Episode 9. Let’s Talk! Autism in Women and People Raised as Women. Pt. 2 (2023)

Episode 9. Let’s Talk! Autism in Women and People Raised as Women. Pt. 2

Student Advocates

Hosted & Produced by Amanda Antell. Produced & Edited by Carrie Cantrell. Transcriptions authored by Eugene Holden. Amanda and Mackenzie discuss how ADHD/Autism symptoms intersect with Mackenzie’s hard-of-hearing condition.

You can also listen to this episode on Spotify.


Amanda Antell: Hello, my name is Amanda and I’m a disability advocate for PCC specializing in autism. The Let’s Talk Autism series focuses on different issues surrounding the autism community and how the general public interacts with us. On today’s Let’s Talk Autism podcast it continues the discussion of autism versus ADHD in women and people raised as women. I was joined by Mackenzie who is hard-of-hearing and gave a very interesting perspective of this condition, and how it interacts with their autism and ADHD. I will say that I personally felt humbled and awed by Mackenzie’s story because not only do they have to contend with everyday struggles of autism and ADHD, but they also have to accommodate literally everyone they talk to. I hope you gained as much appreciation as I did on this episode.

Mackenzie Morrow: My name is Mackenzie. I use they/them pronouns. My major at PCC is ASL English interpreting student; I’m in the interpreter program. And I’m doing a minor in Deaf Cultural Studies Certificate. I am mostly a student; I work also as a PCC disability advocate. But, because of my disabilities, I often don’t have the time or energy to log those hours. So I haven’t been as engaging as I’ve wanted to be. But outside of that, previously, my occupation for a long time was in food service. I did a lot of cooking, managerial work, run a house and did kind of everything and decided that was too much for my body and not sustainable. So when COVID had me without a job for about a year or two years, I decided to go back to school and pursue my goal that I had started about a decade ago, but wasn’t able to complete. Actually when I did go to school 10 years ago, when I was 18, 19, that’s when I received my ADHD diagnosis. Initially, I had seen a counselor at University of Oregon, and I had been struggling with my mental health pretty much since I was like 12 or 13. I had seen a lot of doctors and given a lot of different diagnoses. And when I was seeing this counselor at University of Oregon, she was like, I think you have ADHD. She also had ADHD and had been diagnosed around college age. And I kind of got mad, and I didn’t go back to see her because I was like, everybody’s just trying to give me a different diagnosis, it’s just also confusing. I don’t know what to believe. But then after doing some research, I was like, you know what, I think it would be worth it to have this discussion. So I went back to see her and then she had me referred to a diagnosing person. And they diagnosed me officially with ADHD, which they kind of grouped all into one these days. There’s not really ADD, ADHD; it’s all ADHD, and then different types. And I think the type that I was diagnosed with was the inattentive type. And so I think ever since then, I have been trying to grasp still. I mean, I’ve seen so many different doctors, therapists, been on a lot of medications, and still really struggle with my mental health. And about a year ago, I had been seeing a lot more information online, like social media about autism. And remembering a time in high school when I had considered if that was maybe a piece of my picture. And I brought it up to my therapist at the time, about a year ago. And she was like, oh, I thought you’d already been diagnosed. And I was like, no, I haven’t. And then I brought it up to my main doctor that I’ve been working with for the past almost year. And she was like, I really do think this could be something that is a part of you like based on your growing up and all the like chronic health stuff that I’ve dealt with a lot of times. She kind of explained it to me like people on the spectrum. There’s like a lot of typicals, right? It’s like the three chronic conditions in gut, brain, and inflammation, a lot of trouble regulating my nervous system, and also identifying as non-binary. That’s pretty common for people on the spectrum. So I haven’t received an official diagnosis I’ve kind of hit a lot of barriers in trying to do that. But recently, my doctor was like, I think we can kind of just incorporate this as part of your health and like your treatment plan because I do think that it is definitely a consideration. And so yeah, that’s kind of my story.

Amanda Antell: Thank you very much. How would you describe your autism and ADHD in your own words?

Mackenzie Morrow: Funny, I saw that question and I was like, I don’t know how to describe it. And I think that’s part of the autism and ADHD. I’ve always had trouble articulating how I feel or like even being able to kind of recognize how I feel. A lot of my work in the last decade has been in trying to do that and to feel my feelings and not blackout and disassociate and yeah, it’s just basically I feel like if I could describe it in a couple words, it’s very overwhelming. Like I feel constantly overwhelmed, overstimulated, hard to make decisions, a lot of anxiety and stress, leading to shutdowns, just having to escape and not really knowing why, like why it’s so hard for me to engage in the modern world and why it’s so hard to just like, seemingly do everything else that I’m supposed to be able to do or like, know that I’m capable of. Like people will tell me all the time, like, you’re so intelligent, it’s like I know. But like, I just feel like I need so much like support and help that I don’t know what it is or how to ask for it. I heard someone describe it as like, there’s someone living inside of me, right? Like, there’s this person inside of me. And there’s this high masking person that has learned to be that way because of survival and growing up and not knowing how to like, let this inner piece of me out. So yeah, I guess that’s how I would describe it.

Amanda Antell: Thank you. And keep in mind, if we come to a question you either don’t know how to answer or are not comfortable with, you obviously don’t have to. And we can just move on. Or if you have a question for me, it’s like, go ahead and ask. Like for my autism, the way I would describe it is, this might sound a bit weird, but almost like utter detachment. Like I’m not as emotional when I look at situations. So it’s like, I’m able to really just kind of disengage and just go through the motions and just kind of get stuff done. Because I need a lot of stimulation to keep my focus. Like, that’s kind of the issue with me. I can actually take a lot of stimulation I feel like, compared to a lot of autistic people. And that’s not like a slight against you and I apologize if that sounds like that. But the problem is with that is I get bored so easily say if I’m in a group, like four people or more. If the conversation just shifts to something I don’t know, or they’re not talking to me even for like a couple of minutes, I’m not offended. I just go off and do something else. Because it’s like, what’s the point of me being there? And they take it as, oh my god, are we offending you? Did we leave you out? And I’m like, no, you’re good, I’m just bored. And that somehow makes it worse. Apparently neurotypical people do not like the honesty bit.

Mackenzie Morrow: It’s true, yeah. I can relate to a lot of what you said too, because while I do get overstimulated a lot, like I do need a lot of stimulation, dopamine, to be able to like focus and do things. Please share any of your experiences that you relate to as well, I think it’ll add to the conversation nicely.

