Listen now (75 min) | In episode 30, Chris and Emma were joined by Katy Higgins Lee, MFT, a therapist and clinical supervisor in private practice in Santa Rosa, California. She works with neurodivergent adults with a focus on giftedness and twice-exceptionality. This episode is our contribution to Neurodiversity Celebration Week, March 13-19, 2023.
We kicked the episode off by defining neurodiversity with a quote:
“Neurodiversity is the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.” Dr. Nick Walker
We learned about the terms neurodiversity and neurodivergence, and the appropriate application for individuals compared to groups. Katy talked about the way that neurodivergence can be either innate (e.g., ADHD, autism) or acquired (e.g., PTSD, traumatic brain injury).
We asked Katy the question, Is giftedness a type of neurodivergence? We agreed with her that giftedness is more than an IQ score, and fits the definition of neurodivergence since this is an experience of reality that diverges from what can be considered typical. Asynchronous development was mentioned, which is a definition of giftedness from the Columbus Group that incorporates the overexcitabilities:
“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” Columbus Group, 1991
Katy discussed being neurodiversity-affirming and non-pathologizing. We learned that we can view these differences as identities or neurotypes, rather than disorders or disadvantages. This perspective is not meant to minimize disability, but we are taking the perspective of the social model of disability rather than the medical model. We talked about the fact that giftedness is not the advantage or blessing people may assume.
Neurodiversity-affirming means using identify-first language rather than person-first language. For instance, autistic person rather than person with autism. We also talked about not using functioning labels such as “high-functioning” vs “low-functioning” autism and instead considering differences in support needs.
It’s also critical to be trauma-informed and LGBTQ+-affirming. Katy said it’s especially important to remember the need to be trans-affirming as part of a neurodiversity-affirmative practice because many neurodivergent people are also trans, nonbinary, or otherwise gender non-conforming.