The Other Autism

Jennifer Dodd, an 'AuDHDer' and Therapist

April 30, 2023 Kristen Hovet Season 2 Episode 12
Jennifer Dodd, an 'AuDHDer' and Therapist
The Other Autism
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The Other Autism
Jennifer Dodd, an 'AuDHDer' and Therapist
Apr 30, 2023 Season 2 Episode 12
Kristen Hovet

Jennifer Dodd is a Portland-based therapist and owner of the Embodied Life Therapy Center. Jennifer is a late-diagnosed autistic individual who has also been diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD.

Kristen and Jennifer discuss the ways that ADHD and autism compete with and complement each other, neurodivergent loathing of CBT (sorry, not sorry, CBT!), best types of therapy for autistic folks, the autistic penchant for bottom-up thinking, the times when "mindful masking" just makes sense, and more.

Check out Jennifer's website: Embodied Life Therapy Center

And her Instagram accounts:

Episode intro and outro music: "Lost in the Dark" by Aiyo 

Theme music: "Everything Feels New" by Evgeny Bardyuzha.

All episodes written and produced by Kristen Hovet.

Send in your questions or thoughts via audio recording for a chance to be featured on the show! Email your audio clips to kristen.hovet@gmail.com through WeTransfer.

Become a patron on Patreon!

Buy me a coffee!

Show Notes Transcript

Jennifer Dodd is a Portland-based therapist and owner of the Embodied Life Therapy Center. Jennifer is a late-diagnosed autistic individual who has also been diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD.

Kristen and Jennifer discuss the ways that ADHD and autism compete with and complement each other, neurodivergent loathing of CBT (sorry, not sorry, CBT!), best types of therapy for autistic folks, the autistic penchant for bottom-up thinking, the times when "mindful masking" just makes sense, and more.

Check out Jennifer's website: Embodied Life Therapy Center

And her Instagram accounts:

Episode intro and outro music: "Lost in the Dark" by Aiyo 

Theme music: "Everything Feels New" by Evgeny Bardyuzha.

All episodes written and produced by Kristen Hovet.

Send in your questions or thoughts via audio recording for a chance to be featured on the show! Email your audio clips to kristen.hovet@gmail.com through WeTransfer.

Become a patron on Patreon!

Buy me a coffee!

Kristen Hovet  
Today I'm speaking with Jennifer Dodd, a therapist in Portland, Oregon. Jennifer is a late diagnosed autistic individual and an ADHDer specifically diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. Jennifer is the owner of the embodied life therapy center and works hard to make the field of therapy more neurodiversity affirming.

Kristen Hovet  
An interesting little bit of backstory, Jennifer and I initially connected several years ago. I don't recall exactly how we met, it was definitely online, it might have been on a forum about HSP, because we did initially connect over HSP, which is the highly sensitive person trait. And I've done an episode all about HSP and how I think it's actually describing level one autism. And if you haven't listened yet, that is the October 15, 2022 episode called highly sensitive person HSP or autistic. So in that space of time, completely separately and without knowing, I was diagnosed as autistic and Jennifer was diagnosed as autistic. Jennifer was doing some searching online one day and my name came up and she discovered that way that I had been diagnosed as autistic. So we've made this, you know, reconnection first connecting as, Oh, yeah, you're a fellow HSP. And now it's as a fellow autistic. Please say hello to my guest for today, Jennifer Dodd.

Jennifer Dodd  
Yeah, my name is Jennifer Dodd. I'm a therapist in Portland, Oregon, and neurodivergent.

Kristen Hovet  
What led you to considering that you might be autistic and an ADHDer?

Jennifer Dodd  
It didn't come from me. I hear a lot of stories of people who are, like, sort of on this journey of discovering themselves. And that was not mine at all. I have a friend, a therapist friend, who we had been meeting on Zoom. And we would talk about therapy stuff and practice and info dump apparently, is what we were doing a lot of and, you know, the friendship had come out of that time. And one day, it had to be like a year or so into this regular meeting, and she kind of came out with just like, so I've been like, going through the diagnostic process and discovering that I'm autistic. And I was just like, Oh, wow. It was sort of surprising. And during that conversation, she sort of gently started to say things like, Well, have you ever done any of the online tests? You know, and I was like, No, but you know, like, it sounds like interesting and, and then she started to talk about some of the things that I just didn't know about autism. And I was like, surprised. And we just got in this conversation. And then afterwards, I went on, and I did like the RAADS [Ritvo Autism and Asperger Diagnostic Scale] and the CAT-Q [Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire]. And from there, it was like, it was just like a lot of realization coming up. And then I went and got a formal diagnosis. So that's, that was kind of how my process went. And she had said, like, she's like, I've suspected for a while now that you might be autistic when I like, started to discover it myself. And I was just like, wow.

Kristen Hovet  
And then did ADHD come with that then? 

