Artwork for podcast Speaking From The Heart
Episode #58 - Being Neurodivergent & Cared About: An Interview With Leann Firestone
Episode 6116th November 2023 • Speaking From The Heart • Joshua D. Smith
00:00:00 00:48:33

Share Episode

Shownotes

Understanding our brain styles and differences is a hugely popular topic in today's society, particularly since it takes into consideration the different types of ways that we learn. However, there are simply not enough resources for the neurodivergent individual to help them with the overwhelming amount of information that needs to be processed to make informed decisions, often leading to sensory overload. Today's guest, Leann Firestone, Founder and Executive Director of the Neurodiverse Network, is helping to reverse the lack of resources and creating the opportunities that are available for individuals and families that need them. Being cared about is truly important, and this episode exemplifies the fact that we need assistance from time-to-time, regardless of our style, to help us to the other side of a problem or need.

Guest Bio

Leann Firestone is the Creator and Director of Neurodiverse Network. She is an neurodiverse adult female living in central Pennsylvania. She is unique in that she went most of her life without a diagnosis of her brain style differences. At 30-years-old, she made the self-realization that she is autistic and that her lack diagnosis has contributed to most of the struggles and trauma in her life. By sharing her story, along with constant education and advocacy, she hopes to help the community as a whole and prevent her tale from being relived by others. She currently works as a hairstylist , nanny, vintage reseller, and non-profit director! She lives with her husband and 6.5 year old daughter in the New Cumberland, Pennsylvania area where they take care of a dozen chickens, a snake, a bearded dragon, an elderly dog, and their newest addition, a puppy named Suzie who will be going through training to be a Service Dog for the family.

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/834200314102805

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GlambyLeann/

@Leann_Firestone on Instagram

YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB1-Oq_ZdajwZ5-f4HU9Svg

Website: http://ndnet.org

Visit Our Website: https://speaking-from-the-heart.captivate.fm/

Visit Our Business Website: https://www.yourspeakingvoice.biz

Support The Mission Of The Business! Donate Here: https://speaking-from-the-heart.captivate.fm/support

Intro/Outro By: Michael Dugan, Podcast Host: Voice4Chefs

Transcripts

Intro:

Welcome to the podcast where relationships, confidence, and

Intro:

determination, all converge into an amazing, heartfelt experience.

Intro:

This is Speaking From The Heart.

Joshua:

Welcome back to episode number 58 of Speaking from the Heart.

Joshua:

Today we'll have Leann Firestone, who's the creator and director

Joshua:

of the Neurodiverse Network.

Joshua:

She is a neurodiverse adult female living in central Pennsylvania, and

Joshua:

she's unique in that she went through most of her life without a diagnosis

Joshua:

of her brain style differences.

Joshua:

At 30 years of age she made the self-realization that she's autistic

Joshua:

and that she lacked the diagnosis that contributed to most of the struggles

Joshua:

and trauma that has happened in her life and by sharing her story, which she will

Joshua:

share in this episode, along with the constant education advocacy that she set

Joshua:

forth as her mission, she hopes to help the community as a whole and prevent

Joshua:

her tale from being relived by others.

Joshua:

She works as a hairstylist, nanny, vintage reseller, and also the nonprofit

Joshua:

director of the Neurodiverse Network.

Joshua:

She lives with her husband and her six and a half year old daughter in the New

Joshua:

Cumberland, PA area where she's taking care of a dozen chickens, a snake, a

Joshua:

bearded dragon, an elderly dog, and their newest edition, which is a puppy named

Joshua:

Susie, who's going through training to be a service dog for the family and in

Joshua:

even in this episode, when we talk about the variety of different things that she

Joshua:

does, the one common denominator that is been really the biggest focus for

Joshua:

not only herself, but for others that go through this sort of diagnosis which I

Joshua:

have personally myself, is the fact that we have to surround ourselves with people

Joshua:

that will support us every step of the way, and that no matter what the struggles

Joshua:

are that we go through, we'll always make it to the other side, especially if we're

Joshua:

being able to take care of our ourself for the greater good of everyone else.

Joshua:

But with that, let's go to the episode.

Joshua:

All right.

Joshua:

We're here with Leann Firestone.

Joshua:

Leann, thanks for sharing your heart with us today.

Leann:

Hi, thanks.

Leann:

I'm so happy to be here.

Joshua:

I am absolutely proud that you're here too, as one fellow

Joshua:

neurodiverse individual to another.

Joshua:

I'm really glad that we finally got to connect and I appreciate you

Joshua:

taking some time to talk today because Leann, I already let the audience

Joshua:

know everything about you and who you are and what you've been doing.

Joshua:

I want to start off with this question because it's just been something on my

Joshua:

mind and it's something that's happened to me the last several months, especially

Joshua:

being diagnosed as autistic myself, especially since I learned about this

Joshua:

sort of variable of neurodiversity.

Joshua:

It's been really interesting for me to kind of share this story of my audience,

Joshua:

but tell us a little bit about some of the things that you had gone through

Joshua:

leading up to the point when you found out that you were a neurodiverse individual.

Leann:

All right.

Leann:

Well it's a not so fun story.

Leann:

I feel like a lot of the depression and anxiety that I have now that

Leann:

I'm releasing as an adult was caused because of my undiagnosed

Leann:

and misdiagnosed neurodiversity.

Leann:

I was diagnosed as having anxiety and depression, but wasn't really treated

Leann:

properly or with the right tools or given the right assistance that I needed,

Leann:

and autism diagnosis wasn't even on the radar for anybody because I would

Leann:

probably have been listed as more gifted in school and I flew under the radar.

Leann:

I did just enough to pass and I didn't want them to notice me as smart.

Leann:

I didn't want them to notice me as different, so I spent a lot of my life

Leann:

masking, which is a term that a lot of neurodivergent people use, which is

Leann:

basically creating this whole personality.

