Katy: Right. Exactly. There's this assumption that the same trait…if one person has a trait that is not causing any issues in their life and it's a trait that kind of is in that overlap between giftedness and another kind of neurodivergence, there's this assumption of: well, then OK, then that means it's giftedness. If it's not disabling, if it's not causing issues in your life, then that means it's just giftedness.

If it's causing problems in your life, that means that it's some other kind of neurodivergence. That’s one of the things that I have really been trying to [do], to shift that perspective, just mainly from my own experience again—with myself, with clients and with family members where the same trait at a different time in life will be disabling.

So, like, personally becoming a parent shifted a lot of things. Where things that before I had had so much support and accommodations without even realizing it. Then when I became a parent and my needs had to be put aside very often, then a lot of these traits that previously had just been gifted traits, supposedly, suddenly became very clearly autistic and ADHD traits. That's where I think that it can cause so many problems when we have this idea that gifted is an advantage and autism and ADHD are [seen as] a disadvantage. That one, giftedness, as being constructive and ADHD and autism as being destructive, which is not the case at all.

In the same way that the gifted community has used OEs as a way to show the positive aspects of giftedness and seeing them through this positive lens, that's exactly what the Neurodiversity Movement has done for autism and ADHD. That's again where that disconnection is so startling when, Chris, you and I being kind of in both of those worlds, it's very startling to see that. They're all talking about the same thing, but with different languaging and then thinking that they are talking about something completely different.

Chris: Totally. I've been exposed to a lot of documents from the past, and many times I've seen checklists or where half the page is, if it's here, it's overexcitability. If it's over here, it's ADHD. It's unfortunate that there was such a push to make it an either/or situation.

But I'm glad that we're at a point now where we can kind of clarify these things and help educate people.

Katy: I feel like it's important just to say, to state, that I understand why in a way that that happens. I understand that many people were misdiagnosed or, I don't know that they were maybe they were misdiagnosed as autistic when they were actually gifted…, that possibly does happen. I have not witnessed that personally in anyone that I know, or with clients, but I do hear that did happen. So I can understand why there was this push to recognize giftedness and all the different ways that it can look. But I think so often what can happen is swinging too far from one side to the other side, these extremes that happen in our culture and in different communities. It seems like that's what happened—that things swung way too far to the other direction, then hopefully now things are starting to get a little more balanced.

Chris: I hope so.

Emma: Do you think part of that is because as a society, we've got this real need to make things quite simple and clearly defined? We want to fit something neatly into one box or another. And, we want to say, well, this is definitely one thing because it's some way. We don't want to have too many labels attached to ourselves. Because I think if there's a pathologizing sort of stigma around things or culture, it's like, well, if I take on too many labels, what does that say about me? If I take on ADHD and autism and giftedness, what is that saying about me as a person? Is it making me too different? Because the way we run as a society is we say round peg, round hole, fit in. And when we have too many defining features that make us different, we feel really uncomfortable about that.

Katy: Absolutely. Yeah, I think you're onto something with that. Absolutely. I had two thoughts on that. OK, one is that it's interesting that we want to have everyone fit into these boxes. Yes, I mean, because it's simpler, it's easier if we just say it's this or that it's black or white. It's all or nothing. It's easier to understand things that way.

Neurodivergence, of course, is so nuanced and so complicated. There is clearly some connection between giftedness, autism, ADHD, along with other things. I've heard some people saying OCD, that there's some connection there, too. And then, of course, there's Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, EDS, which I am pretty sure I have, is a connective tissue disorder that occurs in really high rates for people that are autistic. And then people that are trans are more likely to be autistic. So there's clearly something, there's some connection between all of these things that we don't understand yet, that's where it's actually more likely that if someone is one of these things that they will actually have more than one label.

There was research that recently came out that, and I'll see if I can remember the details of it, but it was that they identified the genetic variants for autism and ADHD. They recognized that there were a certain number that were shared by autism and ADHD. These variations that deviated from typical development, these two, I can't remember how many it was, five, something like that, that were for autism and ADHD. And then there were more that they identified that were specific to autism or ADHD. So it almost indicates in a way that possibly autism and ADHD are like two branches that come off of a bigger branch that comes off of the bigger branch before that, if that makes sense.