Jennifer Dodd  
So the ADHD came later, I was just going down deep dive into the autism. And she also had been diagnosed as a, you know, she's an AuDHDer, my wife is an AuDHDer. And I'm not sure where it came up, I started to learn like about how common they actually are diagnosed together and listening to the neurodivergent woman podcast and learning about ADHD as well. And then I started to like, open up that part of it. And I have the inattentive type. So it's maybe some of the less obvious symptoms, we'll say, that people might not pick up or they might call anxiety. But yeah, when I did my formal diagnosis, I was like and ADHD might be a part of it. I have a lot of siblings who I suspect and family members and so yeah, I had the dual autism and ADHD diagnosis.

Kristen Hovet  
How does being neurodivergent impact your work as a therapist?

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, so much. Actually, I've done some writing recently about how neurodivergent folks make great therapists and I think there's a lot of us who don't know that we are, you know, maybe high masking autistic. The high empathy is a big one for me. It's almost like a spidey sense, like you feel or sense in your body what's going on with other people, and you just kind of have this knowing our sensitivity, I think that allows us to really connect deeply with other people, curiosity, deep curiosity, and like our field of study, if that's part of something that we're really into, like our special interests, then we will deep dive and do the research. And, I mean, I think there's so many qualities.

Kristen Hovet  
And I think it surprises people. Because there's, I always come back to this, but it's such a huge thing, like people assume that autistic people don't have empathy. And then they end up with a therapist that's autistic.

Jennifer Dodd  
There's a lot of us, there's a lot of us.

Kristen Hovet  
But I've noticed that there's a lot of therapists that are, they're like writing to me, and they're like, I'm afraid to disclose this because people might judge me or not come to me, but I think that they'd probably be surprised, if they did disclose, how much like new people and clients they would actually get. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Totally, yeah. And that's understandable, our field has a long way to go still. And it has a not so great history of how we've treated, you know, autistic folks. So it makes sense that there's stigma and like, we also need to learn more about what this really is, and what it's really like, so that folks aren't afraid to come out with it. There's so many clients, too, that are neurodivergent, I've discovered, high masking there's a, you know, that was a big part of what I learned is like, if you have folks who are coming in for years, working on their trauma history, and still coming in for years, like, something's still not quite landing, you might be dealing with someone who's high masking, neurodivergent and don't know it, you don't know it. And, you know, we need to really be making some huge change in the field.

Kristen Hovet  
Definitely. 

Jennifer Dodd  
To support those folks. 

Kristen Hovet  
Mmm-hmm. And also, I saw on your website that you're LGBTQIA plus affirming, there's a lot of overlap there as well.

Jennifer Dodd  
Big time. I was in a training and the trainer said that trans folks, it's like 50% of trans folks are also autistic, almost like if you are working with someone who's trans like might as well do an assessment as well. And I thought that was really, you know, those are big numbers.

Kristen Hovet  
I heard that about eating disorders as well because there's a lot of people with eating disorders that haven't been diagnosed as autistic or any other neurodivergent diagnoses. So if they are, you know, in a eating disorder clinic, they should also be assessed if they haven't already done so.

Jennifer Dodd  
Absolutely.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Especially when, you know, there's food sensitivities that might look like an eating disorder. And so, you know, we really need to get better at identifying what we're talking about. 

Kristen Hovet  
Totally. Yeah. So to get back to your diagnoses, how did you initially feel about your diagnoses and have your feelings changed over time?

Jennifer Dodd  
It's interesting because I hadn't recognized how positive a viewpoint I had. But when I like realized, like, Oh, you're autistic, that's what this is, it was just like, I have a really loving response to it, and really accepting and a lot of relief. Right away I was just like, oh, this is super great, it's wonderful. You know, kind of been through this with a lot of my clients now who have started to explore based on this domino effect of me exploring my identities. And I just keep watching adults who start to explore this and have just like, this beautiful response to it of like, this is wonderful. This is who I am, I wouldn't change it. I'm so relieved to like, now know how to identify this. And that was my initial response. And I would say, for the most part, I still feel that way. But there's other things that come up around grieving, oh, I'm not neurotypical and so like, the ways in which I've always pushed myself, Someday, I'm going to have enough whatever to do all the things and the same way. And I now realize, nope, you know, as an neurodivergent person, you actually do need to recharge as much as you do. That's never gonna change, right, like, that's not going to become something that's fixable, so accepting limitations as well.

Kristen Hovet  
And I know, as a therapist, you must like you must carry a lot of things that other people bring to you, obviously. So I know that it's a big thing for autistic people. What sorts of strategies have you had to develop to be able to go through life with that, holding those things?

Jennifer Dodd  
Right? I mean, I'm a human, I'm still working on that. I really have learned the traditional self care that I've been taught is not the same self care I need. And the same with other neurodivergent folks. And so I've started to learn, like what does that look like? Like I used to have a lot of shame around how much I would be into my special interests. And now I'm like, Oh, that's really regulating for me. And so now I just kind of lean into it without the shame, now that I know what this is and it grounds me. I know now that I do really need to take time away to recharge, like I cannot people all day, every day, like I have pushed myself because that just wears me out. I have changed my schedule and things like that to allow for more recharge time. And yeah, also just like recognizing the awareness around, you're taking in a lot of other people's stuff, you got to be aware of that. And you have to not let it sit there. And like, also, I have been in therapy forever and work through my stuff. So medications that I need I take with no, you know, shame. Yeah, take care of myself.