Leann:

If you think of someone in customer service, they create this fake persona,

Leann:

but I was doing that in every single aspect of my life and I was adapting

Leann:

it to fit the people around me, so I was becoming so much of a people

Leann:

pleaser that I was kissing up to the teacher, doing extra things for friends

Leann:

that would actually hurt me in the end because I was giving too much of

Leann:

myself and it wasn't fair, but that's what I thought I was supposed to do.

Leann:

If I would've had a diagnosis and I would've known that it's okay to

Leann:

be different, I'm sure I would have anxiety and depression as they're

Leann:

always pretty comorbid with autism and ADHD, like together diagnoses.

Leann:

It just makes for a hard life, so I might always have some anxiety and

Leann:

some depression, but it's much more controlled now that I understand my

Leann:

brain and I can get the proper tools and I can advocate for myself and I can

Leann:

tell practitioners and like healthcare professionals more about my brain

Leann:

because even I understand it more.

Joshua:

I had somewhat of a similar struggle going through school.

Joshua:

I was misdiagnosed myself.

Joshua:

I was always put in special education classes.

Joshua:

I had IEPs done, and it was told to my mother that, "No, he's retarded", so

Joshua:

I actually was told that and had to go through these exercises of relearning

Joshua:

things, and it was really a challenge to really find that comfort and acceptance

Joshua:

throughout most of my life until just earlier this year getting that diagnosis.

Joshua:

I have to tell you that I haven't even told my audience this, that

Joshua:

it was something that was very uncomfortable for me once I found out.

Joshua:

I was very angry.

Joshua:

I was very distraught.

Joshua:

I was pretty much in the gym working out consistently and trying to

Joshua:

just work out that frustration.

Joshua:

When you found out that you were on that spectrum, how did you react?

Joshua:

How did you feel?

Joshua:

Did you have something similar to me or how did you react to it?

Leann:

Yeah, definitely.

Leann:

I definitely think that late diagnosis and like self-awareness of autism or any

Leann:

neurodiversity comes with this grief, like, "Why didn't I know this before?"

Leann:

I've just been living my life in an unfulfilling way because I didn't

Leann:

have this key piece of information, so it does make you angry.

Leann:

It makes you really angry and sad with yourself.

Leann:

A lot of the people around me, it made me frustrated and just feel

Leann:

our relationships weren't even real.

Leann:

I don't know, I just started, a lot of people will say this, you go through all

Leann:

the motions of your previous life and try to put it all together like, "Oh,

Leann:

I did that because I was autistic?", or, "This relationship didn't work

Leann:

because they didn't understand my sensory needs", and " I was put in

Leann:

this situation because of my autism."

Leann:

It's so much easier to understand now and in the future, it helps me prevent

Leann:

those situations, so there's definitely a lot of grief and anger and sadness

Leann:

that I had to go through as well and I feel like I'm still working through a

Leann:

lot of the trauma, and working on how to unmask a hundred percent and just

Leann:

be my authentic self in the way that, that is without somebody judging me or

Leann:

well, well, they're going to judge me.

Leann:

I guess it's without me worrying about the judgment, like that's the part that

Leann:

I'm still I'm about three years into the self-awareness diagnosis, journey,

Leann:

and yeah, I'm still working through it, like still trying to work through

Leann:

that grief and the sadness of the childhood I missed out on because I was

Leann:

so anxious and stressed and wasn't able to just enjoy my life like I am now.

Joshua:

I was going to ask you about that and see if it was empowerment for you,

Joshua:

and it definitely sounds like it has been.

Leann:

Oh, appreciate.

Joshua:

Yeah.

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

I had somewhat of a similar experience too.

Joshua:

I went back, I had several flashbacks of just different parts of my life

Joshua:

where I've had these interactions with different people or different situations

Joshua:

and how I handled them, and it was very comforting to know now that I

Joshua:

was able to put a word or association-

Leann:

mm-hmm.

Joshua:

With it, because like you said, it almost feels like it's putting some

Joshua:

of those connectors back together of why did it happen the way it did, but you

Joshua:

have a husband, you have a child as a result of just even going through some

Joshua:

of the things that you have gone through.

Joshua:

Do you find that maybe those have also been great influencers in your

Joshua:

life too, to kind of help you along to get to where you are today?

Joshua:

Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship as it relates to being

Joshua:

married, especially being on the spectrum?

Leann:

Yeah.

Leann:

Yeah.

Leann:

Yeah, because this comes up a lot, I feel like, because some people

Leann:

think that they will never be married as someone that's autistic.

Leann:

They don't want to ever be married.

Leann:

Some people have totally different views on relationships and living with

Leann:

people, so I definitely can't speak for everyone, but my relationship

Leann:

definitely started out really traditional.

Leann:

We met after high school and we've been together I guess like 13 years

Leann:

or 14 years, a pretty long time, and I moved right out of my parents' house

Leann:

in with my husband, so it's come up a lot in the past couple years talking

Leann:

to healthcare professionals and things.

Leann:

I didn't really realize that he does take care of me in a sense that if I had lived

Leann:

by myself all these years, I probably wouldn't really learn how to eat healthy

Leann:

or properly or have much of a routine.

Leann:

I'd probably have more depression, and I love him.

Leann:

We have great energy, but I don't even know if it's him or just living with

Leann:

someone, like someone that's kind of holding me accountable to eat every day

Leann:

and clean myself every day, like having a partner that I live with has been

Leann:

important for those reasons, and I never thought about it until more recently when

Leann:

people started asking me like, "Could you take care of yourself if you lived

Leann:

alone?", and because when you start filling out things, if you want to apply

Leann:

for medical assistance or anything like that, a lot of those questions start

Leann:

coming up about your intelligence level and your ability to handle daily tasks

Leann:

and take care of yourself, and some of that stuff is difficult for me and the

Leann:

pressure of living with other people and living in society kind of makes me

Leann:

stay on top of it a little bit more.

Leann:

He has been beyond amazing through the whole transition, because it was

Leann:

a big life shift to just be like, "Oh hey, by the way, I'm autistic", and

Leann:

then as time goes on, I'm like, "I'm going to make this my whole life.