I think that at some point we're going to recognize that with giftedness too, that there's some connection. There's also another research study. Well, this was actually not a study… this was where they looked at a bunch of other studies and compiled the information together regarding giftedness and autism, they use the word high intelligence instead of giftedness. It's this article called Autism as a Disorder of High Intelligence. And it's basically that the alleles for autism are, for some of them, they're identical to the alleles for giftedness. Again, they use the word high intelligence. There's some connection there. This article, their hypothesis was that autism is actually a disorder of (using the word disorder, which I don't love) but that's the way that they phrased it, of high intelligence. There's just these really extreme highs and lows, more extreme than even with giftedness, where there's asynchronous development with giftedness, that with autism it's even more extreme.

For autistic people, the area of intelligence that they have might be something that we, in our society currently, don't even recognize or aren't even aware of as being something that is valuable in our society. And that's not to say that I'm saying that giftedness, or that I'm saying, that autistic people are all gifted, because the way that I, and most people in the giftedness community, define giftedness is different than just being intelligent in one particular area. Giftedness, there's more to it than that. But there is clearly some connection there between all of these things.

Emma: I think there's connections there that we haven't even thought of and don't yet understand. I went to a workplace event recently and in this booklet that I've got, it's about being seen, which was a spotlight on BiPlus inclusion in the workplace. One of the things that came out of the 2022 Australian Workplace Equality Index was that something like 49% of people who identified as bisexual or pansexual also identified as being neurodiverse, which you wouldn't immediately jump to that sort of correlation. Clearly there's some sort of connection there to have such a high statistic on it.

And what I like, Katy, about one of the things that you did, was you produced that Venn diagram about ADHD, autism, giftedness, and that sort of did the rounds on social media. And I think the more that we think of these things in terms of overlap and Venn diagrams, because people ask me on YouTube comments a lot about overexcitabilities and say, well, that sounds like a highly sensitive person or that sounds like ADHD or that sounds like autism. We have to start thinking in terms of overlap and Venn diagrams, particularly when it comes to things like traits and physical manifestations.

Katy: Yes, absolutely. And what was so fascinating about that diagram was seeing the reactions to it that were so varied. I mean, I just have to say that I didn't expect it to get shared so widely. I had just sort of put it together. It went nuts, didn't it?

Chris: Yes, yes, it did.

Katy: And I had just sort of put it together as I was trying to concretize something that was in my mind that I'd been… been trying to understand the overlaps and the distinctions between these three things. And so I eventually was like, well, I actually kept hoping somebody else would make one. (chuckles) There's a wonderful account on Instagram, NeuroDivergent Insights, who does Venn diagrams. You both might have seen all of these Venn diagrams that they do for all different kinds of neurodivergence. And I kept hoping that they would do one with giftedness and they never did.

Eventually I was like, okay, I'll just create one. I'll just put it down on paper. And then I was like, should I share this? I don't know if I should share this. It's just something that's in my mind. I don't know for sure that it's accurate. But I decided eventually to just put it out. You know, I made it look a little bit nicer than it was when it was just for me, but still didn't put that much effort and did not perfect it, and then put it out. Then it got shared so widely, way more than what I usually have happened with my tiny little following that I've had. And it was so interesting to see the reactions because there were so many people in the neurodivergent community that again said things like giftedness isn't real, or they said, you've got this all wrong. All those traits that you have under giftedness are actually autism or ADHD. And then on the flip side, there were people in the giftedness community who said something similar, but the opposite. They were saying…  no, no, you've got this wrong. Those traits that you put under autism and ADHD are actually gifted for some of the traits. So it's so interesting to see just how varied and how opposite these reactions were to this diagram.

Chris: It was fascinating. It was amazing to see it get shared the way it did. Wow. I'm going to put it in the show notes so that listeners can see it. I love that you did it. I have thought for a long time about these overlaps, but I'm not a visual person. So, I'm not the kind of person who makes a diagram. I love when someone else like you does. I love all of your content on Tending Paths. I highly recommend people follow you. You have great content, Katy.

Katy: Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate that. That was also something where, pretty much everything I've posted is, something where I was trying to understand something, did some research and then wrote it down and then decided to create it into a visual form, then decided to share it. It was all sort of part of my own process. And also very often it's when I get sort of fired up (laughter) about something that I'm reading somewhere else and have this need to correct things, which is an autistic trait. I mean, I know not only autistic people do that, but like when something doesn't sit right with me or when I see misinformation, it is so challenging for me that I immediately feel the need to correct it. And that in certain situations does not go well, where I have been perceived in a negative way sometimes because I am, I get very passionate.

