Neurodiversity Affirming Practices with SLP’s Chris and Jessie

parenting slp voyv Jul 13, 2023



00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. I got to hang out with Chris Wenger and Jessie Ginsburg. They are both speech language pathologists who really dive into neurodiversity affirming practices and really how to celebrate and honor neurodiversity. I love so much about this interview, but personally, I really love having conversations with SLP's, Speech Language Pathologists, who are trained in sensory integration and understand how sensory integration affects how we show up in everything, including our language and communication. This was such a fun one for me. Also, they're fantastic follows over on Instagram, so make sure you head on over there and follow them after this interview.


00:01:00    Alyssa

We dive deep into the sensory systems in my book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, where you can learn more about your child's unique sensory systems and how to support them and what it looks like to really show up for who they are as unique individuals. You can also learn more about your sensory systems and your nervous system. You can learn what it looks like to differentiate emotional regulation from one person to the next. Head on over to to snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. And if you want to get started on understanding your child sensory systems right now, head to to take our regulation quiz that we worked with an occupational therapist to create, and it will help you learn more about your child's nervous system and some activities that might be helpful for them in regulation. Some things they might be sensitive to, some things that they might be seeking, or that really help them calm, All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:54    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:02:19    Alyssa

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with one of my favorite internet couples that I stumbled upon. I get to hang out with Chris and Jessie. Chris and Jessie are both SLPs and speech language pathologists. And what I love about them is that their approach is so in alignment with what we do at Seed that we can't do any of this work without talking about the nervous system, anything in the world. I think we can't leave the nervous system out of it and I love that it's such a crucial part of their work. 


00:02:54    Alyssa

Hi, Chrissy. Hi, Jessie. Hi, Chrissy. Hi, Jessie. Hi, Chris. 


00:03:02    Chris

I used to go by Chrissy sometimes when people would pick on me. The bullies. 


00:03:09    Alyssa

Sorry to bring it right back to the surface for you, though, Chris. 


00:03:14    Jessie

That's good, let's talk about that some more Chris. 


00:03:16    Chris

I've got some childhood trauma that we're going to just talk about right now. 


00:03:20    Alyssa

Oh my God, I love it. You're in the perfect place. I love it. Hi. When I was following you, I'm curious, like, as you were coming through your training as SLPs is where you are now kind of where you started, or kind of what did that journey to where you are now look like? I've worked with so many SLPs and frankly, OTs, and it is not one size fits all. So curious what that looked like for you. 


00:03:53    Chris

Gosh. Yeah. So let me give you a quick background. I started in education as a special education teacher. So prior to being a speech pathologist, I had some good experience of working in the class, knowing what it was like to sit at the IEP table as a teacher, knowing what it was like to command the ship of 20 students in a class. It then transitioned into the role of a speech pathologist where I was working more on not necessarily one to one always, but just in smaller groups. I really like that. So things have changed so much. So kind of the topic of neurodiversity we'll dive into. But I can tell you that where we were when I first started to where we are now and our understanding of listening to neurodivergent experiences, including my own, I was diagnosed with ADHD many years ago. But just finding that approach as the whole education system in general, the IEP system and where we were at, which was built on a foundation of trying to fix kids that were never broken. And that, in turn, created kind of a systemic approach of more anxiety, because it was this belief of saying, hey, we need to force these kids into situations so they can learn back and forth, conversation exchange and initiating. And what that ended up doing was it created a lot more stress and anxiety. So where we were at then, compared to where we're at now, has drastically changed because we're learning what are different approaches and ways that we can help our neurodivergent learners and most effectively do that. 


00:05:52    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that note. So I want to hear from you, too, Jessie, but I love that note of, like, the goal was to really help them conform into neurotypical expectations, right? Like, how do we get you to fit into this box that feels cozy for us and works really well for us in the school system especially? We've been talking on the back end about the term pro social at Seed and some beef that we have with it. And I feel like it kind of fits right in there, too, of like, it's the idea of changing kids and changing who they are and how they operate to often make it more convenient for us. 


00:06:31    Chris

Right. Absolutely. I think that's probably...


00:06:34    Jessie

Make us more comfortable. 


00:06:36    Chris

Yeah, make us more comfortable. I would have to say that's probably one of the more common questions that is asked. It's like, from a parent standpoint of, well, so should I be teaching my child, my autistic child, or my neurodivergent ADHD child to socialize or not? And so there's two different approaches to that question. The first is if the goal is to teach them to imitate their neurotypical peers or to be someone they're not. That's not the type of socializing we want. But if the goal is to give them the child context of why neurotypicals socialize or do the things they do and give autonomy for the child to make their decisions when the time comes, that is the approach. So, yeah, we definitely want to be teaching the social part. We just have to be cautious on which way we go about it, because teaching someone to be someone they're not ends up creating anxiety, which then eventually turns into adult depression, and it can lead to serious mental health issues as a child grows into their adult life. 