Leann:

I'm going to be an advocate.

Leann:

I'm going to start this nonprofit.

Leann:

Are you okay with this?"

Leann:

It just was a little bit of a shock I think at first but he is been amazing

Leann:

and he has his own neurodiversity, so I think that that helps a

Leann:

lot because we're not the same.

Leann:

He's not been diagnosed as autistic, but he has different ways of thinking that I

Leann:

can explain my brain differences to him, and we can see each other on the same

Leann:

level and that's been really powerful over the past couple years because

Leann:

in the beginning of our relationship, when we were younger, things were

Leann:

definitely more superficial, and I'd say as with any relationship, I think

Leann:

when you're like young, in your early twenties and you start a relationship,

Leann:

we didn't have as much to work on.

Leann:

We weren't cohabitating together for years.

Leann:

We didn't have a child.

Leann:

Life is so much different now and we have to be so transparent with

Leann:

each other, but it's made us so much stronger to talk about our brains too.

Leann:

Instead of just being like, "I just do this because this is who I am", it's,

Leann:

"I do this because my brain processes stuff differently and this is what

Leann:

you can do to understand it better and this is how you can help me.", so

Leann:

relationship wise, when people ask about it, I feel like the weirdest thing I

Leann:

can talk about is how he is able to squish me and apply pressure for me.

Leann:

That's something that people want to hear that maybe a regular partner want to do.

Leann:

We have some interesting things like that or when I'm able to just look at him and

Leann:

say, "I am overwhelmed and I'm going to have a panic attack", he knows that that

Leann:

has to do with autistic burnout, and that means I'm on the edge and I've had too

Leann:

much socialization and at this point in our relationship, he is able to read my

Leann:

cues and read my stimming and read my body signs when I'm getting upset, and

Leann:

it's been amazing to have a support like that, and I have to support him too.

Leann:

We're very supportive of each other.

Leann:

I don't want it to come off as he is like my caregiver because, I don't necessarily

Leann:

need one at this point in my life, but we do a lot for each other equally.

Joshua:

This is helpful because I think that, and as you know, I've opened a

Joshua:

coaching business myself to kind of help people go through those sort of different

Joshua:

types of experiences, but being autistic myself, it's really enhanced and made

Joshua:

me understand a lot more of working with different people and sometimes we

Joshua:

just need that other person to provide that level of support of encouragement,

Joshua:

not necessarily doing the day to day.

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

Which I know there's different function levels even when it comes to

Joshua:

autism or even being on the spectrum: OCD, ADHD, Asperger's being part of

Joshua:

that spectrum now, I mean, I think all of us definitely have different

Joshua:

levels of care when it comes to that.

Leann:

Mm-hmm.

Joshua:

But yeah, I do want to ask about your child because I really think

Joshua:

that living in that sort of household, you probably have a unique advantage

Joshua:

of being able to show the differences between not only how you handle

Joshua:

things, but maybe how the whole world handles things and that's okay, so-

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

Do you mind talking about that a little bit?

Leann:

Yeah, sure.

Leann:

My daughter's six and a half now, so just to put a timeframe on it, she was

Leann:

three, three and a half, when I figured out that I was autistic, so the first few

Leann:

years of her childhood, being an infant and then a toddler, I didn't realize

Leann:

I was autistic, so I didn't know why I was having so much sensory overload.

Leann:

I didn't understand that parenting rocks your schedule

Leann:

completely, and I don't like that.

Leann:

I feel like most parents will tell you you're just living day to day in flight

Leann:

or fight mode for a lot of their newborn time and the first year and that's kind

Leann:

of what I did, and I just figured it out and made it work and I knew my daughter

Leann:

was really different than everybody else, but I knew I was different than

Leann:

everybody else, so it was kind of weird.

Leann:

I tried to do all the typical parenting things.

Leann:

None of them worked.

Leann:

She didn't sleep in her own bed until she was five.

Leann:

We had to figure out other things, like she was potty trained super young, but

Leann:

nighttime potty training didn't come for a long time, and I just couldn't

Leann:

do methods that other people did.

Leann:

We couldn't do timeouts or any kind of punishment that other people did.

Leann:

It had to be different because I knew that whether she was autistic or not, I

Leann:

knew something about her was different and she needed a different way of parenting.

Leann:

I definitely followed a more gentle parenting approach, and more of a

Leann:

natural parenting was kind of the group that we fell into so we were these

Leann:

calm, gentle parents but there was no help for neurodiversity and I didn't

Leann:

really understand all this stuff, so as time went on and I figured out

Leann:

everything about me, I just knew, as soon as I figured out I was autistic,

Leann:

I was like, "Oh, well that makes sense.

Leann:

My daughter's autistic then too", or she at least says ADHD and some

Leann:

other neurodiversity are making her life difficult, and all this

Leann:

happened during the pandemic too.

Leann:

I guess we didn't really mention that.

Joshua:

Mm-hmm.

Leann:

Three years ago would've been pandemic time, so all this

Leann:

stuff that happened, I wasn't able to get her diagnosis.

Leann:

I wasn't able to get her help from the CAIU (Capital Area Immediate Unit) be

Leann:

and the intermediate units because they were flooded with children because the

Leann:

pandemic just happened and then it was opening up and everything was just a

Leann:

big mess, because of having restrictions and masks and scheduling was more tight

Leann:

and just all of it, so I just kind of parented her the way that I thought I

Leann:

would want to be parented and I feel like that's still what we're doing, but

Leann:

now that she's older, there's a lot more communication, and I think I did have

Leann:

that advantage that some neurotypical parents don't have because I understand

Leann:

her brain, so from the beginning I could be like, "That kind of punishment's not

Leann:

going to work for her", or, "That kind of lesson is not going to teach her.

Leann:

We need to teach her this way.

Leann:

We need to take a different route to this.", or I was able to see

Leann:

like she is not having a tantrum, she's having a sensory meltdown.

