224: Hiding in Plain Sight: Understanding Less-Obvious Autism, with Donna Henderson, Psy.D. & Sarah Wayland, Ph.D.

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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Though our understanding of autism has greatly expanded, many autistic individuals are still missed or misdiagnosed. Not all autistics are severely outwardly impacted, like Rainman. Autism is a spectrum and it can show up in many different ways — even camouflaged. 

In this episode, I’m talking with Donna Henderson, Psy.D. & Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., authors of the new book,  Is This Autism? A guide for clinicians and everyone else. We talk through the diagnostic criteria of autism in a new way — through a lens of understanding the deeper nuances of each area and what those symptoms might look like in a child, adolescent, or adult who has less-obvious autism. Those who are hiding in plain sight.


  • We all burn out during social interactions. 
    • Autistic people burn out faster than non-autistic people.
    • How understanding of autism has changed over the years.
    • Those who camouflage and blend in.
  • What does it mean to be autistic? 
    • The seven main diagnostic criteria for autism.
  • Nonverbal communication. 
    • Non-verbal communication, eye contact and non-autistic people.
    • The importance of understanding the underlying experience for autistic people.
  • Social motivation vs. desire. 
    • Nonverbal communication and effort for autistic people.
    • Relationships and repetitive and restricted behaviors.
    • Empathy and cognitive empathy.
  • The myths about autism. 
    • Non-autistic people saying that autistic people don’t have empathy.
    • There are so many myths about autism.
    • Repetitive restrictive behaviors.
  • Flexibility and perfectionism. 
    • Flexibility and black and white thinking.
    • Rigid rule-following and perfectionism.
    • Sensory differences.
    • Interoception.
  • Intense or unusual interests. 
  • How the book can be useful for parents. 
    • Difference should inspire curiosity instead of judgment.


Some of the resources may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.

Is This Autism? A guide for clinicians and everyone else, by Donna Henderson and Sarah Wayland with Jamell White

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My Guest

Donna Henderson, Psy.D.

Donna Henderson, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist, specializing in neuropsychological evaluations for children, adolescents, and adults who would like to understand themselves better. She is a sought-after lecturer and provides training and consultation for other healthcare professionals. Find her at drdonnahenderson.com.


Sarah Wayland, Ph.D.

Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., is the founder of Guiding Exceptional Parents, and co-founder of The Behavior Revolution. She provides neurodiversity-affirmative support, education, and community for parents of neurodivergent children.


Speaker 1 0:03

We all burn out at some point with social interactions, but autistic people burn out way faster than non autistic people, for the most part, not all of them. We were talking with an autistic college professor at one point and he said, Look, I can go to the department party and interact with everybody and you won't notice anything different. But what you don't know is I'm going to spend the next day and a half in bed recovering from it, like really, truly a day and a half to recover.

Penny Williams 0:30

Welcome to the beautifully complex podcast, where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to the beautifully complex podcast. I am really excited to be having this conversation with Dr. Sarah Wayland and Dr. Donna Henderson. Our listeners know Sarah from the behavior revolution and all the episodes that we do together for that. And she and Donna have co authored a new book about autism and our new understandings, and kids who sort of hide in plain sight. And we're gonna get to the nitty gritty of what that really means. But I want to start by having each of you let everybody know who you are and what you do.

Sarah Wayland 1:30

Okay, I'll start because people know me already. So I'm Sarah Wayland. And Penny and I are the co founders of the behavior revolution. And I have a business where I coach parents of neurodivergent kids, called guiding exceptional parents, and I have two autistic kids. And I have ADHD, and I do a lot of parent coaching. Did I say that? I said it again.

Penny Williams 1:56

It's important enough to say it twice.

Donna Henderson 2:01

And I'm Donna Henderson. I'm a clinical psychologist, and I do neuropsychological evaluations. I work at the sticks root group in Maryland, in the Washington DC area. And I don't just see clients with autism, but it's a particular interest of mine, particularly people who were always misunderstood and never knew that they were autistic, or their parents never knew that they were autistic, because they camouflaged. And I do a lot of case consultation and training other health care professionals, I have a very neuro diverse family, myself, and I personally am a non autistic ADHDer.

Penny Williams 2:40

Awesome, such great work that both of you are doing. And I'm really excited to talk about how our understanding of autism has changed and, and talk about those that are hiding in plain sight whose symptom profile I guess are signals are sort of camouflaged, and what that means in our parenting and in diagnosing and in lots of different aspects. But let's start just with identifying how our understanding of autism has changed. Over the course of what would you say the last, maybe just few years, it seems like things have really changed.