00:07:47    Jessie

And I think that's one of the things we miss out on the most is what is our big picture goal here? And we get so caught up as therapists in the day to day, what does therapy look like? How can we get them to meet their goal? That we forget that the goal of every parent on this planet is for their child to be happy and for their child to live a fulfilling life and for their child to be autonomous. And it just so often we act out of alignment with what that big picture goal is, and we get caught up in these tiny steps of where we're trying to go. But that just makes me think back to I talked about this recently, I think, on Instagram, I shared a story of what I used to call my biggest success story was a five year old boy who was autistic, who you couldn't tell was autistic anymore. That was like what I would say, wow, I am such a good therapist, you can't even tell he's autistic anymore. And it's funny because my work setting has not changed. I've always been in private practice. My approach hasn't changed in the sense that I've always been a relationships based approach type of therapist. But what has changed so much is what my goals are for my kids. And I think that's something that we talk about openly. And it's scary to share those stories because people are going to think, oh, my God, you're a horrible person. Why was that your goal? But ultimately, our goal is to help other people learn more, too. And the more we share these stories and are vulnerable with what we've learned, the more it allows other people to move forward and take those steps and start to do things in a new way. 


00:09:32    Alyssa

Sure. Well, and I think acknowledging the fears that come up too. Right. Like, my little guy's two. So I have a two year old and I'm pregnant now. And my two year old and I have very different nervous systems. The way that we operate is very different. He is like cookie cutter, my husband, and we were at, his name is Sage, a two year old birthday party with a joint party with our neighbors, which is actually, in retrospect, like, kind of Sage's hell. And we were outside for it, which is, like, easier for him. But about halfway through, he came up, and he said, Mama feeling overwhelmed. Take a break. Go inside, come back out. I was like, Great, go ahead. He went in with my husband. They were hanging, reading books, whatever. Zach also was like, I welcome this break, and goes in, they take their break, and I, on the other hand, I'm like, this fills my cup. I'm outside, I'm engaging, I'm interacting. And later, we were chatting about it, and I was like, I just want to make sure that he has the skills that he needs to be able to thrive. Like, what if he's at a conference? What if he's at a work thing? What if he's whatever. And Zach was like, yeah, he's got him. He was there. He hung out, he left, he took a break, he came back, did the cake and ice cream thing, like, hung out a little bit longer, and then peaced. What is fulfilling to you, Alyssa, is different than what's fulfilling for Sage. And I was like, yeah, that was the reminder I needed. Right. You mentioned there, Jessie, the fulfillment part. Right. That we all we want kids to have fulfilling lives, and I think part of that is acknowledging that what's fulfilling for them might be different than what is fulfilling for us. 


00:11:07    Jessie

Oh, yeah, you're speaking our language. I mean, we have four kids between the youngest is almost three months, the oldest is six. And we always talk about this is a daily conversation, is how our sensory systems are so different. Our six year old is super anxious, very much an avoider, maybe has some similar qualities to Sage. And same when he goes to a party like that, he's not the one, like, jumping into the group. He's always next to one of us. And it's funny how in therapy, we set these expectations for our kids to do things that we wouldn't even want to do. 


00:11:48    Alyssa



00:11:49    Jessie

Like your example of going to the playground. 


00:11:54    Chris

Yeah, that's kind of how I shape my social media based on situations and goals that we give kids that we wouldn't want to do. We're like, I would never want that to happen. 


00:12:04    Jessie

It's like, Chris, your goal we're going to go to the playground today, and your goal is to meet a parent that you've never talked to before and talk to them for five minutes about The Bachelor. 


00:12:16    Alyssa

He's like I'd rather die. Yeah. 


00:12:19    Chris

I've seen goals where a student in the IEP goal might, say, during unstructured times, such as recess or lunch, they will approach their typical peer and will strike up a conversation for two to three minutes about a non preferred topic. And I'm like thinking to myself, imagine if the principal came in during our lunch break and said, all right, Chris, you can no longer enjoy your lunch here on Instagram and TikTok. You're going to have to go hang out with the math teachers in the lounge and talk about parabolas, and you have to do that for two to three minutes every day. I'd be like, what is that? And they say, well, we're just giving you the goal that you gave the kid. There should never be the unstructured time is the time where kids are regulating themselves and they are catching up to all of the stress of the class and the environment because of all of everything that's going on. 