Amanda Antell: So you talked a little bit about what led to your ADHD diagnosis in college. Do you want to talk a little more about that? Or do you wanna move on with a–

Mackenzie Morrow: Sure. I mean, do you have any things specifically that you’re curious about?

Amanda Antell: So what exactly led to your ADHD diagnosis from your college advisor or counselor? I’m sorry, I forgot what you said her title was. But basically, someone noticed ADHD in you. What symptoms did they see in you? And what led you to kind of agree with them later on? Because it sounds like when they first brought it up with you, you weren’t very happy with them because you just got a bunch of different contradictions from different professionals, which I get the frustration a lot. So what symptoms did she see in you? And what made you go back to her?

Mackenzie Morrow: That’s a good question. And one that I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer. I don’t know, I guess it was just, in my experience with my mental health struggles. It’s just very intense, like depression, anxiety, like stuff that I just, no matter what I tried, I could not like let go of. I guess, inability to like focus. Like I kind of mentioned, just feeling overwhelmed, and not necessarily knowing what to do. I honestly think she probably just related her own experience a lot to my experience. And it’s like, you know, I felt that way when I went off to college or whatever. And then someone pointed out that I might have ADHD, so I got tested. And back then I don’t even know if I did a ton of research. I probably just googled like, typical symptoms of ADHD. But I remember going through and being like, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep to like all of them. And the process I went through to get diagnosis was pretty in depth. So I felt pretty confident about that. Like they talk to your parents, and it’s a couple different sessions. It was like sitting and chatting and then there was doing some like intellectual testing. But I am so curious about like the lens, the diagnosis or use back then, like, did they consider autism, but another? Conditions like that, or did they only look at ADHD? And that’s all and that, I don’t know, I can’t answer. But it would make a lot of sense if diagnosing people kind of have this way to look at someone holistically, right. I mean, that’s how I believe most of healthcare should work. And just be like, I’m going to kind of evaluate you for all these things and see like what fits best. Because while to some degree, having a diagnosis does nothing, means nothing. But it also it does mean a lot, right? Because it means you can name and identify this thing. But it’s not always right either and like how you interact and participate in those evaluations is very dependent on how you present, right? And so I think that can lead to a lot of barriers when you are always, you know, presenting a certain persona to people versus like how you actually feel inside. I’ve noticed I’ve always done that since I was a kid; from a very young age I started doing that. I remember being 3 and just being very aware of how people wanted me to be versus how I felt that I should act. And I think that just led to a lot of, like, I don’t know myself well, I can’t make decisions, and anxiety, and stress and stuff like that. So I don’t remember where I was going with that point.

Amanda Antell: I think you articulated your point very well. Actually it kind of relates pretty closely to mine, and I feel like you might have answered this question already. Based on what you said, what would you say are your most prominent ADHD symptoms? And even if you’re not officially diagnosed with autism, what would you say are your most prominent autism symptoms? And would you say that they match pretty stereotypically with what people kind of consider ADHD and autism? Obviously, you’re not a boy, but I feel like that’s like the main stereotype people do have about both conditions.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah, I was having trouble figuring out what that would be. Because to some degree, I’m like the things that I think are the most, like prominent symptoms are not necessarily the stereotypical ones. I think, I was talking about this with my therapist recently, about just high-masking people, not knowing what unmasking even looks like because they’ve been doing it for so long. So that is definitely a piece too. It’s like, I don’t know. Like when I am alone, I think I do behave a lot differently than when I’m with other people. But it’s not often that I kind of let that happened too. So in response to the thing about the boy, I’ll say an interesting thing about my family. So my cousin Sam is the same age as me. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was very young, very young, like early elementary school, I don’t remember the age specifically. And then I was the next person to be diagnosed with ADHD when I was 19. And then, many years later my youngest cousin was diagnosed with ADHD. She’s a girl. So his younger sisters are both girls. And then that made my aunt, their mom, be like I’m gonna get tested too. And so she was diagnosed in her 50s. And then my other cousin in that family was diagnosed like last year or something. And so four out of five of them have ADHD, have been diagnosed with ADHD. And all of the women were diagnosed so much later than he was. And then I was like, so obviously, this is a piece of the family. And I noticed neurodivergence, just in my [inaudible] with my parents and my siblings as well. Relating back to signs, I think for me, the most prominent thing is just struggling with my mental health, my identity. Just like struggling with depression and suicidal ideation has always been a big problem, just like not really wanting to exist or like be an external being. Like I kind of mentioned that person inside and the person outside and like not feeling like there’s a connect there. And so that can be very isolating and confusing. And I guess just a lot of social stress, social anxiety, issues with relationships and like maintaining relationships, feeling overwhelmed, shutting down, a lot of fidgeting and needing to do something, right? Like I’m always playing with something, even if it’s my hands, or whatever. Trouble with eye contact, which I didn’t really realize until the pandemic, right, because I’m hard-of-hearing. And I learned when I was really young that I lip read, and that’s like a big part of communication for me because I have to be able to hear you and see you and like whatever. So I can put the pieces together and understand what you’re saying. So when people started wearing masks, like I didn’t have the option to look at people’s mouths anymore. So I was looking at people’s eyes. And I’m like, this is so uncomfortable. Plus the fact that I’m not getting the visual communication that I’m used to. Yeah, and so now I’m just like, I don’t have to make eye contact with people. I don’t have to smile at people if I don’t want to. And that’s been very freeing. But I do still like because I am hard-of-hearing, I do tend to just look at people’s lips for the most part, if I can, or make eye contact in short periods of time and then have to take breaks. And yeah, I don’t know, there’s a lot. But that’s all I have for you right now.

Amanda Antell: Thank you. And just so you know, there’s nothing wrong with stimming or regulating yourself; you should ever feel bad or feel guilty for that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Right.