Speaker 1 3:16

Oh, it's changed a lot over the years. But even just, you know, over the course of my lifetime, it's new and asked me 40 years ago, when I was in high school, what autism is, I never would have heard of it, even though it was in existence. Of course, at that time. If you had asked me, you know, 30 years ago, I would have thought of Rain Man, right, Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of an autistic man. And you know, at that point, when I was in high school, that incidence was one in about 2200 kids. And then, you know, in the 1980s, it was more like one in six or 700 kids. So still, you know, quite rare. Then about 20 years ago, if you had asked me, I would have added Asperger's into the mix. But I still would have thought of a white male who was overtly odd or overtly quirky. And the incidence of brown men would have been around one and 150.

Speaker 1 4:06

So really, you know, it started to become far more recognized. But we still were thinking of autism, as people who were had overtly odd behaviors, and really stood out from a very, very young age. And it's really in the past 10 years that there's been this mountain of research, showing us that there are a lot of autistic people who camouflage and blend in with non autistic people. And so it's really transformed our understanding of autism from a set of external, easily observable behaviors to knowing no, this is a different way of experiencing the world and processing the world and responding to the world in many, many different ways. And the problem has been that a lot of clinicians and educators and parents haven't realized how quickly our understanding of autism has evolved and so I have a lot of kids and adolescents. And definitely adults are still unrecognized as autistic as there's a tremendous number of them. And I encountered that more and more and more in my work. And that's what led Sarah and I to write this book.

Penny Williams 5:16

Yeah. And I have that kid, I have that kid who was very camouflaged. And I could see that there was something else going on besides ADHD. But it took a lot of clinicians, honestly, it took almost two years of me working at it, to find someone who could look deep enough to see that less obvious autism. And we're definitely headed more in that direction. And I think your all's book will really sort of skyrocket that, I hope. I hope that it reaches many, many people, because there's still such a misunderstanding, even among doctors and clinicians and diagnosticians. And that makes it really tough, right for parents. And for kids who are falling through those cracks. They're not understood, so they don't feel seen and heard. And then we see all sorts of other things happening from now, right. And it can be a vicious cycle. I want to talk a little bit about those signals and the criteria that you have identified as being autistic, that we don't normally, we wouldn't normally consider that or we hadn't before considered it. Like for instance, eye contact. That's a big one. That's a big stereotype. Kids with autism do not make eye contact, right, which we know not to be true. Right. So can you all talk a little bit about that? And some of the other I think stereotypes and what you would look for if it was someone with less obvious autism?

Speaker 1 6:51

Sure, I could dive in. And Sarah, unless you want to?

Sarah Wayland 6:55

Sure. And I'll just jump in.

Speaker 1 6:56

Okay, great. So there are seven main criteria diagnostic criteria for autism. And I think people misunderstand what each of them means. So very, very briefly, you know, the first one is all about reciprocal interactions. And people think that means somebody who completely lacks empathy, or never engages in any conversation or only talks about their topic of particular interest. But it's so much more complex than that. It's that interactions are not as intuitive for autistic people. So intuitively knowing how to tweet someone how to respond to greetings, how much airtime you're taking, how to build on what another person says In typical ways, perspective taking how to intuitively get into somebody else's head and know what another person's experiences. So it's far more complex and nuanced. And a lot of autistic people superficially do these things, just like non autistic people do. And what you don't know is what's going on underneath is a tremendous amount of effort and decision making. It's almost like they're going through algorithms to figure it out. And how that manifests is exhaustion, and anxiety more than anything else? Yeah, that's the first criteria.

Speaker 1 8:18

The second one is about nonverbal communication. And you mentioned eye contact, you know, people think it means somebody who doesn't make any eye contact. But most of the kind of autistic people we're talking about today actually learn at quite a young age how to make neurotypical style eye contact. But what you have to get at is what's the underlying experience for them? And if you ask a non autistic child, you know, what's eye contact like for you? They'll say, I never thought about it. Right? You don't really have any strong reaction at all. But if you ask a lot of these autistic kids, even those who make very typical eye contact, they'll say something they'll say, It's confusing. I don't like it. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me anxious. I never know if I'm doing it right. They'll say something about the experience and how effortful or unpleasant it is for them. And so you have to get at that underlying experience. And that's true for all aspects of nonverbal communication. You know, when we were researching the book, one autistic person wrote on one of our social media sites, you know, I never know what to do with my arms during conversation, and people were like, all these autistic people are piling on my God. Yes, the arms. What do you do with your hands? And like Sarah and I, as non autistic women, we were like, what? I never thought about that before. Yeah, my hands just do stuff.