00:13:18    Jessie

Right. To think of what the bigger picture is there, what does that lead to? That leads to dysregulation. That leads to feelings of overwhelm. That leads to him being anxious now every day at lunch that this is what it's going to be like. It makes him not intrinsically motivated anymore to want to go to his job. It's all backfiring. 


00:13:40    Alyssa

It's trickle down. Well, and I think what you're kind of leaning into here as well is that compliance based versus relationship based approach. And I think this extends to anytime we're interacting with kids across the board of like, what is our goal here? Someone just the other day was like, I'm trying all these things and the kids aren't listening. And I was like, okay, what is the goal? Is the goal that we're going to say, I'm going to set all these boundaries and they're going to be like, oh, my God, I can't wait to follow it. That sounds great, mom. I love that I get to stop playing and clean up my toys and go in and have this meal that I'm not jazzed about. That's probably not going to happen. Right. And so I want to touch for a second about what it looks like in compliance based scenarios versus what it looks like. You were saying, Jessie, you've really always operated as a relationship based therapist, and what does that look like? What does that mean for you? 


00:14:42    Jessie

Yeah. And I will say with the exception of one job I had for a period of time, maybe a year, I was in grad school, I was a behavior therapist. So at that point, that's where I was really introduced to compliance based therapy. And you may be familiar with Alfie Kohn, who's the author of a book called Punished by Rewards. And he says rewards and punishment can get one thing under certain conditions, compliance or temporary compliance. So it's like, what is the goal here? Is the goal here for the child to do the thing that we are wanting them to do? Or is it for them to learn or is it for them to be comfortable? Or is it for them to grow into happy adults who are authentic to their true selves? 


00:15:26    Alyssa

Right. I think really it's what's the long term goal here? Because I hear that and I'm like, yeah, short term goal. Yeah. For them to comply. Could you please make my life a little easier and could we get out the door? Right. Like, compliance is convenient. 


00:15:41    Chris



00:15:42    Jessie

Very. For adults. 


00:15:44    Alyssa

Exactly. But I think it's really sometimes our short term goal doesn't match up with the long term goal. 


00:15:52    Jessie

Yeah. And that's really what shifted our practice so much is Chris was I feel like you're one of the first people to start going out talking about why aren't we looking at how we assess our kids to begin with? Right, because it's the assessments that create the goals that create the treatment plans. And there's been a lot more, fortunately, recently, information on how to conduct these treatment plans that are more neurodiversity affirming, that respect kids for who they are. But then I've been interviewing therapists in my clinic and last week I had a therapist who said that she was just telling me the kind of goals that they have written for their kids and they're just like, one goal for a two year old was we'll name 100 body parts. I was like, Are there 100 first of all, body parts? Right, but then I said, the problem with a goal like that is that it's going to drive the way you do your session. Because how are you supposed to get a kid to name body parts without making it a structured session? And Chris was like one of the first people to go out there and say, there's a better way to assess kids so that our assessments aren't driving these compliance based goals that are driving the compliance based therapy. 


00:17:11    Chris

Yeah, that's exactly right. Because with our students, the goals are derived from what the present levels are. So the present levels are coming from what are people putting down in their reports and what are these conversations that are being had between the educators and the parents. And so all of that language and conversation is what drives the goals. So the first step is to make sure we're getting accurate, an accurate collection of information of who the student is to follow up on that, too. It's looking at the strengths, identifying what the abilities are of the child, but then also acknowledging, okay, now that we have this information, how can we help support the needs that are challenging for that student? 


00:18:02    Alyssa

Yeah, I dig that. 


00:18:04    Chris

That is how we can craft goals that are supporting, that are affirming for the student. So then everybody wins and we have a child who is not put into situations that increase anxiety. 


00:18:18    Alyssa

Yeah, sure. And just like, can you perform this task so I can check it off my list? 


00:18:23    Chris

Right, exactly. I think that too. Stepping back on what Jessie was talking about with the behavior approach, oftentimes we will see because I work in a school setting, so sometimes we'll see a behavior intervention plan created or just a goal being created, and there's two ways of seeing it. The one I see the most often almost in all of education because it's ingrained in our programs and what we learn, which is how do we get this child to and then insert X, Y and Z? So if a student has these perceived off task behaviors that they're written down or inattention or running out of class, the question that is framed most often is how do we get this student to stay on task for three minutes? Or how do we get this kid from running out of class? Or how do we get this kid to do X, Y and Z? And that's never the right question to ask. The question to ask is, why is this child running out of class? Let's get below the behavior. Let's see what's going on in this autonomic nervous system of this child. So then when we can have an understanding of where the child is coming from, we can help meet the needs so that way we don't have a behavior plan for five years in a row. 