I always come out very clearly when something doesn't feel accurate to me, which I have to say is one thing about that diagram that bothers me a little bit is that it’s not perfect.  Now I'm seeing all of these flaws in it and things that, oh, yeah, that wasn't quite right… oh, yeah, that maybe should have been over there. I should have done more research, which is one of the struggles I've had with creating content and posting things, our understanding evolves over time. Sometimes something that I think is true, I realize later that it's not. And partially that's because these categories are again, there's so many overlaps, and there's still so much that we don't understand about it. And there's so much research that still needs to be done.

Emma: I'm going to say two things on that—one is [that] content creation is never a perfect thing. As long as you say, look, I'm still learning on this journey and my perspective is going to shift, then that's the best you can really do. Chris knows, I love this, like the ‘looking at the tiger’ analogy. I use this a lot. If you go up to a tiger's cage and you look at it from the left side, you might see two legs because you're looking at the left side of it, one eye and one ear. Then you go around to the back and all of a sudden you can see a tail and a butt and there's no eye. Then you go to the front and all of a sudden there's two eyes and a bunch of teeth that you couldn't see before.

I think like when we're looking at things, we get to actually get a better picture of the truth when we look at things from multiple angles. I think when you're talking about people arguing over your Venn diagram, saying: this is clearly all giftedness or that no, this is clearly ADHD, they're just looking at the same tiger from different sides of the cage.

To me, that's like people arguing over sneezing. You've got allergy people going, well, sneezing is clearly a symptom of having allergies. And then you've got other people in the cold camp going, clearly sneezing is a symptom of having a cold or a virus. And it's like, well, it can be either or it can be both. So I think that multiple perspectives and looking at things over time and saying, well, now I've got a slightly different perspective. You talked about being a parent, that shifts your perspective on things… that's all okay because it all adds richness to the tapestry.

Katy: I love the way that you just said that. That was beautiful. Thank you.

Emma: I've never heard anyone say a sneeze is beautiful before, but thank you. I'll take that.

Chris: It was! I'm thinking about your diagram, Katy. When I think about the overlap between these types of neurodivergence and also other ones… overexcitability is at the heart of so many of these things that we see as characteristics or symptoms, we just haven't put them together yet. Nobody has done this research yet. Because you're in my life (you know) that I've done a couple of presentations this month on overexcitability and neurodivergence. I just feel shocked that nobody has explored connecting overexcitability with autism and ADHD and giftedness yet. How has that study not been done?

But then I have to remind myself, oh, right, well, it's because there's literature in this field saying that they're different things. I think that that's one of the barriers. But also, I'm hoping that graduate students, researchers, other people… they'll hear this conversation and consider doing this research and start connecting these dots and helping us have a real foundation, empirically, to support what we're saying. Because that's what we're missing right now. We have this old writing from Dabrowski that gives us insights into what he was talking about. We can see that he wasn't only talking about giftedness. That's extremely clear. But we don't have the research to back up what we're saying in the way that I wish we did.

Katy:  Right, right, exactly. It seems like part of the reason that that has happened is that the[research] hasn't happened so far, is because of all of the misunderstandings about what autism and ADHD are.

It's still so, so common for clients that I have, [they] will go to talk to various people like a therapist or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, to get assessed. So this is someone that supposedly is a quote expert on autism or ADHD, and they will be told things that are completely incorrect, basically told no, you can't be autistic because [fill in the] blank. Things like ‘you can't be autistic because you make eye contact’, or ‘you can't be autistic because you have been so successful in life’ or ‘you can't be autistic because you are married’, things like that, that I hear all the time.

With ADHD also, it just came up in my practice this week with a therapist that I'm supervising, where a conversation she had with someone that was assessing a client was just horrifying of what they thought ADHD was in terms of saying, well, this person has a degree so they couldn't have ADHD, or this person has this hobby that they focus on really well, so how could they have ADHD? So again, it's these misunderstandings about what ADHD is.

I mean, the names themselves are so misleading. ADHD—”attention deficit,” which we now know is not actually accurate. It's not a deficit of attention. It's just a difference in attention. I can focus wonderfully on something that I'm interested in, but put something in front of me that I'm not interested in, and I cannot retain the information at all, cannot focus on it.