Sarah Wayland 9:41

Right. And you know what, one of the things that I find interesting about that is that of course, when I read that, I became more aware of how much I use my hands and how like weird it is. By drawing my attention to it, I think it made it harder for me to use gesture naturally, but if you hit it asked me before any of that, then I would have been like what you said like, I wouldn't have even known that it was the thing to even think about. Right?

Speaker 1 10:08

Yeah, yeah. And it affects autistic people in just a million gazillion different ways. You know, I was on a plane recently. And I was sitting in the aisle seat. And there's a man sitting in the middle seat next to me, and there was another man and the window seat. And the man in the window seat wasn't wearing a mask. And he was coughing like crazy. He was clearly sick, coughing like crazy. And I was trying to figure out like, what do I do? Do I save something during not say something I really wanted him to put on a mask. And I made eye contact with the man right next to me, it was so intuitive. There was nothing conscious about it. The fact that I made the eye contact and met his gaze. And the fact that I by doing that, whatever I saw in his eyes, I instinctively knew he's right there with me, we are in this together. And it gave me the confidence to then save the man in the aisle seat, hey, right. And, you know, just the fact that I could use eye contact. So effectively. So it's not just about meeting someone's gaze, it's about using eye contact in many different ways. You know, one tiny example among a million.

Sarah Wayland 11:14

Yeah another thing that I learned from RDI, actually is we also use gays to help us understand and navigate situations, right, like so there's a slide that I always put up when I'm talking about this, where there's a little boy in the hospital, and he's looking at the nurse for comfort. And she's looking back in a reassuring way, right. And so he knows that looking at the person who knows what's going on, is going to give him information about how worried to be, you know, and so we use eye contact in all these different ways to help us navigate the social world. So you know, in classrooms, teachers are all focused on look at me when I'm talking look at me when I'm talking. But it's so much more than that.

Speaker 1 12:00

Right. And I'll give you another example of nonverbal communication and just differences. I was talking with my daughter one day, who is a very bright, late diagnosed autistic woman, even with me for a mom late diagnosis. She was saying something about the hardest part of Christmas morning. I said, What do you mean, what's hard on Christmas morning? It's all just fun. And she said it is it is all fun, except I always have to remember to put on a happy face when I open a present. What do you mean, like if you don't like the present, and you have to pretend you like it, she said, No, even if I love it, I always forget that I'm supposed to smile. And that was a real moment for me, because I don't have to remind myself to do that my face just sort of does stuff on its own, you know, 99% of the time. So just a million different aspects of nonverbal communication and how effortful it can be for autistic people. So that's the second criterion. The third one is relationships. And people think it means not having friends or not wanting friends.

Speaker 1 13:02

That's rarely true. The majority of autistic people want friends have friends at varying levels, but they may just have a different level of social motivation, they may be satisfied with a much lower level of social connection than their non autistic counterparts, they may have difficulty either making friends, or keeping friends, not necessarily both. So they may always be able to make friends, but not deepen those friendships in typical ways, or sustain them for long periods of time. Or they may have the same group of friends forever and ever and ever, and not really be able to make new friends, just as some examples. So that's the third one. Those are all grouped together. We call them the social or communication criteria, the interactions, nonverbals and relationships. And then there's this whole other category called repetitive and restricted behaviors. Did you want to jump in steroids? Or do you want me to keep going?

Sarah Wayland 13:58

I did, I did want to say something about the difference between social motivation versus social desire. Right. So a lot of kids who are autistic want friends, they want to have these relationships, they want that, but they have the desire to have relationships versus the ability to be with groups of people or people for a long period of time. So you know, my younger son, for example, his best friend, we'd have him over for sleepovers, and neither of them could handle that his friend was also autistic and so neither of them could handle that. And I finally said to his parents, you know what, get togethers have to be two hours, like my son can last two hours, and then we're done. So let's just structure things so that that's the expectation and then they would end on a happy note, as opposed to a I'm really, really exhausted trying to interact with other people and with you. Right So that energy as opposed to the desire, I think a lot of people confuse the two.