00:19:37    Alyssa

Correct. That is going to ultimately likely be punishment, reward focused. 


00:19:43    Chris

Yeah, the compliance based approach. When we have a child that we have to force them to comply to stay on task for three minutes without meeting those sensory needs or whatever it is, sure, they're going to do the short term compliance thing in that situation, but then it becomes playing Whacka Mole. You solve that one behavior and now you got three more elsewhere because it shows dysregulation in other settings. 


00:20:14    Jessie

We've been really fortunate through our work, speaking and online to get to meet a lot of autistic adults and make friends with a lot of autistic adults and get to hear their stories of what it was like for them growing up, because these are not things that people people were not supported in this way 30 years ago. A lot of people still aren't. 


00:20:38    Alyssa

I was going to say, I think it's still an issue. 


00:20:40    Jessie

But we have friends who would say, like, I just was so overwhelmed at school. I would go to school and I would hold it all in and I would get home and I would melt down every single day. And I actually have an autistic colleague and friend, she's an SLP, Jamie Boyle, and she took my sensory course, and that was her first time ever learning about her own sensory system. And of course, that's not why she took it. She took it for her student and she said, oh, my gosh, I can't believe I could make these simple adjustments throughout my day and now I could go home and not have a meltdown. And it really does feel I know it's an uphill battle, but it really is just about those simple changes we can make. And it is scary what's going on in the schools. It's scary what the goals are. I mean, I know that it's a huge problem, a lot of moving pieces, but what is our goal? Is our goal to get kids to graduate high school, or is our goal to get kids who graduate high school and are not depressed at the end of the day? 


00:21:43    Alyssa

Sure. But I think you hit the nail on the head that we have so many professionals, I would say most in the field, who don't have adequate training of the nervous system and of our sensory systems. And so you're going in. We created a sensory profile quiz with an OT that we work with a lot and really with the goal of anyone can take it and you can go through, and it just gives you more insight into what you might be seeking or sensitive to. And there's, like, emails that come to follow up to teach you more about. And I was just hanging out with one of our schools. We have a professional development program, and I was hanging out with one of our schools, and I asked the teachers at the beginning, like, how many of you know just your kickstarters, what the sensory systems are? Can we name them? Of course they got the first five right, that we all learn about the sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. And then after that, they're like and I was like, man, this can you imagine? We're thinking of, like, assessments and goals. I was thinking back of the ASQ and all these practices that are right now really embedded in our pediatric world and how for me, when I'm often filling out the ASQ at the doctor's office and I get to the social emotional part, I'm always like, oh, God, I wish I could rewrite this. Because really, I want to get after I want to help kids learn about their nervous system from the jump way more than I want them to share a toy. Right. I want them to know what's happening inside their body because you can't regulate what you're not aware of. Right. For me when I look at this, I'm like, we just have so many professionals who don't have adequate training in sensory systems to even be able to start to be the detective, to say I mean, I totally agree with you that I'm way less interested in how do we get this kid to do this thing for two to three minutes? Than, why is this kid leaving the classroom in the first place? Right. But in order to be the detective, you need enough training and education around the nervous system, and I think we do our teachers and professionals in education a disservice there. 


00:23:54    Jessie

Oh, 100%. 


00:23:55    Chris

Yeah, I agree. And I've noticed, even when talking with the teachers, and Jessie and I talk about this I've learned this a lot from Jessie, is the questions that we frame to those who are unaware so they can start questioning and coming up with their answers, because it's hard to... 


00:24:15    Jessie

I mean why every time you sing the morning song, this child runs out of the classroom. 


00:24:22    Chris

Right. And Jessie's talking about me when I sing the morning song and dysregulate the family.


00:24:27    Jessie

Yeah. Everyone runs away. 


00:24:31    Chris

Chris, all four children are dysregulated. What did you sing? Blink 182! Give me a break. 


00:24:37    Jessie



00:24:38    Alyssa

I love it. 