Leann:

I was able to notice the difference, so, instead of where another parent

Leann:

might be like, "Stop screaming in the store", I was like, "Her socks are wet",

Leann:

and I took her wet socks off and then she was the baby that stopped crying.

Leann:

It was like things like that that I knew bothered me, so I just kind of

Leann:

related it without having a title or like a description on it, and now

Leann:

that we do, it's a lot more helpful, and I wasn't necessarily in a rush

Leann:

to get her diagnosis because of all of that, because I was like, "Well,

Leann:

I'm already parenting her in the way that they're going to try to teach me.

Leann:

I'm already learned it myself.", and she was in OT.

Leann:

We did that immediately because occupational therapy, you can start

Leann:

without any kind of diagnosis for a kid, so you don't have to be like, "They're

Leann:

autistic", or, "They have ADHD", you can just say, "They're having trouble with

Leann:

development or mood regulation or sensory sensitivities or they're not sleeping."

Leann:

it could be a variety of things because occupational therapy helps with anything

Leann:

that is occupational, so not just a job, but to live, so anything, even feeding,

Leann:

speech, all of that, is combined and so we just started it and we started

Leann:

giving her resources and started providing her with sensory input and

Leann:

learning more about sensory sensitivities and now we have all the tools.

Leann:

We have the swing in our bedroom and the beanbag sacks around the house and all the

Leann:

headphones and everything we can utilize.

Leann:

It's taught me a lot about my own brain and taught me about a lot of tools that

Leann:

I can use for her and our brains are really similar, me and my daughter.

Joshua:

No, it definitely sounds like it, and yeah, that would be

Joshua:

definitely something that I wish I would've had growing up myself because-

Leann:

Mm-hmm.

Joshua:

It probably would've made a big difference in some of the issues

Joshua:

and some of the difficulties that I had as well, especially in the social

Joshua:

area where I had a hard time being able to communicate those expectations.

Joshua:

That was something that even the doctors said to my mom growing up as

Joshua:

being a big struggle for me because of the sensory deprivation and all kinds

Joshua:

of other things, but knowing all this now, you had started a nonprofit called

Joshua:

the Neurodiverse Network in which you are the creator and the director.

Joshua:

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to that point that

Joshua:

you wanted to start a nonprofit?

Leann:

Yeah, so like I said, when I figured out three years ago, I immediately

Leann:

started like, you know, I'm a fixer.

Leann:

That's the autistic part of me so I started to try to fix myself.

Leann:

I was like, "Oh, if I'm autistic and never got any of these tools, that

Leann:

means I missed out on occupational therapy and I missed out on like

Leann:

physical therapy and I missed out on speech and oral and feeding."

Leann:

It was like my brain just started going and going like, "How can I get better at

Leann:

all this stuff?", so then I hyper-focused on neurodiversity and I started learning

Leann:

so much about it, and going through all the stuff with my daughter, with the

Leann:

state and services and practitioners, and still trying to find her a counselor and

Leann:

a psychiatrist, it's next to impossible.

Leann:

It's very, very discouraging and very, very hard, so, I mean, I

Leann:

started to realize that resources were really hard to find.

Leann:

They're unattainable, and then I was like, "Wait, I'm neurodiverse too, and

Leann:

neurodiversity is genetic", so a lot of these parents that are looking for

Leann:

these tools and help for their children are also neurodiverse, so they're being

Leann:

challenged with the system that even neurotypical people can't navigate

Leann:

well, but then they're neurodiverse too, and no one's helping them.

Leann:

No one is like, "Oh, you're autistic and you have an autistic daughter.

Leann:

We should help you more because you probably don't understand

Leann:

how to navigate these systems."

Leann:

They just think, "Oh, she's got it, because she knows what she's

Leann:

doing and it's not that hard", but that part was really challenging,

Leann:

and then there was no resources.

Leann:

There's no parenting group for parents of neurodiverse kids.

Leann:

They are autistic parenting groups, but I found that they were too restrictive.

Leann:

I need more neurodiversity conversation.

Leann:

A lot of the parenting groups that I had found, there weren't even any

Leann:

locally because of the pandemic, so a lot of them were online.

Joshua:

I have to interject and tell you too-

Leann:

Sorry.

Joshua:

That; No, you're fine.

Joshua:

I wanted to interject to tell you too that just even from some of the

Joshua:

things that I've even researched, there aren't very many resources even

Joshua:

when it comes to adults finding out-

Leann:

No.

Joshua:

That they are autistic or on the spectrum later in life, and that's

Joshua:

something that is starting to change now, but definitely has a long way to go, but I

Joshua:

wanted to say that because it is something that is definitely needed, not only in

Joshua:

the area where we are living, which your network that you're starting is around

Joshua:

the New Cumberland area if I'm corrected.

Leann:

Mm-hmm.

Leann:

Yep.

Joshua:

And there are definitely areas, not just in Pennsylvania

Joshua:

that needs it, but other places as well, but I'm sorry, go ahead.

Joshua:

Continue, because I wanted to share that.

Leann:

No, that's okay.

Leann:

No, that's a really good point, and even right now, I just recently added

Leann:

over 50 resources on our website now.

Leann:

I'm trying to really enhance that part of our website because that's the

Leann:

biggest issue that people contact me with is, "I don't know how to find a PT.

Leann:

I don't know how to find a doctor.

Leann:

How do we find these grant resources to help pay for medical bills?

Leann:

How do we find communication devices for free?"

Leann:

There's all these services, but no one knows how to find them, so we're trying

Leann:

to connect people with that, but even now, if someone had asked me, "Who do

Leann:

you know that can do a diagnosis for an adult woman in the area to figure

Leann:

out if they're autistic or not?"

Leann:

I would say, "I don't know."

Leann:

That's the sad part.

Leann:

There are a lot of people that won't take on adult diagnoses.