Kristen Hovet  
When you were in training for counseling psychology, did you recall learning about neurodivergent identities?

Jennifer Dodd  
I have never learned anything about neurodivergent identities until I started down this path. And I'm someone who has, after grad school, I went into training programs that were years, you know, like, sensory motor was like two years. NARM, is neuro affective relational model for complex trauma, is two yours, IFS, you know, I've really been in my training programs outside of graduate school. Nothing. Recently, I've started to see a little, a little bit more talking about it in my field. But I've also put myself into more neurodivergent affirming spaces as well. So, so many of the people we're serving are neurodivergent. And like, we don't learn about that, like at all.

Kristen Hovet  
I recall, because I was going into counseling psych originally, and I kind of changed direction. But I remember, when we covered autism, it was, you know, the traditional, the very, very traditional presentation. You're shown videos of like someone with, I don't know, what would be called level three autism now with, you know, various other co occurring conditions as well. So that's, that was my perception of autism.

Jennifer Dodd  
Yeah. And I'm embarrassed to say like, as much training as I've had and like, therapy is one of my special interests, you know, psychology. So it's like, I've been deep into this world forever. And I still had absolutely the same stereotype in my head, right. I had to, like, learn so much. And I was really surprised by that. I was like, oh, yeah, I literally know nothing other than the same stereotypes that like everyone else.

Kristen Hovet  
Everyone else, yeah, lots of unlearning.

Jennifer Dodd  
Right? 

Kristen Hovet  
Right, yeah. Has anything changed for you after being diagnosed? I know, we kind of touched on that.

Jennifer Dodd  
Well, my friend who discovered this herself and then shared it with me, and she had discovered from other friends, we've talked about this, like this domino effect in our lives, because I've shared with some family members now who've been diagnosed, and discovered. I've shared with friends who have been diagnosed. It's amazing how many people I'm surrounded by who are neurodivergent. My wife was diagnosed, she's an AuDHDer, she's been talking with her family, friends, and then my clients, and then their friends and family. It's just been this ripple effect down to the world of discovering, which has been really kind of beautiful to see. But other than that, I mean, I've gotten really into learning more about neurodivergence, I started training on how to diagnose, doing like the MIGDAS [Monteiro Interview Guidelines for Diagnosing Asperger's Syndrome], and I have started getting consultation with an AuDHD psychologist in how to make my practice more affirming as well as like my own personal life, done a lot of training and neurodivergent affirming therapy and how to support folks and it's become like a real passion trajectory in my field that I'm really excited about. So it's changed a lot.

Kristen Hovet  
And can you explain for listeners, I don't know if I've covered this term before, but AuD... How did you say it?

Jennifer Dodd  
AuDHDer? 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah.

Jennifer Dodd  
That's our own little special term when you're autistic and ADHD, so it's the AuD is like the autistic and then the ADHD, the AuDHDer.

Kristen Hovet  
And when you've told others, so friends, family who aren't neurodivergent about your diagnoses, what have their responses been?

Jennifer Dodd  
A mix. My mom's was one of the more surprising ones. She was very, like teary and like, wow, like I finally made sense to her in a way that I had never, you know, since I was a child, and she would tell me stories of when I was a kid, if I had like elastic around my like, you know, my wrists or something, I would come to her and say things like, I can't breathe. Because the shirt was too tight on my wrists. And so she was just recalling, like how she said she would always just see my wheels in my head always going. And she didn't quite understand, you know, that about me, my constant questions. It was kind of really affirming to hear from her and see her responses like yeah, this really makes sense. A lot of people are just like, yeah, yeah. But I have had friends that are like, what, what are you talking about? Like, Who told you that? And I'm like, well, the psychologist who evaluated me and gave me this diagnosis, like, okay, whatever, you know. So some people obviously have more of that stereotypical, so it's hard, you know, for folks who might be wanting to come out to people in their life. I would say, make sure you're ready for a mixed response because you don't know what you're gonna get. And it's a strange thing to tell someone you're autistic and then to basically say, No, you're not. Right. It's like, no. Yeah, that's a weird phenomenon in our society. I don't know if you've had that experience or have heard other people talk about it, but it's very strange.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah. Or people say I have had, we're all a little bit autistic. That was one. And you can always tell by the response, whether usually whether the person's neurodivergent themselves, it seems, like the people who aren't are gonna have the more surprising responses usually.

Jennifer Dodd  
That's so true. Oh, the friend who was like, No, you're not. I'm very certain she is autistic. 

Kristen Hovet  
Interesting. 

Jennifer Dodd  
So there's some denial maybe. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, that's true. And I've had some people just kind of like, disappear just off the face of the planet. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, wow. 

Kristen Hovet  
Without a response, just kind of like, yeah, not many. But, you know, side acquaintances I guess.