00:24:42    Jessie

You bring up a good point, which is everyone has a sensory system. This is not only affecting neurodivergent kids or kids with sensory differences, this affects all of us. And I think that's been one of the coolest things, is the more we talk about this on our live show every week, we share examples of our kids and us and our sensory systems. And we did a show, for example, on our sensory systems when we went to Disneyland and how it affected everyone. We did an interview with Dr. Winnie Dunn, who's the author of The Sensory Profile, a really popular sensory assessment. And it was like relationship counseling for us talking to her, because you just realize the things that you do in your day, the things that might annoy you about another person that could be because of your sensory system. And I think that a lot of times when teachers learn these things and then we can frame it so that it makes sense to them, like, oh, well, you know, that if you hate wool sweaters and someone said, I want you to wear this wool sweater for the next week when it's 90 degrees. Also, how are you going to be able to concentrate? Are you going to be able to do your best work? Are you going to be able to teach the class? So for a lot of us, when we're training other professionals, it's about putting it into perspective for them, and that kind of turns the light on for them of, oh, wow, I can see why this is so hard for my students. 


00:26:11    Alyssa

Totally. I just wish it was more embedded in the education line in the first place. Right. Like, I had a whole series of classes on classroom management in my Master's program. Guess what? Wasn't helpful, right. Like, there are so many more things that would have been more helpful if the goal was classroom management in the end. There was a lot that would have been way more helpful than what I received in those classes. But it's that compliance based, right? Like, it was all compliance based in there. I just wish I love that we're talking about it more, and I wish it was more embedded in our systems from the jump that we're training folks from the beginning with this. 


00:26:50    Chris

Yeah, it would help society out in general, if you think about it, if it was embedded in the programs and in the education system, and then everyone can learn about their needs, their systems, then that turns into healthier relationships as they get into adult life as well. And healthier friendships and healthier ways to handle and understand each other. 


00:27:14    Alyssa

Totally. I think it would also shift us from the neurodiverse term which I would like to chat about. I think it would shift us into being able to just talk about the nervous system as a whole and recognizing that what if we all were able to acknowledge that all of us have nervous systems and they all operate differently and that it's less about for me. Like what's? Neurotypical. And let's make that the school system or workplace or whatever fit around this human and then everybody else we can make accommodations for. But what if instead, it was like, hey, how does this person best operate? How does their brain and body work best? Great. We have all those things in place for all humans. And what if everything was like an accommodation, if you will? Does that make sense? 


00:28:05    Chris

Yeah, just like creating a society of where there's inclusion and that we're removing barriers so everybody's needs are being met. I think that would be useful. 


00:28:14    Alyssa

Kind of cool, right? 


00:28:16    Chris

Kind of cool. 


00:28:18    Jessie

Reminds me of something Chris taught me, which I don't know where you got this, but we always say this in our household, which is, if you do the easy things, life will be hard. And if you do the hard things, life will be easy. And I think this is that classic case of people see the entry point to this work as being hard, which prevents them from wanting to do it, but they don't realize that if you do the hard work now, everything else will be easy. And it comes back to the classes. You're taking on classroom management. There's a phrase in marketing which is sell people what they want, but give them what they need. People don't want, oh, I'm going to teach you how to connect with every one of your students so that they can trust you, and you're going to build such a beautiful relationship, and then they're going to learn like they want, oh, manage my classroom. That's exactly what I want to do. So it's like that's the sell them what they want. That's what they want. But what they need is really so much deeper than that. 


00:29:21    Chris

Yeah. They want class dojo part two. With sticker charts and giving out these things to manage behaviors immediately. That doesn't solve the end goal. It's counterintuitive to what we want as the long term goal. 


00:29:37    Alyssa

That's right. Yeah. Well, you're right. It's an upfront cost with a huge ROI. Right. And I think whether you're a parent of a child or you're a teacher, you're working in the system, you're a therapist. It's, I think, the same across the board. I was presenting at a school a few weeks ago for parents, and there was a mom who was like, oh, it just sounds kind of exhausting. And I was like, yeah, totally. When you're building these skills, it is pretty exhausting. And then you get to sit back and watch them say things like, feeling overwhelmed. Going to go inside and take a break and come back out. But it was a lot of support and handholding to get to the point of him being able to recognize that in his body and have tools to communicate it and take that break and then come back out when he was ready. It was a lot, but it is there's a huge ROI in this work. When we do pay that upfront cost. 


00:30:36    Jessie

I never want to minimize how hard it is. And I say that all the time, especially when I'm talking to parents, because as parents know, it is easy as a therapist, and I was a therapist before I had kids, it's very easy to say, okay, now go home and do 30 minutes of your speech homework tonight. And then they come in the next week, and I go, Why didn't you do it? Where's your tracker? And then, however, many of our kids have already been through therapy and how little we have done. And it's just like, I know how hard that is. So it's just one of those things where I think starting with baby steps helps so much. Like, what is something so small that I can do right now that will start to move me in the right direction? And I really believe that that's the only way that we're going to get there. 