Leann:

I don't know if it has to do with the trauma, the misdiagnosis, the difficulty

Leann:

to diagnose that because of all those underlying layers, or if it's has to

Leann:

do, I don't know, my healthcare paid for it, so it's not a financial thing, but

Leann:

a lot of people have this restriction that they will only diagnose under 21

Leann:

years old, and speaking of that, that's when the services definitely end, even

Leann:

if you're given that 18 to 21 year stretch after you turn 18, your services

Leann:

will definitely end after 21, but yeah, there is no adult services out there.

Leann:

There's a couple practitioners in the area that are counselors that

Leann:

will work with neurodiverse people specifically, and there are some OTs

Leann:

that are neurodiverse themselves that will work with adults, but it's getting

Leann:

your insurance to pay for that can be difficult or completely impossible,

Leann:

and finding the energy and it's hard to find the words to put, but it's kind

Leann:

of like demeaning and it can be hard to get help with these kind of things.

Leann:

It can be hard for me to go in and be like, "I have trouble cutting up my food.

Leann:

I'm almost 33 years old.

Leann:

Can you teach me how to do it?", like that can be really degrading for me to say

Leann:

because I've been doing it my whole life and I've never sought out the appropriate

Leann:

help, and obviously those practitioners are great, but even getting care and

Leann:

improving your life can be difficult when you've kind of done it this way and

Leann:

didn't realize that it was hard or that you could have had tools given to you, so

Leann:

I'm the big, big, big part of the network was started just to help relieve people

Leann:

of all those issues that I went through.

Leann:

It's like I want people to be able to go on there and look and see, "Oh,

Leann:

I can start OT with this doctor, or there's a grant that might help OT

Leann:

with this therapist, or there's a grant that might pay for my services

Leann:

that I can't afford, or how do I get my kid on medical assistance

Leann:

now that they have this diagnosis?"

Leann:

Things like that that I had to struggle through I'm now creating

Leann:

templates for people and trying to get everything added to our website.

Leann:

Once we have a center, we want to teach people how to do this stuff.

Leann:

We want to have executive functioning days where people

Leann:

help each other do this stuff.

Leann:

We want to do so many things that aren't available at all now.

Leann:

That's why I just decided to start my own thing, because when I came up with the

Leann:

idea, the first person I told after my close friends and family was my accountant

Leann:

and I was like, "What would a nonprofit be the right route?", and he was like,

Leann:

"Yes, and this is genius and I want to help you because this has a place in my

Leann:

heart", and he's still on my board, but-

Joshua:

Nice.

Leann:

We; yeah; he'll be a part of it as long as he can, and I think that

Leann:

having those people that were just, "Yes, we need this so much, and then

Leann:

we need all these other things too."

Leann:

I have such a long list of things that we can do for the community and do

Leann:

for each other that we're just getting started on it because we need resources,

Leann:

and you know my accountant said to me, and a lot of people said, "Well,

Leann:

aren't there other nonprofits doing this that you could just get under?

Leann:

Why don't you go work with somebody?

Leann:

Why don't you start an umbrella?", and I said, "Yeah, there's nothing like that."

Leann:

The Autism Society in Harrisburg is the closest thing, and they work

Leann:

under the umbrella of the National Autism Society and the National

Leann:

Autism Society, they wouldn't help me because I want to help everyone.

Leann:

They can only support the autistic people, and so I was like, "Well, I'm

Leann:

just going to have to create my own thing because no one gets what I'm

Leann:

trying to do and no one sees it yet, but they will", so I just decided to go

Leann:

for it and figure it out and then I've had all this support along the way,

Leann:

and a lot of great people get involved and so many more ideas come to fruition

Leann:

because I'm involving neurotypical people and neurodiverse people and

Leann:

people with all different diagnosis on our volunteer team, on our board.

Leann:

It's so diverse that we're just getting all the feedback we need to create this

Leann:

resource that we'll just keep giving.

Joshua:

It's almost like a big swimming pool, and you're filling it with all

Joshua:

these different people and different experiences so that you can provide all

Joshua:

those different types of opportunities no matter where you're at, and I love that-

Leann:

Yeah.

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

Because it is a very big pool to fill, and like you said, there

Joshua:

are some areas where you could go to, but they're only narrowly focused.

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

With that said, I noticed that you do more than just collectively

Joshua:

provide those resources, but you have educational resources, support

Joshua:

groups, life improvement aids.

Joshua:

Are there other things that people, if they would go look at your offerings

Joshua:

that maybe they're saying, "Well, I might need this, but you're not offering that."

Joshua:

Are you open to that sort of conversation?

Leann:

Oh yeah.

Leann:

We want feedback because we're trying to write the grants and get the funding right

Leann:

now and get people behind our mission, so we need actual feedback to make sure the

Leann:

building we want to provide for people is going to give everything they need and

Leann:

make sure there is a real need for it.

Leann:

We want to have a sensory gym inside the space that all age people can use

Leann:

to learn about sensory immersion and sensory deprivation and learn about all

Leann:

the tools and things out there without having to purchase them for themselves,

Leann:

and the biggest thing, feedback wise, we've got so far from every single

Leann:

person, because the one last question just said like, "Can you give us any

Leann:

feedback?", or the other one said, "Why is the center important to you?", and

Leann:

everything everybody said was about having a safe, comfortable space, and

Leann:

that's the big mission of the building.

Leann:

The center is to have the same space that we collectively go to all the

Leann:

time for all these different things, so that way a community can be built.

Leann:

If you were to think about it the way that, a church is operated

Leann:

or even a gym or a community center, like the JCC or community

Leann:

center like an LGBTQ plus center.

Leann:

They are focused on creating a safe environment for people to

Leann:

feel comfortable, and that's what we want at the end of it.

Leann:

We do want support groups and we do want socialization and we want to

Leann:

teach people things, we want to give them tools, but we want to create this

Leann:

community that's a safe, accepting community at the end of the day.

Joshua:

Just to clarify for my listeners, Leann said JCC.