Amanda Antell: And your thoughts and feelings are valid, they’re your own. For me, I’ll just kind of go over briefly how I was diagnosed with autism, because it’s actually kind of an interesting story. I know I probably have mentioned this to other advocates before, but my mother actually did suspect–she didn’t know the word autism, but she knew very early on I was very different than other kids. And she took me to three different professionals fighting for a diagnosis, but no professional wanted to diagnose me because I was too high-functioning. Oh yeah, they said like the worst possible thing to my mother you could ever say to a kid with autism: she’ll grow out of it. Which we all know is horrible. So yeah, but the reason I got diagnosed with autism was actually for my mother-in-law, believe it or not, because autism runs in her family and she immediately knew I was autistic. Like, I don’t think I’ve hid it very well. Like I definitely have gone through what you have gone through where it’s like you’re raised as a girl, and you’re trained to act. I would say if all women are kind of forced to mask to a degree because it’s like where there’s higher expectations on people raised as women very early on. Like we have to be polite, we have to be controlled, we can’t be too emotional, we have to keep everything together. But at the same time it’s like we’re considered too emotional when we have a reaction to anything. And we’re dismissed so often because of that. So long story short, I ended up getting diagnosed eventually when my mental health from school stress just got to the point where my wife was like, look, you gotta go talk to someone. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to get diagnosed before, I just did not have the time. After a pretty in-depth questionnaire and a couple of sessions, yeah, I was diagnosed. And the psychologist who did diagnose me was like, I knew you were autistic immediately, this is just a formality. So I don’t think I’ve ever masked very well, like, I always find it very sad and interesting when I hear people talk about that because it’s like I just never did that. Like I can interact with people pretty I guess normally, I don’t really like using that word in this context. But I guess on the neurotypical side, that’s what it looks like. I can do that in very short bursts. Like I kind of mentioned, like in conversations with people I don’t know, I’m actually very interactive with people I don’t know because I’m just so bored waiting for something else to happen. But it’s like after that, it’s like my threshold for social interaction, once it’s gone, I have to get out like, I’m just like, nope. And it’s like, the thing that stood out most to that psychologist about me was the fact that I had such intense special interests, like my obsession with animals is probably one of the highest she had ever seen. And just the fact that I could apply it to so many different areas of study was pretty interesting to her. Like, I think I might have mentioned this before, if it relates to animals, I can force my brain to learn anything, which is why in my virology class, rabies was the only virus that stuck out to me, because it’s, I would argue, the most dangerous virus ever. But it’s also just how it relates so heavily to animals and humans, whereas other viruses, it kind of relates a little bit somewhat, depending on the species. But other than that, it’s like, nope.

Mackenzie Morrow: And like having to relate information back to something that you’re very familiar with. And for me, I think it’s always been like back to myself, right? Have I experienced that before? Do I have like a framework for this already that I can pull from to like relate it back to? And it’s funny that you mentioned that because when you were mentioning how you could only focus on rabies, and I was like, oh, it’s probably because it’s related to animals. Yeah, and I’ve been trying to explore that, right? Because I’m like, what are my special interests? I know that I do have them. But it’s also like, when you do you have ADHD and depression and stuff, like actually making those interests happen is very hard. And so I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and I’m still exploring that. But I have to have a lot of time and space, right? Like, I have to like fully get immersed into it when I want to engage in that type of thing. And I don’t have that a lot these days, not when I’m working full time, or going to school full time. It’s just there’s so many demands happening for me all around, that’s like, I just don’t have time for that. And I don’t even think about what it is that I need. I’ve always kind of relied on social interactions and those connections with people, I think. I didn’t realize it that I would always pick friends that were the most like outgoing and like not extroverted. And like, because, right, I would kind of like I would feel comfortable with them, they would do things and kind of like, show me how to do things like with confidence and whatever. And so I realized I’ve always been a very observant person and like needing a person around that I can sort of watch and be able to be like, okay, I’m going to act like them now, right? Then it makes it really hard because you’re very sensitive to people’s energies. When I’m living with people like it’s just, I just suck up their energy right away, and I take it on as my own. And that can be really, like exhausting. And you’re like, I don’t even know who I am because I’m always like taking these experiences from other people.

Amanda Antell: And I feel like this is another unique thing about me specifically, compared to a lot of people with autism, I’m very open about my condition and will talk someone’s ear off about it. I would almost say that autism has become a special interest for me just because it’s like I consider it a huge part of my identity now. And it’s like I’m excited to talk about it and share with it. And I don’t really like the term educating people because that sounds like I’m talking down to someone. But I like to just kind of talk about it, like especially when people kind of have preconceived notions about what autism is, and they’re like, you don’t seem autistic. I was like, I was not aware we changed colors or like shedded skin. What sets off here, you kind of talked about this a little bit on and off when we were talking, but what would you say are your biggest triggers in both the work environment and in the classroom for your autism and your ADHD? Like what kind of what can like cause a meltdown? What causes you stress? What causes you to dissociate? Just stuff like that?

Mackenzie Morrow: I’ve definitely been thinking about that a lot this term, specifically. It’s been a really rough term for me and a lot of space for me to analyze that. And plus I’m in a lot of classes right now that are asking me to really analyze myself and my identity and my culture because that is a huge piece of working with other people, people of all different like abilities, races, colors, you know, experiences, is learning and owning your own identity first before exploring and getting into other people’s cultures. And so yeah, I’ve had to do a lot of work about that. And I think in school that’s been hard, right? Because how do you ask for accommodations when they’re a little bit like iffy sometimes. But I just need a lot of connection to some degree. If I feel disconnected from the content or like the people teaching me the content, if I’m not getting regular feedback about things, it can really make me feel stressed because I don’t have a lot of energy to give. And what being asked of you in the school context is really a lot, a lot more than I have. And so I think not having that, like, why is this important? Like getting direct feedback all the time can make me just feel like it’s not worth my energy, what’s the point? Even though in the broader context, I do understand the point. But I think just having support and like, having people that relate to my experiences, and being able to like talk through that, because I think a big piece for me is like, I don’t often know what I need if I haven’t had that experience of being given it before. And I think sometimes you have to be creative. Like I don’t know. Schools are very like, here’s what it looks like, here’s what you’re supposed to do as a student. I definitely am not that person, right? I need to work at my own pace because my energy and my focus shifts all over the place. So I have to be able to engage in the content when I have the capacity to engage in it, and not just like when things are due. So I need a lot of flexibility in that way, and time, and structure, and like knowing what to expect. Like I definitely ask for that all the time. For teachers, it’s like what’s gonna happen today? Here’s like a little bit of a timeline: First, you’re gonna discuss this, and then we’re going to take a break, and then we’re gonna discuss this. Because without that I can feel very lost.

