68: ADHD, Autism, and Gender Identity with Narise Connor

ADHD, Autism, and Gender Identity with Narise Connor | ADHD reWired


with Narise Connor, music & business student

Diagnosed with both autism and ADHD, Narise Connor is a college student studying music and business who has had to learn to understand unique challenges and qualities in her life. Narsie discusses topics including managing one’s sensory processing, avoiding “autistic overload”, gender identity intersecting with ADHD and autism, and more. Alongside tips and insight on dealing with ADHD and autism, Narise even describes the ability to see colors in music and voices.

About Narise Connor:

  • Narise is a music performance and music business student.

  • Also a part-time swim instructor, Narise is a wild plant aficionado, and a previous member of the ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group.

  • Narise has, alongside ADHD, nonverbal learning disability, dyscalculia, and autism.

  • Narise identifies as agender or gender neutral.

  • Dyscalculia sometimes leads to Narise being specially disoriented.

Agender, ADHD, and Parents:

  • Early on in high school, Narise told their parents about identifying as agender. They seemed generally fine and indifferent about it.

  • Later on, during a family meeting with the doctor over diagnoses of ADHD and autism, Narise’s mother asked if gender identity and autism were somehow related. Later, after discussing it further, it seemed like Narise’s mother was actually wondering whether Narise’s asexuality was a side-effect of autism.

  • Narise: I get some people who are like “maybe because you’re autistic, you don’t understand gender norms.” No, I totally do.

  • Eric: Many desire to put the world in to neat little categories. While that can be a beginning point for understanding, people are just way more complex than needed to be able to fit into “yes” or “no” categories.

  • Eric finds it surprising how commonly issues of agender or asexuality have tended to appear in his treatment of those with autism, though he surmises there are probably very distinct differences as well.

Sensory Processing and Burnout:

  • In the second semester of college, Narise ended up taking nineteen credits’ worth of classes.

  • When an autistic person is under a lot of stress it seems like their sensory processing and executive functions become much worse.

  • When someone reaches the point of “autistic burnout”, even tasks they could have handled well beforehand, like reading and talking, become incredibly difficult.

  • Narise: “I almost felt like there was a Plexiglas box around me and I couldn’t get out of that.”

  • Some days Narise would be overwhelmed just going to the food court at school, ending up there at the worst times and eating pizza every day.

  • Other issues associated Narise burning out included having trouble reading street signs quickly enough and requiring an enormous effort to get dressed in the morning.

  • Based on online survey results Narise read, people who said they had experienced burnout were also often those who were diagnosed late in life and had spent a long time trying to appear neurotypical to others.

  • The effort required to seem neurotypical resulted in lower self-compassion and -care.

  • For instance, if Narise were to try to fight against the stress and over-stimulation of going to a bowling alley, they would be more likely to end up burning out.

  • Eric: There’s a balance between pushing oneself out of their comfort zone in order to grow and not acknowledging how taxing certain tasks can be.

  • Eric mentions the placard in his kitchen that reads “masquerading as normal day after day is exhausting”.

Managing Over-Stimulation:

  • Watching Narise’ brother, who has ADHD, return home after school, Narise noted how he would run around and yell in order to calm himself down. Narise realized he was “stimming”, or trying to stimulate himself.

  • “Stimming” is common among those with autism, and sometimes ADHD, where there are a variety of sometimes dramatic actions taken.

  • Stimming is a way to either tune out the world or engage with the world.

  • Narise surmises that most people self stimulate because their vestibular system (balance, spatial orientation) and proprioceptive sense (body position and effort) are either under or over receptive.

  • Eric: Going into a grocery store can be over-stimulating in that I can’t not look at everything. By the time I leave I’m exhausted.

  • Certain flickering lights, like those in big-box and warehouse stores, have caused Eric discomfort. Also, following one brief instance sitting on a bench swing, he has experienced nausea and dizziness on – and even thinking about – swings.

  • It’s important to understand how the external world affects us. Learn and accept both what over-stimulates us and what calms us down.

  • Sometimes for Narise, going to a bowling alley is definitely out of the question. Other times, though, they will feel okay enough to go with the expectation that they’ll leave half-way though.

  • Narise has taken three main steps to help maintain sensory processing in a good state:

    • Taking a lot fewer classes and eliminate stressful scheduled events

    • Planning a complete schedule ahead of time in order to not have to make those decisions during the day

    • Sleeping with a weighted blanket to be more well-rested.