Jennifer Dodd  
They got scared of the altar. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah. Yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Just run away from it!

Kristen Hovet  
Truly terrifying. I know some people have explained to me, those who have the dual diagnosis, that they kind of, the two diagnoses kind of compete. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, yeah. 

Kristen Hovet  
Do you see that in yourself? Or do they work together in certain ways really well?

Jennifer Dodd  
Yeah, it's fun. This is another fun little special interest. It's become like the dual diagnosis because it's wild. Yeah, sometimes they really do like, not get along very well. And I speak for them. I'm also trained in IFS [internal family systems therapy], if you're familiar with, like, different parts of yourself. So I have that background. I'd be like, today, autism was like, blah, blah, blah. But ADHD was like, hell no. But it feels like that inside sometimes, like, my autistic side, like really wants to, like, organize and plan and be like, two hours early, and very, very, maybe type A looking. And then in the very same human, I'm like, also at an airport running to catch the plane because something came up and I forgot something, or, you know, and it's like, how does this exist in the same person? Right. And I think it's confusing for other people sometimes because they'll see like a side of you and like, Oh, you're so put together and you're so organized. And you're so... and then you don't feel quite that way all the time. Because you're also like, can't find your keys or you forget to do basic, basic things. And I don't know, it's weird. But I think they also can complement each other, too, in a strange way sometimes. And I'm still learning a lot about, you know, how they they live together. But I think it's so fascinating, definitely fascinating neurotypes.

Kristen Hovet  
And can you explain for listeners, what the parts are you mentioned, or the IFS?

Jennifer Dodd  
Yes, I want to make sure that people know that I'm not saying like, I have an autistic part or an ADHD part. 

Kristen Hovet  
Right, right. Yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
I am autistic, all of my parts are autistic, all of my parts are ADHD. But parts of the self is like, in IFS you're not just like this one singular being, you might have like, part of you has this need to fit in in the world. And another part of you really likes solitarity, and how do you like work with seemingly different aspects of yourself that have different needs or wants? And so that's kind of like the IFS work. I think of the autism and ADHD sometimes like that. Not that, you know, they are parts but like, autism has different needs than ADHD. I noticed spring just happened overnight in Portland and ADHD seemed to like wake up. You know, like autism was okay in the winter just like doing what we do, life as it is and kind of hibernating, but like spring happened and ADHD is like, we have a lot of stuff in the yard to take care of. And like this hyper focus of taking care of it wakes me up, and like gets me going every day that I have free time.

Kristen Hovet  
Someone who is really important to me, they work in the autism space, and they said that some people that they work with that also have been diagnosed with ADHD, once they are medicated for ADHD, it's almost like their autistic traits kind of sometimes come out more.

Jennifer Dodd  
That makes sense, right? I've heard that like ADHD can mask the autism. So like, if I'm in an environment that, socially, I would be kind of uncomfortable in, but the ADHD is sort of distracted and distracting me, or like picking up bits of conversation that I can kind of jump into, then maybe that difficult with, like social interactions of autism is sort of dulled a bit. And this is often a reason that a lot of, I don't want to gender too much, but there's the female phenotype that they call. I think when you have the two, I've heard it's harder to diagnose because they sort of mask each other in that way. And it makes it complicated to know because you're like, Whoa, I have these autistic traits. But also, you know, there's other ways in which I'm not like that. It can be a little confusing.

Kristen Hovet  
I've also heard that a lot of those with ADHD are more of the sensory seeker types. So that's another thing, I think, that kind of masks, and I have that, too. I'm more of like, loud concerts. Yes. And then I'll have to recuperate for a week after. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Mmm-hmm. Yes! 

Kristen Hovet  
But I definitely have that, whereas, you know, other autistic folks I know, they're just like, never, I will never go to a concert. I'm just like, how?

Jennifer Dodd  
Right? In this course that I'm in, it's called neurodivergent affirming clinicians, it's through Cascadia. It's really great. They talk about being ADHD forward, or autistic forward. And some people tend towards that, like my wife was first diagnosed as an ADHDer and she's very ADHD forward. And we've decided that, among the two of us, the small little case study of the two of us, I am more of like an autistic forward person, like, my autistic traits are much more apparent than my ADHD traits. I have the inattentive ADHD, so that makes sense to me.

Kristen Hovet  
What was school like for you, as undiagnosed?

Jennifer Dodd  
I was a very, very sensitive child, very quiet, I noticed that when I discovered my neurodivergence, I stopped being as quiet a person as I used to be, and that maybe that was a big part of my masking is like always watching other people and kind of holding back. But yeah, I felt very sensitive as a child and kind of like, I see myself in my mind's eye of, like, always observing what's happening around me, and feeling kind of like, I don't quite get it, but I want to learn it, you know, like, it's almost like a challenge or something that I'm trying to make sense of. I think I was very curious as a child, but I got called shy, I got called sensitive a lot. I can recall times where having to focus on homework was so hard. There's a lot of shame in that, too, I think when you struggle with that sort of thing, you start to think that maybe you're not as smart, but then you are excelling in other ways. Everyone tells you like, you're such a curious person, you're always thinking, you're always analyzing, so you know that you do have some of those qualities. It was confusing, and I didn't have the support. You know, I'm a kid in the 80s, I'm sure that has a lot to do with that. But I certainly didn't have the support of adults in my life to go, what's going on with this kid? You know, I think I just internalized more of that, like, what's wrong with this kid? Kind of. But I also think that I was such a high masker and so, in a lot of ways, I just kind of I did okay, you know, I found, friends found me.