Amanda Antell: Like for me what triggers my autism, what can trigger a meltdown with me–in fact, I almost had a meltdown in anatomy lab this term, it was actually kind of bad. So first of all, I have really specific sound sensitivities. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I mention this every term to teachers that if there is a fire drill, just let me know so I cannot be in the building. I cannot stand those fire alarms. Those are really physically painful.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: Like, I’d be in the fetal position just covering my ears in elementary school and middle school because they don’t tell you when those stupid things go off for whatever reason. I think in high school it’s like I managed to hide it a little bit. I think that’s my only prominent masking, but even then, it’s like I don’t think I hit it very well because teachers would just ask me if I was okay. And then, because I didn’t have the autism diagnosis, they would just kind of, every single one of them, just kind of said it just only for a few minutes you’re overreacting. And I’m like, no, this is physically painful. Like it’s physically painful. I’ve kind of like described it as in the past as drills kind of drilling into different parts of your skull and your body. At least that’s what it feels like to me. But anyway, so smoke detectors kind of do the same thing to me too. And in terms of classwork, it drives me nuts when there’s no structure with assignments, or expectations. Like anatomy lab was kind of like that too. First of all, my lab TA was actually super nice, and so was the professor. But the problem was, because it’s an exploratory lab, they’re like just figure out what you need to do for your assignments in your report. And there’s no lab report either, so it’s like I don’t specifically know what they want me to do. And there’s no worksheet to fill out even though they wanted me to identify all these muscles, these organs. And I’m like, fine, but if there’s no accountability, and there’s no lab report, there’s no reason for me to do that. But the thing that set me off really in anatomy lab, or at least almost, was, so my partner and I got a dogfish shark to dissect which I really wanted. I really want the dogfish shark. It’s like you either got the mink or the dogfish shark and, oh my god, I was so excited for that shark. The problem with sharks, they are really hard to skin. Like their skin, it’s not like a mink, where it’s like you can just peel it off like Velcro. But no, sharks, it’s like they’re super glued on there. It’s cartilaginous layer so they’re super attached to the muscles. So I looked at my TA and I’m like–and the dogfish shark were supposed to be skinned before we got them but there was some kind of miscommunication that caused them not to be skinned. And I looked at my lab TA and I was like there is no way we’re gonna have time to identify all the muscles you want to on this shark, there is no way. And she was like, oh no, it’ll be fine. And no, it was not. And I later learned like she had never even skinned these things before so she had no idea how long it would take us, and I was really mad; I was super pissed. Like I was on a borderline meltdown that day because I was like, oh my god, we’re not gonna get this done, we’re losing a whole lab period to this. I was just like doing the thing where I was like kind of pacing around lab. And it’s like I feel like I’m very animated compared to a lot of people in lab. Like I’m very high stress to be around, so I feel bad for my lab partners who have had me in the past.

Mackenzie Morrow: I can very much relate to that. Not having communication or like finding things out later that like weren’t built into like the original expectations. Being like oh you guys lead this discussion, like it’s up to you. Like that does not work for me whatsoever. It makes me extremely stressed.

Amanda Antell: Yeah, so that was fun. But it was fine the rest of the term. And my issue with that is just I got really bored in anatomy lab. A lot of times we got our work done so fast otherwise. That being said, it was really cool to finally cut into the shark. And like we had this female shark that had like two full uteri full of yolk, and the other group with the dogfish shark actually had babies.

Mackenzie Morrow: That would be cool to see.

Amanda Antell: Sorry, I’m probably should not be talking about this on a podcast recording in case people are sensitive. Sorry, back to the actual discussion. What do you want employers and instructors to keep in mind about not only your autism and ADHD, but also just like both of these conditions in general?

Mackenzie Morrow: My experience a lot is like always feeling like I don’t want to take up too much space, or feeling like a bother, right? That’s always been a big thing for me is like not feeling like I deserve people to consider me or accommodate me in any way. And so I think it can be hard to think about it that way sometimes. It’s like how would I want people to treat me or anybody else with this experience? And I think that’s really why I got into advocacy, too. It’s because I have a tendency to be like, I need to ask for what I need, but I know it’ll benefit other people. I’ve ended up in a lot of managerial positions at jobs because of that, like I need more structure this way. And like us not having a structure for something makes all these miscommunications happen. And I really hate it, really bothers me, right? So then I create a system, and then everybody starts following it. And it kind of makes things run a little bit smoother. So I think that like systems thinking, and I’ve actually learned that too, about people on the spectrum, they tend to be like a more of a like kind of a leader or manager type because they kind of think about things a little bit differently. I guess it would be just like if someone discloses anything that to you, like, as a teacher, or an employer, to like not discredit it. I mean, in my opinion anybody that is far from neurotypical is way better to be around, they’re more fun, more interesting, they have a better perspective to offer, different ways of thinking about things, creative. You often can’t have those conversations, or feel safe having those conversations about disclosing your disabilities, with people because of the way that they might think about it or think that you’re like trying to get away with things or something. But to just like have that open conversation and ask questions and clarify, because people, if they’re willing to share, they will share, then we should communicate that right? That I’m not feeling like I have the capacity to share this with you today or whatever. But yeah, don’t be afraid to ask questions either. Because I think the more we don’t know about differences in living, the like less likely we are to open our minds and like try different things, and ways of interacting with people. Sometimes you just need to be exposed to a traditional systems way doing a little differently and be like, that’s cool, that’s what I need, and then going from there. I don’t know. Does that answer the question?

Amanda Antell: I think it does. Like what I would say is, especially because I openly disclose like every term to my professors, like if you have questions just ask. Don’t make assumptions. Whatever TV show you watched, whatever documentaries you’ve watch, just don’t, just ask us, we’re right here.

Mackenzie Morrow: Right.

Amanda Antell: So–and it’s kind of interesting whenever I do disclose to professors because I can get a gauge of how the class is going to be pretty quickly throughout the term. Usually, if it’s like a standard like thank you for telling me kind of email, it’s either going to be just average or pretty bad. But if the professor is like really communicative to you and asks you questions, and wants to actually genuinely help you and accommodate you, that’s going to be a really good class. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but it does mean it’s going to be a good teacher who cares about their students. And that’s been consistent across the board. I’ve never been wrong about that. And that’s been very interesting. And another thing I would say is, don’t get frustrated with us. We have a different way of thinking, kind of as you said, and we’re either going to be faster or slower, it just depends on how our brains are wired. But that doesn’t mean we’re not as good as your other students, it just means that we’re going to approach things differently.

Mackenzie Morrow: Right. And like, for myself, based on a whole range of things, like my energy and my brain function are so variable throughout the day, or like what happens, right? Like if sensitivity happens, like in the midst of class, or whatever, and I can’t like calm down, then like I won’t be focused on the class for like the rest of the day, you know what I mean, or things like that. So it’s like just being able to be flexible and just not like necessarily scolding people for being like sending a message being like please don’t call on me. Like, I don’t have the capacity to answer right now. I’m like, kind of freaking out internally. And then like respecting that.