Things that I'm interested in, I can focus on for hours! And then autism, the name there, the etymology of the word autism is self-absorbed, which again, feeds into those stereotypes and misconceptions about autism. That autistic people don't have empathy and don't care about relationships, which is very inaccurate. It's very inaccurate. There's a range of experiences of empathy for people that are autistic, but the majority of autistic people actually are hyper empathic and that we have often… and again, this is not everyone who's autistic, because there's a variety of experiences, but many of us have very high affective empathy—also known as emotional empathy, which is where we can almost feel feelings of other people.

We can tend to have lower cognitive empathy, which [let’s] understand what that is. That was something I experienced, I used to experience. I don't now because I've done a lot of work in improving [cognitive empathy] and getting more skilled at it. But I used to get very confused where I would suddenly feel, say, anxious and then not know why. Then I would realize that it was because of the person I was interacting with, but it would take me a very long time to recognize that, because of that lower cognitive empathy. Cognitive empathy, though, can be learned.

So, that's where, now—I'm a therapist, I've been a therapist for a long time. I also did theater for a long time and there's research showing that theater itself can improve and shift your sense of empathy. So that's where the way that someone presents with, say, something like empathy doesn't mean that they're not autistic. And so these names are even just part of the problem, but they are the names that we have… not that we can necessarily change them at this point, but that is part of the reason I think that the research hasn't been done. There are these misunderstandings out there about what autism, what ADHD, actually are. These were just a couple of examples. There's so many within the traits of both of these neurotypes.

Chris: Yes, that was so beautifully said. Oh my gosh. My camera was turned off, so you couldn’t really see that I was really smiling at the point where you talked about how the names are part of the problem. This is a conversation I've had with Michael multiple times… where he's like, how can you have ADHD? Attention deficit!? You don't have an attention deficit. To him, my ability to focus on the theory, study it like I do and kind of memorize things so easily means that I can't possibly have ADHD. When in fact, it's my ADHD, I think that allows me to do some of the things I do and to dig in the way I do and hyperfocus. But the name, “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder” doesn't reflect me well.

It's the stereotypes and the tropes and the names themselves that cause so much of these misunderstandings. It's true. But I can say, I've come a long way in battling my own stereotypes about this stuff, and especially autism. I knew I was an ADHDer since I was [age] 24. That's when I was first diagnosed. Now I really wonder about myself and autism, because there's so much in autism where I see myself that it seems to me like they’re cousins, ADHD and autism. There is so much overlap between these things, much more than people realize.

Katy: Absolutely, there is so much overlap there. And I just have to say a couple things. One: giftedness is also a name, going back to what you're saying before the initial thought, giftedness is also a word that has a lot of problems with it. Because it implies, it's just confusing, you know? Many, many people will say, gift, like, what, what is this “gift”? And who gave you this gift? The name is a problem. But again, that's the word that we have, so that's what we have to work with. But it does cause problems.

I've said this before that just because the names are inaccurate doesn't mean that we should just throw out the concepts, but we do need to help people recognize that the names are not accurate for the actual experience. The other thing I was going to say is I have also come so far in my understanding of all of this, that I knew nothing about autism and ADHD, even though it turns out that I am autistic and ADHD.

I knew really nothing about it from graduate school and my first, more than 10, years of being a therapist. I really knew nothing except what the DSM says, because that's all the school I went to taught us, the stereotypes. So I didn't understand it either. I think that's a big part of the problem too, that there isn't enough training happening to help clinicians, to help therapists, understand these neurotypes. Earlier on, before I knew these things, before I understood, before I did these deep dives into understanding them and discovering my own neurodivergence, I had clients that I was working with that said, hey, I think I might be autistic. And I was invalidating of their experience and I have so much regret now over that.

Thankfully, at least one of the clients I've continued to work with. So, we've been able to process that and they now know that I am autistic and ADHD or they know, we've been able to process it within the therapy. But I have a lot of regret over not knowing these things. I also recognize that I was not taught it, I was taught the stereotypes and that is a very big problem. Thankfully, the school that I went to at least now has Dr. Nick Walker on staff at the school, but he was not when I went there. For anyone that doesn't know, Dr. Nick Walker is a professor and a neurodiversity advocate that has written some books and has a blog and is a very big part of the Neurodiversity Movement. I'm very hopeful that there's a shift happening- that people like Dr. Walker are on staff, and are professors now, at some of these schools so that people, clinicians can actually learn accurate information.