Kristen Hovet  
Were you ever bullied for the differences?

Jennifer Dodd  
A little bit. I think that I was more of the like, hide under the radar kind of like, never want to be part of the spotlight. So I like offset some of that bullying, but I did get bullied and made fun of. I think also my sensitivity probably helped. They're not going to like push this little girl too, too much. My wife said, and you were so cute. You know, maybe maybe that helps a little bit, like kind of like shy, cute. But yeah, I can definitely recall being picked on and excluded and definitely like the feeling of like, You're different for sure. I don't know why. But girls are so, neurotypical girls are so like touching each other and like huggy, and like they know how to do that, be together in that way. And I always felt like I'm trying but I'm not quite gelling in the same way. Something's not, I don't have something that they have to know how to do that or to like, it's not innate for me. Now I understand why. But, you know, that's confusing for a kid. Why don't I know how to quite do what other girls know how to do together and that natural, seemingly easy way with each other?

Kristen Hovet  
Do you wish you'd been diagnosed as a child? 

Jennifer Dodd  
I saw that question. Initially. I was like, yes. But then I said no. And the no is because I'm not sure it would have been dealt with in the way that would have been best for me. Like the stuff I've heard about folks who've gone through ABA and things like that is so traumatizing. The risk of having gone that route, especially in like the 80s, seems so much scarier to me than like masking, compensating, not knowing, but still figuring it out somehow into adulthood where it was safe for me to discover this. In a perfect world, sure. But I didn't come in a perfect world. So my answer would be no.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, same. I think, looking back, because I was also you know, 80s 90s and, if I'd been diagnosed, they'd probably put me in a special class or something or a different school maybe. And it would have been probably more traumatizing in the long run.

Jennifer Dodd  
Yea, and also the stigma back then, too, especially, I think it might have not felt so great.

Kristen Hovet  
I did struggle with math. I was really good at it up to a certain grade. And when it got very, I don't know, abstract, I had more trouble. So I guess what do they call it? Dyscalculia or whatever it's called, I think I have that. It was never, you know, diagnosed or anything, but I definitely like I feel like I almost... 

Jennifer Dodd  
I relate with that. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, it's almost like, I feel like I could have been maybe even, you know, in the gifted classes, but because of the issues with math, it colored everything else.

Jennifer Dodd  
It's funny, I remember teachers literally, like, cuz I never got it out of my head, teachers would say, Jennifer, you are looking way too deep into this. It's not as deep as you... it's right here. It's more obvious than you're making this problem. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yep, totally. 

Jennifer Dodd  
And I just didn't know how to like not do that. And this was in high school when you know, they were saying that to me. So it's like I always struggled in that way. Bottom up thinking right? Have you looked into like how autistic people tend to have more of like that bottom up thinking or processing?

Kristen Hovet  
I think a little bit like in terms of like what they focus on or the type of details like yes, definitely, I feel like, you know, with math, there was like trying to... if I saw shapes, like I was really good at geometry, because I could see it visually. I'm very, very visual and spatial. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Yes, yes! 

Kristen Hovet  
So put numbers with things, objects. Yes, got it. When it's, you know, otherwise, I'm like trying to find some magic formula or something.

Jennifer Dodd  
Right? 

Kristen Hovet  
It's like, no, it's just do this thing. So I never quite got it. But anyway.

Jennifer Dodd  
Makes perfect sense. Yeah. So like with the bottom up processing, that tends to be what more autistic folks have is, like, we see like every single detail before we come to like an explanation of what that means. Whereas bottom down, which is more typical with like neurotypical thinkers is like, they can kind of see like the forest, the trees, they can kind of see a bigger picture. And they just need like a handful of details or evidence to support that. And they can just go with that. They're just comfortable.

Kristen Hovet  
Incredible!

Jennifer Dodd  
It's like, yeah, moving on, like we figured this out. But we get a little bit too caught up in some of the details or like words, which can be slow at first, but eventually, it's fine.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah. And that also makes me think like my last podcast episode, I was interviewing a neurotypical who works in the autism space. And we talked about the switching subjects, like she has asked folks she works with to please let her know when they're going to change the subject. But like, for me, honestly, I don't see it as a... like I can if I notice it as, this is like a neurotypical subject change, then I can let them know. But for me, it's like, they all connect. So it's not changing the subject in my head. It's this follows directly from this, obviously! 

Jennifer Dodd  
Interesting, interesting. 