Amanda Antell: Another thing I would say is a lot of teachers kind of fall into this trap. And I know I’ve told this story before, but my general chemistry three professor, very nice woman definitely knew her stuff, excellent chemist. She cannot teach worth crap, I’m sorry. But anyways, there was this problem. We were kind of studying kinetics one day and there was this huge problem. She split up different parts between different groups in the class, and I repeatedly asked her, hey, can you help me with this? I don’t understand how you explained this. Can you walk me through a different example? And she just said look at it long enough and the answer will come to you. And she just kept repeating herself. And when it came to me and my group member finally, she just kept staring. And I’m like, I asked you repeatedly for help. I didn’t know how to do it then, I’m not gonna know how to do it now. I swear to you, it was like this staring contest for like 20 minutes. And like 20 minutes of our 50-minute lecture was wasted on this. I was pretty pissed.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: And it’s like my reaction, I just get angry and defiant and fight. Like my reaction is to fight, it’s not to freeze or flee. I feel like that’s gotten me into trouble a lot as a kid actually. But I point blank told her the answer is not going to magically appear in my head. You can stare all you want, it’s not gonna happen. So eventually, my partner does end up solving the part for us. And I almost dropped the class. I was so upset that day, because I was just so angry.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah. And you had disclosed before right, about autism?

Amanda Antell: At that time actually I didn’t know I was diagnosed with autism. So she didn’t know that and I didn’t know that. So it’s not that she ignored my needs there. But it’s also the fact that she did not pay attention to what I was saying; she didn’t believe me. And I actually did talk to her about this later. I actually did confront her about this years later, a little after I became an advocate, actually. And she was very apologetic, she actually didn’t deny what she did. She actually took the time to meet with me and talk about what happened. And she also explained that I was a very smart students, so she thought if she gave me enough time, the answer would eventually come to me and I’d solve it. So to her, she was helping me by pushing me. And it’s like that is a really toxic mindset to have, in my opinion, as an instructor is because you’re kind of making a lot of assumptions on how your student’s brain works, within kind of like what you were saying, energy levels that day. And especially if they’re openly telling you that they don’t know how to do something, you’re expecting them to somehow magically know how to do it.

Mackenzie Morrow: Right.

Amanda Antell: That’s not good.

Mackenzie Morrow: They just think, oh you’re just being lazy. You don’t want to put like the mental effort to this right now. But it’s like, no, I’m actually asking you for a different way to get this information because that’s how I learn. I need to see a couple examples or something. Yeah.

Amanda Antell: Like another experience I had was actually in a physics class. And this time I actually did have my diagnosis. But it was a sub that did this, not like the actual physics teacher, just for context. So again, she was explaining this concept in a way that I didn’t understand. So I asked her to kind of do it a different way. And I kid you not, she said, this is physics two, you should know how to do this. I called her out after that. I was like not having that at all. Like I shouldn’t have put up with that from professors at all. Now, I’m not sure if it’s because of my age, or the fact that I have my diagnosis. But I do not tolerate that anymore. I don’t tolerate that from employers. I don’t tolerate that from instructors. I’m not saying that you should handle your situation any differently than you do. But it’s like, I was yeah, no.

Mackenzie Morrow: No, I think that’s great. And that’s a skill I’m trying to develop. I actually had a teacher recently, he was like, you need to call people out when you need to question their whatever they’re doing. And I was like, you’re absolutely right. And I think a lot of times, it’s like, oh, you need to have those conversations in private. But it’s like, no, I think you really do need to stand up and be like what you’re saying is wrong in front of other people, because how else are other people going to learn, you know what I mean? And another thing I mentioned too, that pops into my brain when you’re talking about your professors was office hours. They’re super important to me; having the space to be able to engage in the content with someone who’s teaching it to me so that I can know really like the motivation behind it, the connection behind it, the broader whatever. And as much as I love like office hours being like appointment or whatever, I think not having that anymore, like I feel like it changed after COVID of like a professor’s like required to have office hours. And they’re at this time, every week, right at the same time. And it’s like, cool, I know when to expect that and I can show up when I need it. But like making appointments is so exhausting for me that I often just don’t ever show up. If it’s a drop in thing or if you have to make an appointment, right? I just like can’t filter all those demands in making that happen. So then I just don’t take what I need. So I have asked that from certain teachers, I’m like, can we schedule office hours at the start of the term, like bi-weekly, and then I’ll just like send you an email at a time if I’m not going to show up. And some teachers have been great about that, others haven’t. But having the space to like explain your experience in the class and when engaging with the teacher, I also think it’s helpful for them to get that perspective of like students’ brains work differently. And when you give them the time and space to like understand the content with them, it means so much in the broader context.

Amanda Antell: And one question that kind of came up with the podcast last week was, and I don’t think I ended up including it in this question set unfortunately, but do you often choose to disclose to your employers and your instructors about your ADHD and autism, or do you choose not to? Why or why not? Because that’s like a really interesting contrast I see a lot with people with autism.

Mackenzie Morrow: It depends, honestly. Um, it depends on the teacher, it depends on the vibe I get from them. I’ve never really disclosed in work situations in the past. I honestly think I worked in food service for a reason, because it really helped my ADHD for some reason. Like I could engage in so many different things like in a fast-paced way, and not like lose interest, like I was constantly being stimulated, and became like good at that. So then that gave me dopamine. So I think I thrived in those environments in terms of my neurodivergence. In terms of other disabilities, like hard-of-hearing, whenever I’ve tried to ask to be accommodated in like a workplace setting it has never been met with an open mind or like, yeah, I’ll take that into consideration. And then in terms of school, like, I mean, since I started going back to school two years ago, I’ve been very open with figuring out what that line is. Do I want to disclose, like how much do I need to disclose? I think in general, just having accommodations through disability allows me the space to be like I have disabilities, here are the things I’m going to ask for. And then I’m going to keep an open dialogue with you if things are working or not working, or if I need something more. But I don’t always say specifically what it is, I don’t think that always needs to be shared at this point. Now in my program, though, I have like the same like five, six teachers who will just continue to be my instructors. So I think in that way it depends on the conversation we’re having, and that I will share things about my experience. And then you know, you learn a little bit about your like instructors too. And you’re like, oh, I didn’t realize that about you. And it like makes you kind of connect in a different way. It’s interesting about the hearing. I’ve been [inaudible] with that a lot. People, I don’t know how because like I said, I haven’t disclosed a lot about ADHD autism in a lot of spaces, but when it comes to hearing people just, I don’t know, they just kind of brush it off. I don’t know what to do about it.