00:31:26    Alyssa

Totally. Well, it might even just be starting with learning about how does their system work. Maybe nothing even changes at the beginning. 


00:31:36    Jessie

It could start with learning terminology. Like, it could start with the language we're using when we talk about our kids. It could be as easy as that. 


00:31:43    Chris

Yeah, absolutely. 


00:31:45    Alyssa

Yeah, it's huge. How do you explain neurodiversity to kids? 


00:31:52    Chris

Gosh, let's see if I can break it down with how I describe it to the students I work with. So neurodiversity in general, I break it down literally with the word neuro, but we say, okay, what does that mean? Neuro. Neurology, neurologist. Who is that? That's about the brain, right? And then we talk about diversity. Okay. Diversity means differences. So we look at neurodiversity being brains are different and they are valid for how they function. Everybody's brains work differently. So then that's kind of what I do as a working foundation. I just break it down into brain differences. That's neurodiversity. Now, what we then do is I talk about what neurotypicality means or what a neurotypical might look like. Society's way of seeing one way of communicating or being kind of what most people fit into, right? This normalization, I guess we should say. And then anybody that has differences for the way that they function would be neurodivergent. Right. So that can include anything that diverges away from what society has constructed as normal, ADHD, dyslexia, even trauma. Right? So it's not like everyone's just born neurodivergent. Some can have an acquired neurodivergency. So that's kind of an important thing to identify. So the phrase I hear oftentimes is when people refer to students as being neurodiverse, neurodiverse makes up a large group of people. So football team is neurodiverse. The student body at the school is neurodiverse. Neurodivergent are those who fall on the outside of what is society is deemed to be normal. But the challenging part and you had Dr. Gabor Mate on your podcast, so he's got that book, The Myth of Normal. The challenging part is that over times and I got a lot of this from his idea because it aligns directly with what we do, is that society has created this little box of what is normal and anybody who's neurodivergent has to be fixed or treated and that is what creates trauma too. So it's kind of getting out of the idea of saying, hey, instead of constantly trying to fix people who aren't broken, why don't we provide adequate supports and services? Why don't we remove barriers from environments? Why don't we create goals that are meaningful to the person? Why don't we build connections with people? Why don't we build relationships with people? Why don't we validate emotions in one's lived experiences? All of those types of things are a much healthier way of creating a less toxic society. 


00:34:57    Jessie

Thank you for coming to Chris's Ted Talk. 


00:34:59    Alyssa

I love it! 


00:35:01    Jessie

By the way, Dr. Gabor Mate is like one of his favorite people. When he saw that he was on your podcast, he almost cried. 


00:35:11    Chris

And I was like, Whoa! You have people that are like certain people that people would love to meet in life. Like Taylor Swift. 


00:35:21    Jessie



00:35:22    Alyssa

I was going to say mine was Dr. Stuart Shanker. He's like number one on my list. And then I got to interview him and fell more in love with him and I was like, oh, this is the dream. 


00:35:32    Chris

Oh, that is amazing. 


00:35:33    Jessie

That's the best part about a podcast, is that you get to invite these people. 


00:35:38    Alyssa

I'm happy to connect you with Dr. Gabor. 


00:35:41    Chris

That would be awesome. I think that our mentors and those we look up to are in our wheelhouse of this because that's how we change. Those are the people that are changing the world. 


00:35:51    Alyssa

Yeah. Well, one thing that I really like about his work is his acknowledgment of coping mechanisms, and that our nervous system. We have neuroplasticity and things will ebb and flow and change. And just as you said, like, trauma can result in somebody being neurodivergent. And that's a coping mechanism that we've I'm so grateful that we have these as survival strategies and the acknowledgment that sometimes we're creating these barriers and these challenges, these obstacles for our kids, for our society, with the lack of mental health support. Yeah, I dig that. I find personally the largest challenge in this being just like, energy, right? Some days I wake up and I'm like, yeah, I'm going to slay this. Right? And then you have a morning and every boundary is pushed and it's like, even if I know where it's coming from, it's exhausting. And then we fall out of connection and relationship. And one of the things I feel like I've really had to practice I was a teacher before I was a parent, and both as a teacher and as a parent, is that grace to say it's okay to fall out of connection in relationship and to come back into it. 


00:37:11    Jessie

Yeah. And I was going to say that's the beauty of being human without getting too deep, that's what life is all about. And that's the thing, is we all have those similarities. And if we have those moments, how could we possibly expect our kids to never have those moments? I think as being a sensory integration trained therapist, that's something I talk about so much, is our goal is not for kids to be in this optimal level of arousal all day long. We are not in that place all day long. So it's just how can we humanize our kids, what we're doing, and realize that everyone has these challenges and it's not set our expectations for kids to be so crazy high things that we would never expect of ourselves. 