Chris: That's great to hear. Yeah, Nick Walker is great. What you just said about giftedness though is problematic. It prompted me to want to bring up the fact that even if we say intelligence is problematic, because of the history of intelligence testing, the reality is that there is a meaningful psychological difference in people who have high intelligence. We can't just look at the history of intelligence and testing and throw it all away because there were mistakes made, or that it was used improperly.

There really is a difference at the high end of intelligence and how people experience reality. There are qualitative differences in people who have high intelligence or are gifted. It's true that these terms are problematic, but it's invalidating to the experience of those of us who have high intelligence to say that it's all just trash and it doesn't matter and it's not a real individual difference. I mean, that's just as invalidating as telling somebody they're not autistic or an ADHDer—it's so frustrating for me personally to see that happen so much in the neurodiversity community.

Katy: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. I find that very frustrating. I think what you said, you used the word ‘qualitative’, qualitative difference. I think that is what gets misunderstood so often—people focus on the number, the IQ number as being [the focus]. Well, it's flawed, so therefore we should just throw it out, not recognizing that it is actually a qualitative difference as opposed to the quantitative number of IQ. Especially because IQ, it's flawed, it doesn't pick up on a lot of people's intelligence, especially if they are neurodivergent in different ways. But again, that doesn't mean that people aren't gifted, that this experience doesn't exist, right?

It's a very real experience and it is a qualitative difference in so many areas of life. And it gets, just as much as autism and ADHD are, misunderstood. Giftedness is so misunderstood.

Emma:  All this for me seems to be pointing back to the issue of non-pathologizing perspectives on stuff, on non-pathologizing attitudes. The importance of being neurodiversity affirming, because the issue around [how] we don't understand what a thing is and we're telling people they don't fit in there, is because we're not accepting all the people that may identify.

Let’s just say it's ADHD—if we don't allow people to step forward and say this is me and then redefine those boundaries around what those people's experiences are, then we're never going to get a proper view of what the picture actually is. And in a place and a time where we've still got stigma, we're just going to basically keep people in the brain closet. Basically, people who don't want to step forward and say my experience of being gifted is different to your experiences not being gifted, or here's how I experience giftedness.

All these problems are basically coming down to the fact that we don't have this welcoming, affirming space for which people can step out of the brain closet, declare themselves and say: this is what my experience is and then look at that and say, okay, let's not invalidate you, let's take that perspective and add it to our knowledge set rather than say, well, you don't fit in with our existing knowledge, so goodbye, get out of here.

Katy: Right, right, exactly. And I think the key there, I mean, what I heard from what you were just saying, or at least what I was thinking about, is how in the Neurodiversity Movement, one of the sayings that's frequently said is “nothing about us without us.” So the idea that research and discussions and trainings about any particular neurotype should include people who actually are that neurotype, which might, I mean, that would seem so obvious, yeah, that should happen, but historically, that has not happened with autism and ADHD.

So there's a big movement now for researchers that are autistic, and ADHDers, to be the ones doing the research on all of this. We need to focus more on lived experience as opposed to what the observed behaviors are. I actually think that's true for giftedness too, because that's one of the things that I hear so much, again, from people who have this trauma around their gifted label. There's also trauma around the way that, usually it was adults in people's lives, and I thankfully did not experience this, but I hear it so often where adults will say things like: “you have so much potential” or “because you are gifted, you are going to do these amazing things” or that “you have a responsibility to do these amazing things”… the idea that we should support people who are gifted because of what they can contribute to society.

That can feel very invalidating of their experience.  Don't they have permission to just be sort of a normal person who happens to think in a different way? And why do they have to contribute to society? Right? With giftedness, there is a tendency to talk about giftedness from the perspective of somebody else, which is so interesting because this is oftentimes parents that say this, and very often parents of gifted kids are also gifted themselves. I think the reason that this happens so often, and it happens again with autism, especially, and probably ADHD as well, where when someone has their own unaddressed trauma that they will end up sort of playing that out with other people, possibly their own kids.

We didn't talk much about trauma so far, but that is something, that is the other lens that I see everything through. I said before that I was a trauma therapist before I discovered neurodivergence, and I see everything through a trauma lens. But again, this is an autistic trait, to notice patterns and I have to address this too… I know that [with] giftedness also there's a tendency to notice patterns and I could be wrong about this. Again, there needs to be more research on this, but I feel like with autism, it's almost like we can't not see the patterns in everything and see how these things fit into these systems.