Joshua:

That's the Harrisburg Jewish Community Center which I've been there myself

Joshua:

and have utilized many different times for a variety of different things, and

Joshua:

they do provide that sort of community, even though they are serving the Jewish

Joshua:

population around there, but I just wanted to clarify that for those that are

Joshua:

listening internationally, which we do-

Leann:

Yeah.

Leann:

Yeah.

Joshua:

Have some people, but Leann, we're almost at the end of our time, but I want

Joshua:

to ask you this one last question because-

Leann:

Sure.

Joshua:

It's on my mind.

Joshua:

It's something that's been on my mind for 30 plus years, and like I said,

Joshua:

just finding out not all that long ago myself about being autistic, it's

Joshua:

something that was really a challenge for me, and you're building this

Joshua:

coalition essentially to help people, which I find amazingly awesome and is

Joshua:

going to serve so many people and make them feel like they're comfortable.

Joshua:

They're able to be safe there, but there are still people out there that can't

Joshua:

put a name to this sort of spectrum or this sort of issue that they have,

Joshua:

and they're trying to figure it out.

Joshua:

They're not quite sure what to do.

Joshua:

They might be scared, they might be afraid, they might not be encouraged

Joshua:

to be able to do that, and they might not have the resources, especially

Joshua:

to contact because it's very hard to find those sort of people.

Joshua:

What would you say is your best advice, and just one piece of advice, that

Joshua:

you would give to somebody listening to this that would be helpful for

Joshua:

them to kind of navigate through this obstacle or this jungle of this whole

Joshua:

network of medical providers and specialists and things of that nature?

Joshua:

What would make it easier and more accessible for people

Joshua:

is really my question to you.

Leann:

I think that if you feel like you could be neurodiverse at

Leann:

all, you should start researching it and I think you should listen

Leann:

to other neurodiverse people.

Leann:

You shouldn't just read books that are written by scientists

Leann:

and by Harvard graduates and by people that have done the studies.

Leann:

You should listen to books that were written by autistic people or people with

Leann:

ADHD or people that have the experiences and listen to, you know, sometimes that

Leann:

isn't literature, sometimes it's listening to podcasts, listening to a TED talk,

Leann:

like things like that that you can hear from actual neurodiverse people about how

Leann:

their brain works, and then If you feel like that relates to you, then I think

Leann:

that you should go further with that, and as far as medical professionals, I've

Leann:

found over the past couple years that I need to be as transparent as possible.

Leann:

Sometimes I will lie or sugarcoat things to make them seem not as bad as they are

Leann:

and I do really need to be clear about my pain and my depression and things

Leann:

that are going on and going in there with a lot of research and resources.

Leann:

If you find the right practitioner, they'll appreciate that and they

Leann:

will like that you're trying to get your health in a better situation

Leann:

and they will want to help you.

Leann:

Sometimes it does take finding the right practitioner because as with a lot of our

Leann:

education and outreach that we want to do, we want to teach people more about

Leann:

neurodiversity and that it is all around us, and that little signs of it are here

Leann:

to show us that our brains are different.

Leann:

It's not just something to be ignored and I think the more that everybody's talking

Leann:

about it, the more outreach we have out there, the better it's going to be.

Joshua:

Absolutely, and I think that it's important to continue to have

Joshua:

that outreach, especially talking to other people that might not know

Joshua:

what they exactly have, but at least going through it and see maybe that

Joshua:

might be something that they should talk to somebody that's qualified to

Joshua:

make that sort of determination too.

Leann:

Mm-hmm.

Joshua:

But starting somewhere, even if that is talking to other

Joshua:

people I think is vitally important.

Joshua:

Leann, I want to give you the last few minutes here to pitch

Joshua:

the Neurodiverse Network.

Joshua:

If people are interested in donating, I would love for you to share that.

Joshua:

If there's anything in terms of events that you typically do, maybe you

Joshua:

want to share some of those aspects as well, but I want to give you the

Joshua:

last few minutes to pitch that to our audience, especially if they want to

Joshua:

learn more and how they could get in contact too if they have any questions.

Leann:

Cool.

Leann:

Thank you, so I do want to tie it in a little to the last question you just said,

Leann:

because a big thing about our center is we don't want to really have restrictions.

Leann:

We don't.

Leann:

We are trying to get all this funding because we want it to be free.

Leann:

We want no financial restriction.

Leann:

We don't want a monthly membership.

Leann:

We don't want pay for classes.

Leann:

We don't want to have to give people a sliding scale.

Leann:

We don't want to have to ask about their income.

Leann:

We just want to be able to give back, so we're trying to get the

Leann:

finances for that, but having no restrictions, like finance or diagnosis.

Leann:

When we have a neurodiverse support group, you don't have to be diagnosed to

Leann:

come so that opens the doors to anyone.

Leann:

Someone that thinks they could be neurodiverse but wants to learn more,

Leann:

and that's the part of the center and the whole nonprofit that is very

Leann:

different, that we're really open to helping anyone that wants help.

Leann:

I don't think people are going to take advantage of that.

Leann:

If someone wants help, I want to help them, and there's so many different

Leann:

types of brain styles to cover with the word neurodivergent, so if anybody

Leann:

is interested in helping, we always are accepting volunteers and even new

Leann:

board members every year we change our board up if we feel like we should, so

Leann:

every year we have a board reassessment and we're always taking volunteers

Leann:

and committee members to get involved.

Leann:

You can email me at leann@ndnet.org at any time to volunteer or get involved, even

Leann:

people internationally, in other states.

Leann:

We're a brand new nonprofit, so we take any help we can.

Leann:

Anything is helpful.

Leann:

People that would like to help us in a financial way, the best way right

Leann:

now would be to sign up for a monthly donation on our website, even if it's

Leann:

only five or $10, just showing that we have a lot of supporters that are willing

Leann:

to subscribe to this monthly donation to support us in the future as we grow,

Leann:

is really helpful to have right now as we're applying for funding and grants.