00:38:05    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that's huge. And I think when we can acknowledge that, then we can adjust task demands. Right? Like we can say, yeah, there are times where, no, I can't come up with what's for dinner and we're going to order takeout. And in the same vein, there are times where my child, who knows all the steps to get through his routine for bedtime, just needs more help. Right. I think when we have that humanizing perspective of it, then we can adjust task demands and not feel like, oh my God, we're taking eight steps back. They know how to do this. 


00:38:40    Jessie

Yeah, that's another thing. I see you talking about bedtime. I feel like the trauma, I just feel it just hearing the word bedtime routine, oh my God, getting four kids ready for bed is I dont know. 


00:38:53    Alyssa

A feat? A marathon? 


00:38:57    Jessie

I'm ready for my reward from the universe. But that's the thing, too, is that these big and I know you've got your book and all that big emotions, you're no stranger to that. But we all have those and kids have those, too. And I think a lot of the times, especially working with parents who have neurodivergent kids, they're like, why is my kid doing this? And I'm like, every two year old is doing that. I promise you that. 


00:39:27    Alyssa

Well, I think that's where the pro social thing comes in. Right. And I'm going to throw that in quotes because that's the term we've been talking so much about. It seed lately. I'd love your thoughts on it. But for us, our breakdown of it is if it's this idea that every time you feel angry or every time you feel overwhelmed or dysregulated by any sort of emotion, that you're going to express it in a very specific way. That is going to be what is often called pro social. Right. That's going to be kind. That's going to be almost regulated. And I don't get that expectation. Right? I don't snap at my husband because I'm like, yeah, I want to be just rude right now, right? Like, really want to start something? No, it happens because I'm overwhelmed or I'm frustrated or whatever, and it comes out and it's okay. Right. I don't expect a kid to be overwhelmed or angry or disappointed and to just like, in a calm voice be like, hi, Mom, I'm feeling really angry with you right now. And so I would love your take on the idea of pro social. And I think that that's where this comes in with my kids throwing this tantrum or they're melting down or we're seeing these behaviors. What they're really saying is they aren't pro social behaviors that we're seeing, and that feels concerning. 


00:40:57    Jessie

That made me think, what was that IEP goal you just told me like, a week ago about when the child was dysregulated?


00:41:06    Chris

The crying one?


00:41:06    Jessie

There was one that he'll do, I can't remember what it was. 


00:41:11    Chris

There was one that I came by that was a behavioral one that was like, child will not cry. Suppress their feelings by not crying all day. 


00:41:23    Jessie

It was like, when they're dysregulated, they will. And then it was like, do something really calm, not cry, but do, not ringing a bell? 


00:41:33    Chris

Not that one. 


00:41:34    Jessie

But it was something like, yeah, like basically saying the kid is not allowed to display their emotions. And that's just something that's been so huge, something we talk about all the time. What is her name, the author? Susan... 


00:41:48    Chris



00:41:49    Jessie

Yeah, Susan David and her emotional agility, where it's like, we are not our emotions. And I think that's something we talk to our kids about all the time. We are not our emotions, and we're allowed to feel any kind of way. And we're really into meditation in our household and using our Free Educator Headspace account. 


00:42:14    Alyssa



00:42:16    Jessie

It's like we can feel those feelings of a cloud over our head. And my son was doing therapy for being anxious. He's six, and he was diagnosed with anxiety at two years old. And it's funny because his therapist just this was recently, I was like, oh, how am I going to address this one? She said something like, sometimes we feel those bad feelings, like we're scared. And it took everything for me not to jump in and be like, actually, emotions aren't good or bad, they just are, and it's okay for us to feel everyone. And I was like, okay, I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt here and see what happens. But we have to let our kids feel. And for us to make them think it's not okay to do that is not helping anyone. 


00:43:15    Chris

Well, it leads to physical health, too. So when you are actively taught to suppress your big emotions, then you are actively suppressing your immune system. And that leads to physical health. So we'll have kids that are absent a lot from earaches, headaches, all of those things that they describe to us based on a lot of this stuff, too. So I think that's an important yeah, you may have brought up a good. 


00:43:45    Jessie

He's very into the connection between it's huge health and emotional health. You are. 


00:43:51    Chris

Yeah. Brain, body. 


00:43:55    Jessie

We both just did cold plunges this morning. 