Amanda Antell: I actually thought of an interesting question for you in the hearing thing, if you don’t mind me asking. Would you say that your hearing helps your autism and ADHD sensory issue or like goes against it? Because I mentioned the sound thing with me like, specific sounds with the fire alarm and the smoke detectors are really painful for me. And I’m not sure if certain sounds are painful for you, but would you say your hearing helps you or doesn’t help you? Because does your hearing also kind of cause things to be understimulated for you?

Mackenzie Morrow: That’s a great question. And I was honestly, I was thinking about that earlier when you mentioned that about the alarm. It’s almost like a Deaf gain sort of thing to some degree. But also, I don’t know, it’s a little bit in both worlds just like everything in my life. So without my hearing aids things are pretty dull. Like I have a moderate loss on my left side, a severe loss on my right side. So I still hear, it just doesn’t sound very coherent, like it’s just noises. I have to have like cues to put them together, visual cues. So in that way, you know, if I just turn my hearing aids off, they kind of act as earplugs, plus my like just normal baseline hearing. Because if I take them out there’s a little bit more eardrum stimulation. So that’s kind of cool. If I am experiencing something that’s like–hearing aids also are very, like it took me about a decade to finally get used to the constant like stimulation. Like there’s always a sort of ambient noise to some degree with like energy going into your body when you’re wearing hearing aids. And so when you take them out, it’s just immediately like whoosh and like a calm feeling. Because you’re not [inaudible] and you don’t realize it until you take them out. So I think that took me a really long time to adjust to is like the overstimulation from sounds that I wasn’t used to hearing. Like I hated them when I first got them. And that’s why I never wanted them in the first place. Like my voice was so loud, like my feet walking on the ground was loud, my hair was loud, like any like, as I’m sitting here now, they creak, right? They creak a lot. And so like I’m wearing headphones, because I have to wear them over my hearing aids to be able to connect to my computer, I’m wearing a beanie, which I always am, and glasses. So it’s just like constant noise. And so it did take me a long time to be able to filter out that. And then even without my hearing aids, yeah, there’s some sounds like especially in the frequencies that I have more access to that just really jive me. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten on the like in a fetal position on the ground, but I can relate to the experience of like, it sounds like drills, like there’s certain people’s voices that really, especially with hearing aids, like really, really, like grate and I just can’t stand it. Or if people are too soft spoken, I don’t even pay attention to them anymore. Like you mentioned about the conversations and not being able to like engage in the content. That’s true for me, but also, if I can’t hear someone, I’m just not even gonna give them my attention. It’s so like subconscious these days. Instead of asking people to speak up I would just be like, we’ll just pretend I’m listening to them but I’m really out there thinking about something else. So yeah, it’s kind of interesting. And I’m also like, I do feel like I have auditory processing problems. Plus, I’m hard-of-hearing, so yeah, it’s just a very interesting experience.

Amanda Antell: I just want to say I want to commend you for what you do on a daily basis, because as you were talking it just occurred to me, every time we’ve interacted, you accommodate me by wearing your hearing aids and your headphones because I can’t sign. So thank you very much for that. And I’m very sorry you have to do that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Thank you for acknowledging that. I think people don’t think about that a lot, right? I had someone in middle school tell me like, oh, you must be so exhausted from listening all the time. And I was like, you know what, you’re right, I do take three-hour naps when I go home. And I think that’s also undiagnosed autism and ADHD as well. But I realized I think I was managed a lot more when I was a child because I had to be forced to pay attention or else, I wouldn’t hear what was going on, right? Like I was forced to pay attention. And then around the time I got hearing aids is around the time that like, I started having, like struggling with things. I think it messed with my identity as like a person that was like hard-of-hearing and like considered disabled. But now I just like feel like I’m more part of the hearing world because I have accommodated to them. And yeah, so now I don’t necessarily have to pay attention as much. And maybe that’s why a lot of things started popping up with me in like the ADHD aspect to some degree because now I’m like, I don’t have to pay attention as much, so what am I going to do with myself? That’s kind of an interesting correlation. As an autistic person, like I’ve grown up in this one experience, and that’s my experience, right? I’m hearing, I speak, I hear; that’s the culture that I was raised in. I was not raised in Deaf culture; I did not know sign language. And so it is really hard for me to adapt to that change because like what I’m hearing is familiar; what this is is new. And while I do go to Deaf events, and I’m like, I’m just like, so fascinated, and I’m like, just so engaging with people, and I just feel different than when I communicate with hearing people. But yeah, it’s just really anxiety-provoking also because like my identity is like, I don’t feel a part of either world, like I have to accommodate too much to hearing people in this world, but I’m not Deaf enough, or whatever, to be considered worthy in that space. So it is a weird dance. And I’m just trying to keep it light and open and no expectations as I go forward. I mean like, I’m just going to be myself and you know, learn from my mistakes and, hopefully, find some community somewhere one day. But learning about autism to has also like allowed me to ask for accommodations more and be like we’re having a meeting, I need you to enable captions, because while I don’t always use them, it’s nice to have them to follow along with every now and then. And just getting better about asking people what I need instead of just–it’s so easy for me to just be like, nod along and pretend that I know what’s going on, or I can hear what people are saying, and I get enough information where I can engage. But then I leave feeling like, wow, I really don’t know what to take away from that because I really was not like myself in that interaction. So it’s interesting.

Amanda Antell: I also kind of want to give you credit for also accommodating the people in the Deaf community whenever you communicate with them, because you’re obviously signing in that situation, correct me if I’m wrong. But that’s another layer to your situation that I think you deserve all the credit in the world for that, not just a lot, but all of it.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: Because you’re accommodating literally two different worlds when you communicate. So that’s actually pretty amazing to me.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: And the fact that you’re able to do that so well.

Mackenzie Morrow: It is easy to feel guilty because you’re like I know my writing skills aren’t great. But it’s hard to learn a language when you get older, especially when you have memory and cognitive issues. But I’m determined to keep going because I mean, I am hard-of-hearing, and I could lose all my hearing one day. And if I could just already have a job in a community, which like I know and I’m immersed in, in a language that I know, then I won’t have to adapt when that happens, I will just already be in a world that is set up for me which is pretty cool.