Speaker 1 15:06

That's true. There's a great artistic psychologist, Megan Anna Neff. And she says, My soul longs for connection. But my body resists it sums it up really beautifully. What Sarah's talking about?

Penny Williams 15:19

I can relate to that social anxiety. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it takes a lot of energy. And it's very exhausting. Yeah, when you have to work at those social interactions.

Speaker 1 15:30

For sure. Right, and they can burn out, you know, we all burn out at some point with social interactions. But autistic people burn out way faster than non autistic people for the most part, and you know, not all of them, right? You know, we were talking with an autistic college professor at one point, and he said, Look, I can go to the department party, and interact with everybody, and you won't notice anything different. But what you don't know is I'm going to spend the next day and a half in bed recovering from it, like really, truly a day and a half to recover. You know, I think another thing people confuse about these social criteria is empathy. People think that autistic people don't have empathy. And it's important to understand the difference between cognitive empathy and affective empathy. cognitive empathy is that ability to take a different person's perspective, sometimes we call it theory of mind, just the ability to get in someone else's head and intuitively know what's going on with that other person.

Speaker 1 16:25

There are a lot of autistic people who struggle with cognitive empathy that can be really hard for them in terms of getting in the heads of non autistic people, right? On the other hand aspect of empathy is the compassion piece. And that's the piece when you know another person is struggling. Do you feel for them? Do you have compassion for them? Do you have the urge to be helpful? Do you feel their feelings in a sense, and a lot of artistic people, the majority that I work with have very, very high affective empathy, but lower cognitive empathy, so they can get flooded with other people's emotions, even emotions on TV shows and movies, and not be able to make sense of it. And it can be really overwhelming. We call that empathic disequilibrium.

Penny Williams 17:11

I've never heard that term makes so much sense.

Sarah Wayland 17:15

Again, when we were getting input from autistic people about what their experiences of that were, I remember one woman saying, I can be in the office, and somebody four cubes away, will be having a bad day, you know how to fight with their husband, and I can't work because I can feel the stress and unhappiness in my cube four cubes away, even, you know, and so she just said, it's impossible for me to get work done. And so that just tells you like, I truly do think this is a place where we have really messed up as non autistic people saying that autistic people don't have empathy, because it is so not true. And there's a piece of me that wonders if sometimes they just have to gate it off in order to function in the world, right? This is part of that camouflaging is like, I am getting so overwhelmed, and I'm just gonna go flat now. Right? Like, that's, yeah, I think that's the thing that happens. And you know, my older son does that. And, you know, we talk about fight, flight or freeze, he gets overwhelmed by the emotion shuts down, and then he just looks flat. And so if people around him are having big emotions, they're like, Dude, you're not like, co regulating with me. And so, but it's not because he doesn't feel it, he feels it deeply, deeply.

Speaker 1 18:42

So you put all this together, and you see how many myths there are. So if somebody was told your child can't be autistic, because they don't have empathy, wrong, they don't make eye contact wrong. They want friends wrong. They have friends wrong, like all of that is just wrong. There's so many myths. So many. Yeah, we haven't even started the other half yet.

Penny Williams 19:02

Yeah, it keeps us from helping. Right. Yeah, keeps us from helping these kids, their families, their teachers, they're all you know, it spreads everyone in that child's life needs to understand them for everybody to have the best experience and outcomes and just these myths. They feel permanent a lot of times, I'm really hopeful that they're not. And we're seeing that we're breaking through a lot of that, but there's such misinformation and if you don't have the experience, it's like the sort of similar to ADHD. Everybody thinks that it's a boy. He's really hyper. And you know, his parents can't control him. That's kind of, I think, that stereotypical idea in the public, and it's so far different than that for so many people. And when you have that kid, you're like, Oh, now I get it. Like now I see all this other stuff. Nobody ever talks about it. Right? It took me years to figure that stuff out. Because it wasn't out there. It wasn't available. So these conversations need to be happening in a very public way.

Speaker 1 20:12

Yeah. It's why we made the chart to that we send you and you're welcome to, you know, post that if you want to on the episode web page. Yeah, a summary of all this.

Penny Williams 20:21

Yeah, we'll post it in the show notes.

Sarah Wayland 20:24

So very briefly, I think we should just go through those four repetitive restrictive behaviors, and you only need to have two of the four in order to qualify for the diagnosis, in addition to all three of the social and communication differences. So maybe Donna, we can just go back and forth between them.