00:43:59    Alyssa

Okay. I started doing cold showers, like, at the end of my shower, and I hate it. I hate it every time. I hate it every time. And then it feels so good for a while after, and so I keep doing I'm doing the hard thing. I'm listening to you, Chris. I'm doing the hard thing. 


00:44:14    Chris



00:44:15    Alyssa

But I do hate it. And I'm always cold. I love to be clammy. It's like my favorite thing to be, but I have to labor breathe. I feel like relearn how to breathe at the beginning of it every time. People were like, it gets easier! It's not. So cheers to you for doing a cold plunge. When I think of pro social, I think the challenge that people come up with is, like, sure, I definitely want them to feel all their feelings and to express them, and I don't want them hitting, and I don't want them throwing things, and I agree. Also don't want them hitting or throwing things, but I think we can go even further down that rabbit hole sometimes to like and I don't want them yelling, and I don't want them crying, and it goes on and on and on to like, okay, well, how can they express what do you do when you're mad? What feels good for you when you're overwhelmed or when you're sad or disappointed? 


00:45:20    Chris

Right. Absolutely. 


00:45:21    Jessie

Yeah. And that just goes back to the importance of co regulation. And that's another expectation we put on kids that doesn't make any sense is like, child will self regulate, blah, blah, blah, whatever the goal is. I had a parent who just told me, her seven year old, when he was overstimulated in class, they put him in a room by himself where he peed in his pants and then got mad at him for doing that. And I'm like, oh, my God. That is never something we would do, is leave a kid to try to regulate on their own. And I will say some kids want to be alone. And like our six year old, sometimes he wants some space, but then he also very much wants you to come back to him and have that moment where you are cuddling and co regulating. And it's just that's how humans are. And the need for co regulation, as we don't have to tell you, never goes away. So why wouldn't we give that to our kids? And I think a lot of the time it comes back to us almost having to I think as therapists or as teachers or as parents, we tend to come into interactions with kids as like, I'm up here, and you're the child down here, and you need to do what I say so that you can get the things that you want. And this type of approach is really about coming down and being on the same level with feelings of mutual respect of, how can I give you what you need so that you are supported in the best way possible? And honestly, that starts with us being able to take care of ourselves as adults in order to be that person for kids. 


00:47:03    Alyssa

Yeah. That power with instead of power over. 


00:47:07    Chris

Right? Absolutely. 


00:47:08    Alyssa

Yeah. That's huge. And you're right. The self care part is crucial to us doing this. And we end up in this cycle of not taking care of ourselves and then expecting a child to get calm for us when we can't get calm for the child. 


00:47:24    Chris



00:47:25    Alyssa

A little backwards. 


00:47:26    Chris

That's actually with the co regulation thing that I have been including in the accommodations page of the IEP is just to ensure that some of these students who have bigger emotions that they have a safe person that they can go to in the building, that can help co regulate, that's always important. If a child is starting to become dysregulated and they don't have anybody that they can trust or a safe person or they don't know what to do, then we're just running on the hamster wheel. So, yeah, having that ability to know who they can go to to help in those moments is really a critical element to that. 


00:48:02    Chris

And in your school, it ends up to be you a lot of the time. 


00:48:05    Alyssa

I'm not shocked.


00:48:07    Jessie

I'll ask "How was your lunch?" And you'll say, this kid came in. We're hanging out the whole time. 


00:48:10    Chris

Yeah. Right now I have 911 students that I've been dealing with. No, I'm just kidding. 


00:48:15    Alyssa

I wouldn't be shocked. I wouldn't be shocked at all. Oh, man. Thank you. Thank you for doing this work. Thanks for having this conversation in this space. It's just so crucial. It's so crucial that exactly the work that you're doing continues to spread and be present in schools and in households, in childcare and beyond. Thank you. Where can folks find you? Learn more about what you're doing. 


00:48:42    Jessie

I am at on social, sensory.SLP, I guess that's where I am. And then we also have our weekly live show, which we do every Tuesday on YouTube called Making the Shift for Autistic Kids. And then that comes out as a podcast every week as well. 


00:49:02    Chris

Yeah. And then for me, everything is SpeechDude. So Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, 


00:49:08    Chris

Yellow Pages. 


00:49:09    Chris

Lemonade what's the other one? Clapper. I'm on quite often. Speechdude,, you name it. That's where you can find me. 


00:49:20    Alyssa

Thank you both. You're the bomb. Thanks for hanging out with me. 


00:49:23    Chris

Thank you so much, Lyss. We appreciate you having us on. 


00:49:27    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans. 


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