Kristen Hovet  
So I thought of that. It's like, if I can be aware, sure, I'll let you know. But I'm usually not, that it's a subject change to you. So yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Totally get that. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, I think it has to do with like, we're seeing the whole, all the details. And we're connecting them in our head.

Jennifer Dodd  
Constantly. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, mmm-hmm. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Which makes it kind of exhausting for us when we're communicating. Because we like take the words apart a little bit to to like, break them down more in a sentence, we're doing that on the inside. Whereas like, they can take the whole string of words and just get the meaning really quickly and move on, right. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Amazing creatures, neurotypicals!

Kristen Hovet  
I know. It's amazing. Very interesting, indeed. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Mmm-hmm, mmm-hmm.

Kristen Hovet  
I'm recognizing the look I get, like in Zoom meetings, because I can see everyone's face. It's like I'll bring something up. And they're just like, what? Because it's like, it's clearly inspired by something that's been said, but no one else has recognized that, so.

Jennifer Dodd  
But your little like, pattern recognition is still like carrying it through.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, so I have to explain it.

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, I see. You're connected to this to like everything I've ever said. Okay, got it.

Kristen Hovet  
Exactly. Yeah. So what types of supports do you actually wish you'd had growing up if you like, could you know, wave a magic wand or something?

Jennifer Dodd  
Well, I'm fairly certain that I come from a long line of undiagnosed neurodivergent folks. Some of the family I've come from who would never accept it probably are very obviously autistic ADHDers. I wish they had come to an understanding, acceptance of their neurodivergence and been able to compassionately help me understand mine, rather than, I think, something someone said to me in a consultation around this, because when I'm getting consultation, like I have a lot of folks coming in with trauma histories, childhood trauma, like that's a big piece of the work I do. And now we're adding in this neurodivergence. And how do we make sense of all of this now, right? My consultant, her name is Megan Anna Neff, she does a lot of work in this field. But she said, undiagnosed neurodivergence can look like very traumatizing parenting. And that just like really landed for me so much of like, you know, if you don't understand what's going on with yourself, you know, and then you see these qualities in your kids, the sensitivity or the struggles with social struggles, or whatever it is, you might not be so compassionate, you know, you might want to toughen them up or like, help them push past it, right. I really just wish that I had, you know, come from a different family that would have accepted and helped me understand and more of curiosity from like, the adults around me, what's going on with this kid, maybe got down on my level a little bit, like try to see the world from my eyes, rather than just kind of like dismissive or whatever. And then from there, probably, you know, more support in school, I would get so overwhelmed in school and just felt sick to my stomach, not knowing why. I had a lot of sensory sensitivities around... I mean, I still do because you don't, you know, shake that, you don't get rid of that if you're autistic. It's not something that gets habituated. But not knowing that, like, really bright lights is making me feel so overwhelmed. Not understanding that and then just being like, what's wrong with me? You know, why? Why am I in this environment, it's loud and it's bright, and I feel so unmoored that I can't think straight. Not understanding those things, I would have loved to just had someone help me understand all of that.

Kristen Hovet  
Now, with masking and unmasking, is that something you consciously try to do? Or do you use masking in certain scenarios consciously?

Jennifer Dodd  
Just a side note, when I took the CAT-Q, for folks who don't know, that's the masking assessment, that was the one that just like blew my mind. I will forever have love for the CAT-Q for that reason, it just like opened up everything for me. I have the privilege of working from home, and I am the boss and I get to set my schedule and work with the clients I want to work with. I also have enough age and experience has given me a place in my field where I can be more myself. And so you know, I'm out to my clients and the people I supervise and things like that, that allows me to not have to mask as much. I can't imagine if I was in like corporate America or something. And I have a lot of clients who do have to work in those spaces and have to mask, like they have to do it, right, they don't have an option. So I feel very lucky that there's so much of my life that I can unmask in. My home is a very safe place for that. And I've worked hard to make sure it's a very comfortable, safe place for that. I think a lot of us high masking autistic, ADHD, whatever neurodivergent folks create little ecosystems for ourself, don't always have to go out and we can avoid it to some extent. There are certainly situations where I show up and masking just sort of is a natural... just takes over kind of thing. But I'm working through that in therapy, too. I want to be less automatic about it, if that makes sense.

Kristen Hovet  
Mmm-hmm. And what are some differences between masking and unmasking for you?

Jennifer Dodd  
I talk a lot more, that's a big one. I've done a lot of trauma work my whole life. But when I discovered this, it was suddenly like, I just had this image of this little me who was sensitive and neurodivergent and didn't know it. And once I like discovered that, I suddenly became so protective of myself. I'm looking out for myself now and my neurodivergent self, I think a lot of the shame lifted, too, so I can be more myself. You know, before discovering this, I would go into every environment, every new environment and like just quiet. And like reading everything around me, reading the dynamics, reading the room. That's a lot of energy and focus. And I would always be confused like people just walk in and start talking and interacting and like, how do you do that? Knowing that I like maybe do it a little less, you know, if I'm a little bit weird, like that's okay because I'm autistic and autistic is great.