With trauma, I see trauma almost everywhere. And I have been privileged that I actually have not had that much trauma in my life, but I see trauma very clearly because of family background. I resonated with what Marc Smolowitz said on your podcast (Episode 21, GTN Awareness Week) talking about his own intergenerational trauma of his family. My family there's intergenerational trauma from a different genocide, from the Armenian genocide. And so although I have been very privileged in terms of what trauma I, you know, the trauma that I've not experienced, I've witnessed it so much from a young age that I have become sort of hyper aware of symptoms of trauma.

My point of saying all this is that I see how trauma is playing out in all of these communities and in the interactions with each other, in the interactions between parents and kids and teachers and kids of all of these neurotypes. And I think that [trauma] is something that also needs to be talked about and addressed in order to start to shift some of these patterns. If we're not aware that that's what's happening… if a person isn't aware that they're triggered in the moment, they're not aware that their nervous system is being hijacked because they're perceiving a threat. If they're not aware of it, there's no way to change that pattern. That's the first step in changing things.

Chris: That was so wonderful. Oh my gosh. I have to just say that I said “yes!” loudly out loud multiple times while you were just talking, Katy.

Katy: Oh, that's great.

Emma: I want to ask a question of both of you on this because we've talked about trauma quite a lot on this podcast, particularly around giftedness. From a perspective of positive disintegration, do you think this maybe proves it? Not “proves” it, but do you think this highlights that connection between what Dabrowski is saying with overexcitability and developmental potential?

The fact that these individuals who are neurodiverse are seeing the world and experiencing the world in a different way as a result of that, they are then, manifesting… they're either going through trauma or they're responding to it in a way that is really leading into a disintegrative process.

Chris: Not just see it differently, the world, but feel it and experience the world differently. I do think so because if you have these overexcitabilities, then you're taking in so much more stimuli. You're processing it at a deeper, different level. Your experience of reality is different and it's different in a way that puts you in conflict with so much in your environment. At school, at home, potentially, based on the kind of support you have. And so I do think that from the trauma lens, or the neurodiversity lens, either of them, you can see how a person with multiple kinds of overexcitability, especially all [5] of them… if you're gifted too, the intensity there means that it's almost inevitable that you're going to experience positive disintegration.

Katy: Yeah. And what that's making me think about is the research that has been done. I believe it was actually the research on highly sensitive people or sensory processing sensitivity is the other word for it, which I know there's a lot of controversy around that concept too.

But some of the research around it, showing that certain people have a tendency to be more affected by the events in their life in both directions so that they are more likely, if a situation [occurs, and the environment] is not supportive for them, they end up with symptoms of trauma… if the environment is positive and supportive, they're more likely to thrive, that it goes in both directions, that they're more likely to be impacted by their environment. I just wonder about how that plays out with developmental potential and overexcitabilities and all of this too, how that plays in. That's another thing where I think there's a connection, the idea of highly sensitive people. I think there's a connection there with all of these neurotypes that's not really understood. But there seems like there's something there.

Chris:  I agree totally. And what you just prompted me to think about is… growth in either direction. You put that in the context of emotional overexcitability in which there's this relationship connection. In my case, I feel like I was really lucky in my life because, when I was young and I was really struggling, I was easily able to connect with supportive adults and age peers in my life, have a lot of growth promoting mutually empathic relationships that were really critical to my mental health and to my growth and development. But I realized that there are also people out there in the world who have the potential to have that strong emotional overexcitability, but don't have people in their lives who they can connect with. They don't have the right people around them to provide that kind of support and relationship.

If you're if you're someone who has very strong emotional overexcitability, if that's your strongest type of overexcitability, and if you're living in a situation where you're bereft of the right people around you to connect with, that's going to be a kind of torture in its own way. So, I don't know. that's just where I went with this.

I think that if the conditions of your life are so critical, and we just haven't given that enough credit, too many people who studied this particular theory, Dabrowski's theory, put it all on the individual as if this is all some magic thing that we have within us that allows us to overcome. Well, it's absurd to think that our social environment doesn't play a huge role in our development. I mean, it totally does. And Dabrowski absolutely makes that clear in his work, from my perspective.

Katy: [in agreement] As you were saying that I was thinking about how one of the things that I think is so important about overexcitabilities, with anyone… is that one of the benefits that I see in recognizing overexcitabilities, is to use that as like a tool in recognizing what your needs are. I  think of that even if you don't use overexcitabilities, but if in terms of other the other labels, autism, ADHD, giftedness, dyslexia, too, a lot of these neurotypes, that they if we can shift our perspective from them being a deficit to ‘this is an indicator of what a person needs’ and [and say] what those needs are.