Leann:

We'll be setting up a SquareStore, and it will have all of our handmade

Leann:

merchandise, 3D printing, fidgets, and a bunch of logo items and things like that.

Leann:

We're going to be putting other tools and aids on it as time goes on, but to start,

Leann:

it'll be a little simpler, and then on our website we have a updated event calendar

Leann:

that we update pretty much every week that has all of our events on it, so even when

Leann:

our center is open, that will be the way that people figure out what's going on,

Leann:

so we're hoping they're able to log onto the computer and see that during this

Leann:

slot time we have open gym play for kids.

Leann:

During this time we have open cafe time for adults and they can see when our

Leann:

seminars are, our classes, our support groups, and we're kind of hoping to

Leann:

operate off of a event calendar, so we already have amazing things on there.

Leann:

We've been doing monthly support groups and social events, walking

Leann:

clubs, craft nights, Lego nights.

Leann:

I don't even know.

Leann:

We probably have 15 or 20 different events that are going on regularly and throughout

Leann:

the year, so we've got a lot coming up and we'll be having a sensory Santa event.

Leann:

I imagine that will be booked up really, really quickly, but we're going to try

Leann:

to do some events around the holidays too to make things seem more inclusive

Leann:

in this area and give people an opportunity to have holiday experiences

Leann:

that they might not get otherwise because of all the sensory challenges

Leann:

that are out there in the world.

Joshua:

Can you give the website for those that want to access it too?

Leann:

Yes.

Leann:

Yes.

Leann:

We tried to keep our website very simple.

Leann:

It is ndnet.org, and you can basically find everything on there.

Leann:

That's how you donate.

Leann:

That's how you find the event calendar.

Leann:

That's where you'll go to find additional resources, including our local Facebook

Leann:

groups and some other even national and international support group kind

Leann:

of resources on there, and if anybody sees that and would like to be added

Leann:

to our additional resources, you should also reach out to me as well because

Leann:

we just need to meet and make sure we all have the same goals and you

Leann:

can be added onto our resource site.

Joshua:

Thank you, Leann, and I'll make sure that's also put in the

Joshua:

episode notes for my listeners.

Joshua:

You can go check that out as well if you'd like to access

Joshua:

that and anything that Leann had mentioned, but I want to say this.

Joshua:

Somebody that has been on the neurodivergence adventure myself

Joshua:

and trying to figure out where I fit in that grand scheme of things.

Joshua:

I want to say thank you for starting something that is desperately needed

Joshua:

in this world so that we can all feel a sense of being included and being able

Joshua:

to work through some of these things cuz they are challenges and I'm glad that in

Joshua:

the last 10, 15 years, there's been a lot more awareness of it, but I think we have

Joshua:

a lot more work to do and I think you're one of the trendsetters to continue to do

Joshua:

that and provide that sort of framework, especially given your unique experiences

Joshua:

to your family, which I really appreciate you sharing that, along with the

Joshua:

Neurodiverse Network, but with that said, Leann, thanks for being on Speaking From

Joshua:

The Heart, and I wish you much success in the nonprofit world and continuing

Joshua:

to build this presence in the community.

Joshua:

I really appreciate our time.

Leann:

Thank you so much.

Leann:

I appreciate you for having me here.

Joshua:

Thanks to Leann for sharing her inspirational story of how she's overcome

Joshua:

so many different types of neurodiversity, and especially in her life, to eventually

Joshua:

get to where she is today, helping others to realize the potential that they have

Joshua:

inside themselves to overcome and even provide some different types of activities

Joshua:

that normally other people, especially going through these sort of things, might

Joshua:

not actually be able to do as a result of having those sort of different types

Joshua:

of triggers happening in their life, and I really appreciate the fact that she

Joshua:

has been really vocal in this episode about the fact that we can really have

Joshua:

anxiety and depression take control of everything that we have in our lives,

Joshua:

especially when we have this sort of diagnosis, whether that is ADHD, OCD,

Joshua:

autism, Asperger's, whatever the case might be, is something that we often can

Joshua:

find ourselves in a completely different mindset, which I even expressed in this

Joshua:

episode as being completely angry about for a period of time, and I think those

Joshua:

are some of the initial reactions that we have as a result of going through

Joshua:

all these different types of things in our lives where we think that we had

Joshua:

the answer to begin with, but we really don't, and that's really the focus of what

Joshua:

I want to pull out of this conversation because with many of the things that

Joshua:

we go through in our life, sometimes we often don't realize the true magnitude

Joshua:

of what we can ultimately accomplish if we don't understand what the motivations

Joshua:

are in the first place that got us there.

Joshua:

I think that it's something that we learn in different ways in which

Joshua:

we achieve different successes, and being able to take care of yourself is

Joshua:

really the pivotal point that we have to make in any sort of conversation,

Joshua:

and I know, it's very simple to say, "Yes, please take care of yourself.

Joshua:

Please make sure that you bathe yourself.

Joshua:

Make sure you brush your teeth.

Joshua:

Make sure that you dress yourself presentably.

Joshua:

Make sure that you come to work on time.

Joshua:

Make sure that you follow all the rules and regulations

Joshua:

that are related to your job.

Joshua:

Make sure that you eat, take care yourself in terms of your sleeping.

Joshua:

Make sure that you take care of your friends, your family members.

Joshua:

Make sure that all of that happens so that you do not have anything

Joshua:

wrong in your life whatsoever."

Joshua:

I know.

Joshua:

That sounds all wonderful, doesn't it, but for some people it is not wonderful.

Joshua:

It is a very much a struggle day to day, to do simply the things

Joshua:

that are going on in our lives.

Joshua:

I know for a fact that even after I struggled with all the things that were

Joshua:

related to my attempt to end my life a few years ago, one of the constants of it

Joshua:

was even during the COVID Pandemic trying to essentially get up, dress myself, to

Joshua:

even work throughout the day, and for me, especially somebody that has been

Joshua:

through so much in their life and really wasn't sure how to actually go about

Joshua:

doing some of these things that are truly necessary to create that, quote unquote,

Joshua:

authentic self, I think I was even more angrier when I found out about my anxiety

Joshua:

and my depression being the root through my autistic abilities that I have.