Speaker 1 20:45

Sure. The first one is behavior that is repetitive, or just quirky, or idiosyncratic. And what people think of this, you know, flapping your arms or flicking your hands, but it can be any type of motor movement that's repetitive. So pacing back and forth, or walking around in circles, rocking for sure certain kinds of dancing, if it's done in a certain way, picking, hair pulling hair twirling. I'm not saying that, you know, if you do one of these things, you're automatically autistic. But if a child is doing these things, it could be autistic, repetitive behaviors, so it can be motor movement, it can be speech, so repetitive speech saying the same thing all the time. For years, my daughter, you know, at the end of the day, I would say, after school, how was your day? And she would say fine, and how was whatever you did today, and I just thought that was so nice that she was asking me, took me probably two years to realize she always worded it in that exact same way. Even when she knew what I did. That day, she would say how was whatever you did today, that was just the way she scripted her speech the same way all the time.

Speaker 1 21:53

Or unusually formal language, same daughter, two of my three kids are autistic. I'm just talking about this one particular daughter, she still calls me mother and calls my husband, father, and we're, you know, in my family, it's pretty casual. Dad, Mom, you know, but she's like, Hello, Mother. Yeah, how are you today mother, just quirky and unusually formal, she just likes talking that way. It's just her preference. And then the last one in this category of repetitive behavior is use of objects. And this is one People always forget to think about as a possibility. So it can be watching the same TV show over and over again, or the same movie over and over and over again, reading the same book over and over again, making lists making spreadsheets, just categorizing behavior, it can be any quirky little thing that's repetitive, I've had a lot of kids who draw the same thing over and over and over again. So just any type of repetitive behavior at all, that's just the first step before our B criteria, as we call them. And the next one, you want to take the next one Sarah?

Sarah Wayland 22:58

Sure. This is one that I think is the one that brings a lot of people into the clinic, which is in flexibility. And you know, I think most people encounter that, you know, is difficulty with transitions or wanting things to be the same, including like how you go to work or whatever rigid rule following black and white thinking, things like that. But this rigid rule following and anxiety related to change can also come out as perfectionism. So just as an example, like my younger son, when he's writing, he always wants his letters to look exactly the same. And so, you know, I asked him, like, you know, like, when I write my letters, like different every time depending on the context, and he needs them, he's drawing his letters, so they are exactly the same every time. And so, you know, this idea that if things change, and you don't know why it's changing, or how to adapt to that change, that can be very dis regulating for these kids. And so they'll just, you know, really get upset. And so anybody's lived with somebody who struggles with navigating what in RDI, we call a dynamically changing world, right? The world is never fixed. It is always dynamically evolving. And we just say, okay, situation on the ground is changed, we have to change to that can be super, super hard for people who struggle with flexibility.

Speaker 1 24:27

Yeah, we have to constantly remind people, it's not about somebody who is behaviorally difficult necessarily. This rigidity can be internalized. These kids can be flexible in some ways. And so you have to think about sort of islands of in flexibility. And a big one is black and white thinking, and they can have black and white thinking about people. So it might be they take a disliking to one of their teachers and that's it game over for the rest of the year. They're never going to work well with that teacher, right. It just becomes very rigid if somebody wronged them in first grade, and now they're in 11th grade, they will still tell you how that person were on to them, like, you know, that can be black and white about people it can even be, we see this a lot black and white about one sibling in particular, which can be really challenging for parents, they can be black and white about activities. Some of them, like tell them to start writing or do math, and they can just shut down immediately they get this very black and white, I can't do math or writing is horrible. And they can be black and white about ideas. And one that I see is, you know, this idea of when I turn 18, or when I graduate from high school, I'm supposed to know how to adult. And it causes just this incredibly high level of stress, because like I've had kids think that on their 18th birthday, they're supposed to magically know how to pay their taxes, that sort of thing, you know, and just very black and white about that. It's just so much more nuanced than having rigid routines.

Sarah Wayland 25:55

And you know, there's another piece to it that I'm seeing a lot right now, because I'm working with a lot of kids who are middle school and older. And puberty is really, really hard because your body is changing, right. And so coping with the changes that your body is going through, oh my goodness, for some of these kids, it's really hard to process really, really hard to process. They don't want breasts, they don't want, you know, broad shoulders, they don't want you know, all these things that are happening their voice to get deeper, whatever. And it can be so so difficult for them to navigate the fact that their body no longer looks like a child's body.