Amanda Antell: And related to your identity, I don’t know, I’m obviously not a part of the Deaf community in any way, shape, or form, but I would say I don’t think you have to be Deaf enough or hard-of-hearing enough to be a part of a community. To me, it’s like if you can sign and build a community for yourself with whoever you connect with, I don’t think you have to feel guilty for that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: At least that’s my take on that.

Mackenzie Morrow: That’s just a personal struggle for me, in general, is just feeling guilty and not feeling worthy of identity spaces and communities. But, I mean, and I know that that’s not necessarily true. It’s always been a thing that has been a part of my mental dialogue, and so learning to let go of that is definitely what I’m trying to do.

Amanda Antell: I don’t want to kind of bring up toxic advocacy in this conversation because that’s a separate podcast, but I’m just thinking of that one advocate who, I think I mentioned this to you, where it was like we were kind of coming up with ideas to do, I forget what exactly the event was. But I think my idea was like having a community where, you know, people of lower income can like learn sign language for their Deaf or hard-of-hearing relatives. And it was just meant to be like, my idea was like, what I had in my head was like this community event for free. And this other advocate is like, oh, you’re profiting off of the Deaf community, or you’re appropriating, and I’m like, what? How am I doing that? And first of all, you can’t gatekeep language like that. It only takes one generation for a language to die, first of all. So that’s really counterproductive what you’re saying. And it’s like, wouldn’t we want to have more sign language, more people who speak sign language, or sign sign language, I’m actually not sure how to appropriately describe sign language, I apologize. But–

Mackenzie Morrow: I usually say like use sign language, yeah.

Amanda Antell: My point is, it’s like, wouldn’t we want to increase the number of people who know how to use sign language, so, you know, the Deaf community and hard-of-hearing community could actually engage and communicate with the wider population, right? I feel like, I don’t know, I’m not trying to like divert the conversation too much, but I always have found that extremely weird that people who aren’t even in different advocacy spaces who don’t even have the conditions, they want to gatekeep the community itself. And I just think that’s extremely toxic.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah, and I was like, well, I’m not part of the Deaf community necessarily, like I’m not Deaf, right, I’m hard-of-hearing. And I was raised as a hearing, so I don’t also feel like I have the right or the space to advocate on their behalf, right? Like, I only have my experience as a hard-of-hearing person and how I grew up to pull from in terms of that. And I totally wish that I had gotten an opportunity to learn sign language way earlier on, it was just never a part of the conversation in terms of like the medical field, that being diagnosed with hearing loss, like working with audiologists, and going into those appointments every six months. Like it was just never a part of the conversation. That’s so common in like the medical model of hearing. And so I think about that a lot of like if I would have started learning sign language when I was younger, things would just be a lot easier. And I feel like I would have had more opportunity to connect with people over the years instead of just feeling isolated. Yeah, so I’m all for, you know, supporting Deaf people in teaching a wide variety of people sign language. Yeah, it is hard when it’s like, I can’t speak to what the Deaf community wants, because I’m not Deaf myself. And as long as you’re learning from people that are Deaf, and they are being paid, or offering their time, and they want to teach it to people who want to learn, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Yeah, I think exposure is the biggest thing. Some people don’t know what they’re missing out on. That’s always been my experience. I don’t know what I’m missing out on until I’m given an opportunity to see it in a different light. Like even with injuries, like I didn’t realize how bad I had an ankle injury once until they put me in a boot. And I could like walk for the first time in two months. It’s a very similar experience to that of like, you often don’t know what you’re missing out on until you find out what it’s like to be included or have access to something. So the more resources the better.

Amanda Antell: And another thing I wanted to say, and the reason I kind of brought that up in this conversation, is just because I’ve experienced a lot of gatekeeping with autism advocacy myself from people who aren’t even a part of the autistic community. Again, this is going to be a separate podcast talk, like toxic advocacy. Basically, someone gets so attached to being your hero and your advocate that they think they’re doing the right thing by you, but they don’t actually talk to you about what you actually need or want from a situation. Like what you described just reminds me a lot of what I’ve experienced too, with people who think they’re doing the right thing by the autistic community, but they’re really not, and they’re really just kind of making things worse.

Amanda Antell: What happens is people who have autistic relatives, or people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, or really any disability, they just get so attached to being their hero and their advocate, they end up speaking over them. I think that’s what happens a lot of times. I don’t know if that’s your experience, but that was definitely my experience with my mom. It’s like I didn’t have a diagnosis, but she just wanted to fight my battles all the time. And I would just get so frustrated with her because a lot of times she just missed the point of what I even needed. Out of curiosity, what is your experience with that, if you don’t mind me asking, both as an autistic person, ADHD person, and someone who’s hard-of-hearing?

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Mackenzie Morrow: Here’s a couple things that popped into my head. I feel that way a lot with my family, like my mom and my sister. You know, they’re always like I’m here for you. This is more related to just my experience in general with mental health, but like I’m always here for you, you know, you hear that a lot. Let me know if you need anything whatsoever, like I’ll be there for you, right? And then you eventually ask for what you need and it’s not met. And it ends up being a very like almost traumatic experience to some degree. Like you finally ask for what you need, and then it’s like this horrible experience. Oh my gosh, you’re so selfish, or whatever. Why would I do that for you? I mean, that’s not just in my family. And maybe I put that on people, right? Like, it’s become sort of like a, what’s the word I’m looking for? I don’t know, projection, like you project these expectations or reactions on the people based on previous reactions. So then you don’t want to ask for help or what you need. Interestingly enough, I feel like I can never go to like, places alone sometimes. I think, because I feel like I need like emotional support, but also like, especially with COVID, I would just always prefer to go with someone because I couldn’t ever hear anybody with people wearing masks. So I would just be like, what did they say? And they’d kind of be like my translators to some degree, instead of asking people to like, try and communicate with me in a different way. I think being raised as hearing, you just learn that asking people to communicate with you differently is never usually met, like in the same experience, never met with a good experience. Especially when you say you’re hard-of-hearing, it’s a lot of like, oh, yeah, me too, like I struggle to hear too. But in reality, most of the time, they have like a normal level of hearing, so they don’t, actually know. There was a school experience I had in college where I had, like, maybe like six or so people in my room or someone else’s room when I lived in the dorm. And my set of hearing aids of the time came with this like tube thing that you like, put on the earpiece of the receiver. And then the other piece goes into like your ear. It’s like made for parents like so they can check the sound quality of their kid’s hearing aids. But I like let everybody in that room like set–I turned on the hearing aid for them so they could experience what a little bit of what that was like. We were like going from silent to like being turned on, and the little jingle that happens when they get turned on, to like then what happens afterwards. And every single person’s reactions really surprised me. They’re just like, oh my god, that’s awful. Like, how do you deal with that all day? And I was like, oh my gosh, you’re right! Like I just like, I don’t know, I didn’t realize because you adapt to things. But then people immediately forget about it, right? And they don’t think about the fact that I’ve asked them a million times to walk on my left side, because that’s my good side, or remember to look at me when they’re talking and stuff like that. It’s hard when anything is invisible, or like people can’t see it to the eye to forget. And so that’s why I think talking about things, and reminding people, and just speaking up for yourself more often, in general, when you’re dealing with something is it’s a good skill to learn in life. Yeah, there was some more specifics in that question, but I don’t remember what they were.