Kristen Hovet  
I've been thinking about it more because I'm planning an episode on you know, masking and unmasking and I felt like I had to wait a bit because I'm still processing what that means for me because of you know, late diagnosed we often have to ask ourselves, what is masking? What is unmasking?

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh so much.

Kristen Hovet  
What is my self you know, in there somehow and like... 

Jennifer Dodd  
So existential.

Kristen Hovet  
Totally, yeah. Who am I? And one thing I've you know, definitely come to terms with, or had to, is like I'm a huge people pleaser. So it shows up in you know, when I'm interacting with neurotypicals, like, I'll try to control their emotional state and perception, yeah, so they're comfortable. But I'm also thinking like, it's not just doing that... it's also because I feel their energy... like we were talking about like that empathy part. And if I've messed up and they're displeased, I feel it. And it brings my energy down, it brings everyone's energy down. So like, if I put in a little masking, it goes so far in like keeping everyone's emotional states chill, and everyone kind of interacting well. So in that way, it's cool to see that I can have control over it in some way.

Jennifer Dodd  
That's a like, really positive way to look at it. I very much relate to that people pleasing, but like, I've been trying to also establish a different relationship to people pleasing because I noticed that I have a lot of judgment towards myself for it. So I like to hear that perspective that you can use it in a mindful way, too. It can be a positive thing.

Kristen Hovet  
I judge myself, too. And like, you know, where's yourself in this, like, you're doing this, and it's so about the other person, but actually, if I really analyze it, it is for me, too, because like I said, it's like keeping the safe space for both of us, basically, or whoever's interacting at that time.

Jennifer Dodd  
Yeah, and for people who don't understand empathizing in a hypersensitive, hyper empathetic way is like you do feel like everything around you, you're like a sponge. It is hard to take in all of everyone's emotional responses, as well as all the sensory stuff that's happening in the room. It's just like, it fills you. And then, you know, that can be too much.

Kristen Hovet  
Especially if it's like negative, like, if you see their face dropping...

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, especially. 

Kristen Hovet  
You're like, Oh, crap, like, You mad at me, what did I do? 

Jennifer Dodd  
Uh-huh, mmm-hmm.

Kristen Hovet  
And then you have to process that on top of everything else. What are your top three autistic traits that you love the most? 

Jennifer Dodd  
I like my curiosity a lot. That feels like such a gift to me. Like no matter what happens in life, where I go, what I do, what's happening in the world, I know I have that within me, like that curiosity. And that will always keep me interested and engaged in the world. And you know, my inner life is rich for that reason. Always wanting to learn and like, I think my empathy is another one, even though it can be painful to have so much taking in. It's also like, I can connect so deeply with other people. And I love to hear other people... love to hear people's stories. I love deep conversations. I'm not good at small talk. I don't like small talk, I don't know how to do it very well, it bores me to like I don't, I don't care about it, which makes a great quality for a therapist. I get to, like, hear and connect in this deep way. So I love that. It makes life rich. They say that autistic folks, ADHDers, because of our like hyper focus, we actually get into flow states like so much more often, which is such a great thing to have access to. I can just like listen to music and be so immersed deeply on like every level, and I didn't realize that, you know, not everyone experiences sensory information, can experience it in that like deep, deep way. Which again, when it's like life is stressful, or if it's too much, or if that's out of your control, you know, sensory information can be very painful, too. But when it feels good, it's like bliss.

Kristen Hovet  
And the same question for ADHD, top three ADHD traits.

Jennifer Dodd  
I appreciate ADHD for its creativity. It can have your mind exploring everything, every option, every possibility, which can feel really good sometimes really like enthusiasm. I appreciate the initiation. This, you know, it can get me like going on new projects, and like really, really driven. I've started my private practice, I've made it group practice, like I really go after the things I want. I think a lot of that ADHD can be that. And then also like the hyper focus as well, you can get really, really into something and like, while it has its downsides, like forgetting to eat and drink water on a hot day, that you have to be mindful of, but also you can get really into like a project or something and just lose that time. It can be kind of great, too. I think a lot of neurodivergent folks really appreciate their neurodivergent traits, from what I've been conversating with folks, like a deep love for those things.

Kristen Hovet  
I would never want to have life without these things, especially understanding it more. It's like don't, do not take it away from me ever.

Jennifer Dodd  
Right? And also like, by the way society, you need all types of people to like make a great society and it was good enough for like Beethoven and Einstein. Good enough for me.

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah, totally. What is a myth or stereotype about autism or autistic people that bothers you the most?

Jennifer Dodd  
So many. Definitely the empathy thing is my least favorite. I think it probably creates some of the most stigma and it's used to dehumanize us like oh, there's no empathy. And we don't want to get too much into the history of like Asperger's and all the people who started ABA who literally have seen autistic people as not human because of this, this myth that has absolutely no credible evidence to support it. And also, I'm surrounded by autistic folks who have some of the most empathy, and sensitivity, and care, and concern, and love, and compassion for other people, and animals, and the environment, and like so many... It's a lie, it's a lie. It's not true. It's like so opposite of the truth. And that, that one is definitely the one I think I have the most passion for.