Speaker 1 26:36

Right? Right. So okay, so in this category, we've talked about repetitive behavior and difficulty with flexibility to more one of them is sensory differences. And there can be sensory hyper responsibility to noises and textures, and food and all of that. There can be sensory craving, that can look a whole lot of different ways. But here's the thing we find most people don't think about, most people think we have five senses. And we actually have eight sensory systems. And everybody forgets about this other three. And those other three include proprioception and vestibular functioning, which has to do with knowing where your body is in space and what your body is doing. So automatically knowing how high to lift your legs when you're going up the stairs, or how much force to use when handing something to somebody. So these kids who tripped over air, or have to hold on to the wall as they're walking down the hallway are constantly touching every little thing all the time in a way that can look like hyperactivity, but may or may not be hyperactivity. So that can be proprioceptive or vestibular functioning dizziness, carsickness that, you know, all kinds of stuff, fear of heights, fear of heights, for sure. But the eight sensory system is of most interest to me, and that's intero ception. And that your ability to perceive and contextualize and understand the signals from inside your body. And that helps you understand your aspect of emotions, like am I anxious? Am I angry? am I sad? Am I jealous? And so some of these kids have a really poor ability to know what they're feeling. And if you ask them what they're feeling, they have no clue. But it also affects our homeostatic emotions. Like, am I hungry? Am I in pain? Am I cold? Am I tired? Do I have to pee? So these kids might, for instance, have you know, bathroom accidents, way past the typical age that you would expect that, or they might not know when they're hungry, or they might not know when they're full. Or they may seem impervious to you know, cold or pain. So they can have just all kinds of interoceptive differences and interoception is, is a really, really big deal. Because it's you know, the basis for understanding your emotions for self regulation for empathy, because if I don't know what anxiety feels like, for me, how can I imagine what it feels like for you? Right? That's what that's all potentially part of sensory differences.

Sarah Wayland 29:04

Yeah. And the last one is intense or unusual interests. I was listening to a podcast today and they call them spins, special interests. And I love that term. But you know, people know about like, little boys and Thomas the Tank Engine, right? Like, that's one that's feels pretty typical, or memorizing train arrival schedules or whatever. But it also includes, like, you know, this drive to exhaustively explore something. And what happens in this population of kids is that the restricted interests tend to be sort of more socially acceptable. So like, you know, girls being really into KPop.

Speaker 1 29:46

Or animals, right,

Sarah Wayland 29:49

Like horses. That was one that that you know, could be interesting when we actually think Donna, you put the survey together, you ask people like what are your special interests on on this Reddit thread. And oh my goodness, like the variety of interests - crocheting, or medieval history or

Speaker 1 30:10

human anatomy, gardening, childbirth, wonderful childbirth, it can be anything.

Sarah Wayland 30:18

Really interesting differences in what people were interested in. And, you know, the one the childbirth one said, Yeah, I guess it would have been weird for a four year old to talk about childbirth, just to my parents, friends.

Speaker 1 30:35

For so many of these kids who have an interest that is typical, but pretty intense. That's not a red flag for autism. For many of the adults in their life. They don't realize that that you know, many adults, even clinicians are on the lookout for something like airport codes or train schedules not this girl is so obsessed with reading. Everyone's trying to wrangle books away from her, like, all she wants to do. 24/7 is read.

Sarah Wayland 31:00

Oh, gosh, you know, a friend of mine, who's a developmental pediatrician told me this story about how he missed a kid, because he shared an interest with this kid, which was the Nationals baseball team. And the kids like they could talk baseball together, like and he was like, Yeah, this kids really reciprocal.

Penny Williams 31:18

So many fall through the cracks. I want to talk real quick, before we wrap up about how this book can be useful for parents. I know that it speaks to clinicians. But I think that you all made sure that it really speaks to anyone who wants to learn more about autism, and understand, especially that less obvious presentation. So how could a parent use that book? What can they take away from it? Who would want to read it? Right? Like, what does that parent look like?