Joshua:

Autistic abilities; did you misspeak Josh?

Joshua:

Don't you mean autistic disability?

Joshua:

Well, I could view it that way if I really want to and I had a choice,

Joshua:

which I have talked about in a variety of different episodes in which I had

Joshua:

the right fork in the road and the left fork in the road to determine whether I

Joshua:

really wanted to go down that path, but I think I realized that I really don't

Joshua:

want to go down that path at all, and as a matter of fact, I want to keep making

Joshua:

my autism be something that is an ability to enable me to become something that I

Joshua:

never thought possible and I think Leann even instills that in some of her family,

Joshua:

including her daughter, in which we can learn how to create different ways in

Joshua:

which we achieve success, and sometimes going through those different types of

Joshua:

things in our lives, those resources that we have that are available to us,

Joshua:

doesn't always mean that we will be able to fix it the first time, but we have

Joshua:

to understand that we want to fix those things, that we want to be open to change,

Joshua:

that we're willing to become something that we never thought possible, even with

Joshua:

all the things that are holding us back.

Joshua:

That's what this is all about; it's about understanding the coaching that

Joshua:

is involved with making us go from one point to the other, but we have

Joshua:

to be open to that change no matter what kind of brain style that we have.

Joshua:

I know that for many of us, we can easily say that this is the era

Joshua:

in which we are just saying that "Yes, brain styles are just a fad.

Joshua:

Maybe we should just forget about them and go back to the way it used to be."

Joshua:

Well, imagine this.

Joshua:

Imagine that you are actually subjected and persecuted for the way that you think.

Joshua:

Sound familiar?

Joshua:

It has happened for over hundreds of years in not only our civilization in

Joshua:

the United States, but in the human civilization for thousands of years, going

Joshua:

back to even the biblical proportions.

Joshua:

Now if you don't believe in Jesus or not, that's not really the conversation that

Joshua:

I'm trying to make, but what I am trying to make as a point is that we have been

Joshua:

subjected to things in which we don't understand, and when we don't understand

Joshua:

them, we live in a life of fear.

Joshua:

I think that Leann's mission, especially if the Neurodiverse

Joshua:

Network is to challenge that fear, it's to challenge something that we

Joshua:

often think about as being taboo.

Joshua:

Something that we often think as not wanting to deal with in the first place,

Joshua:

because it's too scary to be what we are going to become on the other side of that.

Joshua:

It's really about being able to understand that being safe and comfortable in an

Joshua:

environment in which we can thrive in is fulfilling one of the most basic tenets

Joshua:

in our whole entire existence, which is why we have to start researching,

Joshua:

which is why we have to start learning, continuing to have the conversations

Joshua:

that are often tough and difficult to have in the first place, and you

Joshua:

know what we do when we don't do that?

Joshua:

We put our mask on, we put on the mask of fear, knowing that if everybody

Joshua:

thought that we were scared, they would never ask us to do anything else.

Joshua:

If we put on that mask of feeling like we are comfortable and we are confident,

Joshua:

then people are going to come to us always thinking that we're comfortable

Joshua:

and confident, which in itself might sound good, but might not have the

Joshua:

best underpinnings underneath that to really move forward, but really, what

Joshua:

we're talking about is when we mask, what are we creating as a personality?

Joshua:

What are we creating that isn't truly us?

Joshua:

The whole purpose of my business, Your Speaking Voice, is to find

Joshua:

that untapped potential that we normally don't think about.

Joshua:

We all come at it from different experiences, different viewpoints,

Joshua:

but now that we talk about brain styles, now we have to talk about the

Joshua:

conversation of how we really learn, and we all learn in different ways,

Joshua:

whether that's visually, by example, by someone actually doing it for us and

Joshua:

then practicing it on our own, or just completely learning it from scratch.

Joshua:

What really matters the most is that we continue to have this dialogue in

Joshua:

which we challenge the status quo, and that's really what this is about.

Joshua:

We've been doing that for so long.

Joshua:

We've been able to overcome what really is grief, anger, and sadness sometimes,

Joshua:

especially when we get to the lowest points in our lives, in order to

Joshua:

then have that light bulb turn on in which we create our authentic self.

Joshua:

We need to be able to take care of ourselves above all else, because if

Joshua:

we're able to do that, we are able to help so many people, just like what Leann is

Joshua:

doing right now, with not only the sensory activities that she provides, but she does

Joshua:

it for not only adults that are finding out later in life just like me, but she's

Joshua:

also finding them out for the children and the children, just as if we have

Joshua:

even said in other episodes in which we talked about the importance of education.

Joshua:

Children are the future in which we can detail so much and create a

Joshua:

story that helps others and prevents others from ever going through some

Joshua:

of those experiences ever again, and that is what this is all about.

Joshua:

It's understanding what we can potentially provide and create in our own lives

Joshua:

becomes something of which we can overcome no matter what kinds of things

Joshua:

that we're thinking about, because if we can even have people and animals

Joshua:

in our lives that create that support system, we're definitely creating ways

Joshua:

in which we can define our own success.

Joshua:

We can start researching and learning from others to create some of the

Joshua:

best things about ourselves, some of the best resources that ever

Joshua:

existed on planet Earth, and I think to that point, that helps me and my

Joshua:

brain style create some of the most amazing things that are yet to come.

Joshua:

Thanks for listening to episode number 58 of Speaking From The

Joshua:

Heart, and I look forward to hearing from your heart very soon.

Outro:

Thanks for listening.

Outro:

For more information about our podcast and future shows, search for Speaking From

Outro:

The Heart to subscribe and be notified wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Outro:

Visit us at www.yourspeakingvoice.biz for more information about potential

Outro:

services that can help you create the best version of yourself.

Chapters