Kristen Hovet  
That's the same for me, I always talk about the empathy one. I have had a guest say that they don't feel that they have empathy. And so for them, they think they're in line with that sort of traditional concept. So I mean, that could be very much true for that person. It could also be related to, I guess, trauma, or just kind of internalized concepts of themselves being told that, I'm not sure. I don't want to take away from their story.

Jennifer Dodd  
Or like having to shut it down because it's too much empathy. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah. 

Jennifer Dodd  
Like we said before, like too much empathy can be really, really painful to take in so much of other people's emotions and sensory information. Of course, you want to shut it down somewhat, or like numb it out some. So that can be part of it. Maybe there's a possibility that you can be hyper empathetic and hypo empathetic. 

Kristen Hovet  
For me, it can be delayed, just because it's so much.

Jennifer Dodd  
Oh, that's a big piece. Like I need to go into a quiet room a lot of the time with like low lights, and like really just sit there by myself to figure out what I'm feeling. And I've heard that for people that are very, like, highly empathetic, that we don't always have access to what's inside of us. We're taking in everything in the environment, but then they're like, Well, what do you want to eat? Like, I have no idea. 

Kristen Hovet  
Yeah! 

Jennifer Dodd  
I need to go and be in a quiet space to like, check in with what's happening inside of me. That makes perfect sense to me. 

Kristen Hovet  
And the same question for ADHD in regards to a myth or stereotype.

Jennifer Dodd  
All the deficit talk, I cannot stand all the deficit talk in the DSM around either one. It's not that you don't have focus, or that you're just constantly distracted. That is not true. Your focus is very much motivated by interest and a number of other things. You can look into this acronym PINCH. It's like ADHDers are motivated by like play and interest and novelty and competition and, you know, things like that. You aren't always in control of your focus. But it's not like you don't have it. In fact, an ADHDer can like start a project and work for 12 hours and forget everything.

Kristen Hovet  
I did an episode on EMDR [eye movement desensitization reprocessing] because that came up as something people were saying, That works really well for me. I've had experience with people trying to do CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] with me, and it's almost like I saw through it, so I'm like, don't even try that crap with me.

Jennifer Dodd  
I've never, never with the CBT ever. I cannot stand it. Yeah.

Kristen Hovet  
Okay. So yeah, I wanted to get your view on like types of modalities that work really well for autistic folks.

Jennifer Dodd  
That is something I want to study more of. I've never liked CBT and a lot of the like therapist friends of mine who are neurodivergent as well tend towards not. I think we need more of a like holistic sort of approach. So like on the West Coast, for at least where I live, somatic therapy has become all the rage. And that's great. However, me and some of my autistic therapist friends talk about how that also can be shaming because we frequently need to talk things out to understand them. And we're not always super connected with what's happening for us somatically. And both she and I have talked about how we've internalized some shame around, I'm disconnected from my body, therefore, like, I'm not doing therapy right. So I want to move away from that kind of one approach. Depending on how familiar you are with like somatic type therapies, it's like that can be very like... talk therapy is almost being like pushed aside as if it's not valuable. And that is not true, especially for autistic folks. We often need to talk things out to make sense of things, and that's okay, and that's great. CBT I think is gaslighting to everyone, and it's not as evidence based as people think, I have some articles on that. EMDR I think is individualized, I'm trained as well and I've done it, but it can also be very overwhelming, overstimulating for folks, depending on, too, like if you are trying to reprocess sensory stuff or things that are like your natural, your innate neurotype, and you don't know that you're trying to do that, I think that can create a lot of problems because we can't habituate. That kind of scares me that that can be happening.

Kristen Hovet  
For me, like the traditional kind of Freudian therapy seemed to work well because, I mean, I wasn't diagnosed at the time, but it was just like the amount of analysis seemed to work really well for me. But it would have been even better if you know, my autism had been part of that.

Jennifer Dodd  
Yeah, well you have to make sense of things. I think good trauma therapy is really about making sense of what you've been through, and how to integrate that and move forward. So yeah, I think there's like a lot of different modalities. And they need to be more neurodivergent affirming and like, that's something I'm very passionate about. I'm just like, at this point, I'm just really passionate about making my field more neurodivergent affirming. And I've learned that actually, like a high percentage of people who even go to therapy in the first place are neurodivergent, and, you know, being missed so much. So if I can do anything, it would be to help folks get rid of some of these stigmas, and then to have a fuller picture of folks and how do we meet people where they are, and not try to like, fix something that is just innate and not needing fixing at all.

Kristen Hovet  
A huge thank you to Jennifer for being my guest. I have a couple more episodes lined up for May, and then I'll be going on a bit of a trip the last week or so of the month. So I will aim for three episodes in May, but it might be two just a warning and I'll try to make up for that in June or July. That's all I have for you today. Thank you so much for being here. 

Kristen Hovet  
Until next time, bye.