Speaker 1 31:51

Yeah. So first of all, it was really important for us to make it really, really accessible. So even though it's based on research, and we do talk about research in different parts, we want it to be incredibly easy to read, for clinicians or anyone else. I think as far as parents go, I mean, certainly it's appropriate for clinicians to read because clinicians do not get nearly enough training about autism. Yes, so much research about that, as well. Parents who know that their child is autistic can get a much deeper understanding of what does that mean, what is their experience, we have quotes from over 100 autistic adults throughout the book, which really brings, you know each section to life, I think. So they can get a deeper understanding, including autistic strengths, we have a whole chapter on autistic strengths, which is really awesome, and CO occurring disorders as well. And then separately, if you have a child, who you still don't think you understand, you're like, I don't know, maybe they they have diagnoses, but it doesn't really feel like they fully explained the child, or they don't have any diagnoses, or you wondered if they're autistic, and a clinician told, you know, they can't be autistic. And you're just trying to figure it out that this book could be really helpful.

Sarah Wayland 33:05

And for me, you know, as we worked on the book, like I thought I had a pretty solid knowledge of what autism was, before we got started. And I think I did, but as we, you know, talk to all these different people and just started understanding the internal world that they inhabited. I would go in, after working all day, and talk to my kids and say, hey, guess what I just learned, like, I just heard that. I'll use alexithymia as an example, because Donna was talking about interoception earlier. And I think I hadn't really understood deeply, like how different the experience was for them. And so I just had all these amazing conversations with my kids about, is this a thing for you? Is this not a thing for you? And for me, it just really allowed me to have a much more open dialogue. And as part of that dialogue didn't understand my kids.

Penny Williams 34:04

Yeah, yeah. And we all just want to be seen, heard and understood, right? And this book is going to help so many kids, adults feel seen, heard and understood. Finally, as Sarah was saying, you know, that illustrates that you had a deeper understanding of what your kids were experiencing. And you know, as a parent, that's all I ever wanted. That was all I wanted was to understand what it was like to walk through the world with my kids brain right to be in his head. And I didn't understand I didn't have that I had to work really hard to get that understanding of him and I still you know, every day learn more and more about him and the opportunity to talk with him this morning. He had to come out of his room for a while and we had to go somewhere and just in the little blips of conversation in a short time there's always something I'm like hi didn't really realize that about your that was an interest or you know that yours saw things this way. But that's so important for our kids to feel connected. And to be able to move through the world in a comfortable way. I think, you know, Sarah and I talk about all the time, you have to feel good to do good. Like you have to feel good, to be regulated and to get things done to manage your emotions, right to cope with things. And it speaks to that, like, when we get our kids when they feel that they feel better. Who wouldn't? Right, we all do. And so it's really amazing. Anything else you want to be sure that we talk about before we close? I've had a lot of information.

Sarah Wayland 35:42

I have a little phrase that I've I'll just offer here is that what I hope parents take away from this is that difference should inspire curiosity instead of judgment.

Penny Williams 35:55

Yeah, parents need to be curious. We don't get curious. So much work for us today, right? So much work. Joyful work, though. Yes, totally. I just had that conversation with one of my kids. I'm so fortunate and so grateful that I get to be a helper. Yeah, like, what better thing could there be than to get to be a helper, it's amazing. And this is going to touch so many people in a great way. I can just imagine so many kids whose parents that light bulbs are going off right now they're listening. And they're getting ads, and they're gonna go and they're gonna find, you know, somebody you just talked to about it, and hopefully, make some progress in some areas where they felt really stuck. So I appreciate both of you so much for your work and the time that you're taking to share it. And of course, for all the wisdom that you're sharing as well. I want everybody to know that you can go to the shownotes and get a link to purchase the book. You can get a link for that chart that we've been talking about. And anything else that we've referenced here, and those show notes are at parentingADHDandautism.com/224 for episode 224. And I will see everybody next time Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the beautifully complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parenting ADHD and autism.com and thebehaviorrevolution.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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  • Thank you. Thank you for this episode. I have been following your show for a few months. But this episode really struck home. I felt so seen and heard and validated for the years of fighting for my son. This describes my son almost perfectly. We struggled for years to even get a neuropsychologist to assess him b/c his pediatricians/teachers kept saying- “he’s verbal” or “he occasionally makes eye contact.” Finally after fighting for years I found a psychiatrist who agreed to assess him, and she diagnosed him as being on the spectrum Autism/ADHD. This episode podcast should be required listening for every MD, psychiatrist, and teacher!! 🙌🏼

  • Fabulous episode. I appreciate the info so much as a mom of a 10 year old who has “camouflaged” for a lot of years.

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