With overexcitabilities, [we are] recognizing that this is what somebody needs. I make a point of when I notice that I'm not doing very well for whatever reason, or if I'm feeling low or just something feels off, to go through my checklist of overexcitabilities and notice: Okay, have I not been meeting one of those? the needs that I have in these areas? I have to have my needs met in some way in these different areas in the overexcitabilities and I use that with clients often too. Recognizing, okay, if you have an intellectual overexcitability, you need to meet that need in some way. If you have imaginational [OE], same thing with all of them. Emotional…  because you just mentioned that one, I mentioned before that theater was a big part of how I met a lot of my needs.

But I think emotional was one of them, through theater, that I really met at that critical period of adolescence, when I was involved in theater. I think that's why I got through so many years of my life without having more difficulties, despite the fact that I'm neurodivergent in all of these different ways. I think the fact that I had that my needs met. My environment happened to meet all of these overexcitability needs that I had.

Chris: That makes so much sense to me.

Emma: Am I allowed to throw shit at Scott Barry Kaufman at this point?

Chris: [collective laughter] Please do. I still feel so aggravated about that. Please—go for it.

Emma: He posted something on Twitter, which really got up my fucking nose. And it was one of those ‘everybody can be the master of your own happiness’ kind of tweets. It's like, well, if you just fix certain things in your life, you'll find your own happiness. I'm like, you are completely ignoring people's circumstances. You are completely ignoring what happens to minorities and what happens to poor people and what happens to people in trauma. And you were just wiping all that away and whitewashing it. It really annoyed me!

Katy, what you were saying about needs and getting those needs met really struck a chord with me. The more complex you are as a person, the more needs that you have that need to be continually filled, the harder it is to do that in life. Even if your circumstances are ideal, then it's still not an easy task to do. But for most people who are trying to balance family and work and paying the bills and the everyday life thing, it can almost seem like an impossible task. And that whole thing that, well, ‘you can just make yourself happy if you try hard enough’ thing really aggravates me. It's just dismissing the circumstances and the situations for people who have it much harder. When the ante is upped, when you're setting the gameplay on the video game of your life to extremely hard, it's really just telling those people, you're just not trying hard enough.

Katy: Yes, absolutely. Also when you were just saying that, I was also thinking that it is a very individualist way of perceiving things, right? Because yeah, if you have no responsibilities to other people, that makes that a lot easier, right? Being, for example, a parent, or if someone was caregiving for a family member or something, and especially with people who are from collectivist cultures where it's not all about just changing things in your own life to make yourself happy, it's about serving the community and your family as a whole. Yeah, I can understand why you would be pissed off.

Emma: [sarcastically] How dare you have meaningful relationships? (banter) Concentrate on yourself and your own happiness! How dare you want connection with other people?

Chris: It was too easy to get to an hour Katy! You clearly have to come back and join us again. If it's okay with you. [laughter]

Katy: I would love to, I would totally love to.

Emma: [playfully] Yeah, how dare you have meaningful conversation, Katy.

Chris: Katy, thank you so much for joining us. This has been an incredible episode. It's going to be such a resource for people to draw on who want to know more about you, about being neurodiversity affirming, the overlap between giftedness and other types of neurodivergence. This has been a wonderful conversation. I would strongly encourage people to follow you on social media and to enjoy your content, it's excellent.

Katy: Thank you so much. And it's a huge honor for me to be on your podcast. I didn't mention this before. I now know you, Chris, but I was following your work before I actually knew you. I was on your website reading everything that was on there… reading your, I think it was, your dissertation that you have posted there? I read that a long time ago. I followed your work and then Emma, I definitely watched your videos when I was exploring overexcitabilities, and I still reference them sometimes and I recommend them to people all the time. I love your podcast. I'm honored to have been on today. And I really enjoyed talking to both of you. Thank you.

Emma: Thank you.

Chris: Great. Well, thank you. Yeah, that's so kind.

Emma: And thank you as well, Chris. It's always a pleasure.

Chris:  Thank you. Yeah, it's always wonderful to be here.

Emma: And thanks to our listeners as well. We always appreciate you being with us. If you have any questions, you can email positivedisintegration.pod@gmail.com or find us on Facebook or Instagram. Until next time, keep walking the path to your authentic self.