    • Taking a thrice weekly water aerobics class has helped balance and coordination

  • Narise: “The whole water aerobics class is basically just a pat-your-head-and-rub-your-stomach class. It’s 45 minutes of that, except you’re in a pool.”

Person-first Language:

  • Instead of saying “I’m an ADHD person,” saying “I’m a person with ADHD,” would be person-first language.

  • Narise will regularly receive emails from graduate students about person-first language, asking questions like “do you use person-first language?” and “do you know what it is?”

  • In one of the introductory psychology classes, the results of those surveys were collected and used as part of a debate over how people on the autism spectrum perceive the use of person-first language.

  • Some students would argue that their textbooks say to use person-first language all the time with no exceptions.

  • Many on the autism spectrum said they didn’t like person-first language. They felt it had outlived its purpose. “I don’t say I’m ‘a person with blond hair'”.

  • Narise: Not using person-first language can almost allow you to have more self-compassion. Instead of being a person who happens to have a particular disorder, you’re accepting it as a major part of you that colors how everything else happens.

  • Eric: Person-first language can be a good starting point for studies, but respecting self-identity and listening to the point of view of those with a particular disorder are very important.

Synesthesia:

  • In Narise’s head, numbers and letters have color. ‘P’ and ‘F’ happen to be the same color.

  • Narise has synesthesia, a phenomenon where the use of one sense can involuntarily activate other senses simultaneously.

  • For each of the Music Performance faculty members at school, Narise is painting a visual representation of what the sound they make looks like via different color and texture combinations.

  • Usually Narise’s synesthesia only comes into play with music or specific sounds, though in some cases it arises with food and text as well.

  • When studying older music recordings and recording technology, Narsie was able to discern the era and style of recording for each piece of music based on its color.

Audiobooks:

  • Recently listening to Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, Narise really liked a section covering how shame can manifest differently in men and women. Also, Brené made a point of not being able to “shame people out of using shame”.

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a book Narise thinks those who know about ADHD will appreciate for its extremely systemic look at organizing one’s house, though notes that it requires a certain amount of diligence to follow its instructions. Narise has become more aware of their lack of internal time awareness after finishing the book.

    • Eric: Framing your idea of work to encompass the initial setup, main body of the work, and cleanup afterward can better prepare you to schedule in the time needed to truly complete the task.

    • The author, Marie Kondo, suggests creating a routine for when a person enters their room at the end of the day. Narise wrote one down with details like “empty your backpack,” “put new snacks for tomorrow into your backpack,” “check your planner,” etc.

    • Sometimes Eric has noticed those clients with both autism and executive function-related disorders tend to have an easier time retaining the organizational strategies after they’ve been developed.

Random Question Round:

  • What invention would you have made that would change the world?

  • If you could conduct a symphony of monkey musicians, what instruments would they play?

  • What would you name the symphonic event?

  • Is Jim, The Good-Intentioned Monkey in the band?

Products, Services, and Links Mentioned:

Contact Narise Connor:

Other information:

  • Go to coachingrewired.com, call 224‒993‒9450, or visit meetme.so/erictivers and choose the first option with the ADHD reWired logo to let Eric know if you’re interested in joining the next ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability group.

  • Eric is collecting videos describing people’s experiences with CHADD. If you are currently involved with CHADD, record a video however you wish (horizontally, please!) of you describing your relationship to ADHD and what CHADD does for you. Send it to Eric via Facebook, Twitter, or email here: [email protected].

  • Help CHADD, an ADHD organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with ADHD through useful research and support, by donating to their fundraising campaign here: gofundme.com/oneof15m.

  • Visit erictivers.com/audible for Carolyn D’Argenio’s list of her top Audible.com audio-book picks, complete with preview links.

  • Connect with people virtually using Eric’s favorite video conferencing and connectivity platform, Zoom, by visiting erictivers.com/zoom – the basic service is totally free.

  • If you want you hear your question or comment on a future episode, go to erictivers.com/adhdrewired and look for the comment form, or click on the yellow button for either “Be a Guest” or “Record your question”.

  • Are you looking for a coach? You can schedule a free 20-minute consultation with Eric. Go to erictivers.com and click the blue “Schedule an Appointment” button

  • http://www.chadd.org/

  • Northern Illinois chapter of CHADD

    • Third Monday of every month at 6:45 PM

    • Grayslake, Illinois

(CHADD does not endorse this podcast)

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