Amanda Antell: You basically answered kind of my question. And it was pretty off-topic compared to what this podcast was supposed to be about so I apologize about that.

Mackenzie Morrow: That’s fine.

Amanda Antell: But to me, it’s like, I want these podcasts to kind of be as natural as possible anyways. And to me, if this comes up, and you want to talk about it more, I think that’s better.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah, I agree.

Amanda Antell: Then again, I just want to say, I have like tremendous respect for you just what you go through and just what you have to do to accommodate people just for basic communication. So I can’t promise I’ll be perfect with you every time, obviously, but I promise you I’m never going to forget that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Appreciate that, thank you. Yeah, I’m always like so giddy when I realize, when someone does something like they do walk on the left side of me that they remembered or something, I’m like, oh my gosh, so weird that you remembered that. But it’s kind of funny.

Amanda Antell: It’s like if we ever hang out in person, it’s like, you’re gonna have to remind me of that, because it’s just because I’m not interacting with you on a constant basis, I’m just going to forget that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: But it’s not because I’m trying to, it’s just that my brain is just inconvenient sometimes. It’s the autism thing.

Mackenzie Morrow: I can relate to that.

Amanda Antell: Like I swear it takes me, like seriously, I can interact with someone for a whole month and I’m not gonna remember their name.

Mackenzie Morrow: I’ve become so horrible with names over the last decade that I just, yeah, I’ve just always asked people. I’m like I know I’ve seen you before, but I do not remember your name. And sometimes that happens like 30 minutes into the conversation. And I like can’t engage in a conversation because all I’m thinking about is like, what is your name? And I’m like, you just have to ask. It’s funny, I don’t know.

Amanda Antell: Would you say that your gender was one of the biggest barriers to getting your diagnosis with your ADHD, and probably in the future, your autism as well? Or would you say that there were other barriers? And what other barriers can you think of that were involved?

Mackenzie Morrow: I say definitely, I feel like that’s a huge piece, you know. I was assigned female at birth, like that’s how I was socialized and raised as a female. I have kind of questioned my gender and that since I was like three. I’ve always had this conversation of like, why does it matter if I’m male or female or whatever? Can’t I just be this person that exists that doesn’t have a label or, you know. As you grow older, and like especially going through puberty and like really accepting that like, hey, my body’s changing, like I actually am like a female. I say that with quotation marks, because, yeah, it’s just that’s just a body, right? It’s a body that I have to live with. But I think also, I don’t know if it’s possible that talked about this earlier, I think in general, women are asked to mask a lot more, to assimilate, to accommodate to not take up too much space. I think if you mix that along with like, however, you’re raised as a family, like my family had very traditional roles, like gender roles, and like, you know, the women, they get married early, and they have babies early, and they have families. And that’s what normal looks like to them, and what they kind of expect. And then, like I said, once you go through puberty, you’re kind of like okay, so I’m like this woman now and I have to like ascribe to these roles that people expect of me, because that’s just how I seem to survive was by doing what people expected of me or what I thought they expected of me. And then when I really started thinking about it, in later years, and like learning more about gender expression, gender identity, I was like, okay, I think I’ve can finally feel comfortable saying like that this is my experience. But I think for that reason, I think that’s probably a huge reason why females are typically not diagnosed earlier on. And the emotional thing too of, oh you’re being too sensitive. And it’s like, maybe I just am a sensitive person. Like, I’ve always been very sensitive in terms of like smells and clothes and whatever. Like–

Amanda Antell: Yeah, no, that answers it pretty well. The autism and ADHD studies were actually done on boys, originally, specifically white boys, I want to say like elementary school age, maybe up to middle school, but I don’t think it was even that old. That’s why it took so long for the professional mental health community to finally get it in their heads that girls and people raised as women or girls have ADHD and autism too. And it doesn’t have to be so severe on the spectrum. And I don’t even think autism and ADHD are really that rare at all, in either gender, or any gender. Honestly, it’s more like we’re getting a wider awareness of it, and a wider awareness of it now, just with the internet, and to a degree, media does kind of help with awareness with autism and ADHD, but I hate the way both conditions are portrayed a lot of times because a lot of times it’s very inaccurate. Or just in like one specific, like that very narrow scope that just, to me, does not help.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah. I was talking about that recently about, like social media, like TikTok and Instagram reels, they’re a very like high-dopamine thing because you get a lot of information in a visual way very quickly. So like what’s the harm in saying, like, I related to this content, I think that this is something to explore for me. Because I’ve never been exposed to information in a way that I couldn’t engage with and actually, like, understand, instead of like reading a long article, or whatever. So I’ve always thought that was really interesting, with like our very like high dopamine, high reward modern society. And like, I mean, neurodivergent is a neurodevelopmental thing, so it happens when you’re a kid and how your brain develops. And then it’s nothing that can be cured, it’s just like something that you have to learn to live with. And people need more awareness about it because it is very, very common, and it’s going to keep continuing to be common, because I don’t know, yeah, since people are learning and being exposed information.

Amanda Antell: Another thing I would say is that it goes into even the culture of each family itself. Because with my family, autism was never brought up because they didn’t know autism existed. Other families it’s like, there’s such huge stigmas against mental health, that even the even slight deviations from the from like, the normal or whatever you want to call it, it’s like they don’t want their children to be diagnosed, they don’t want to have this label which to me is very toxic. Because if you don’t have a label, you’re not going to get your needs met, you’re not going to know how to talk about it, you’re not going to know how to vocalize it. And that was my biggest problem for like the longest time. And that was something else that the mental health professionals told my mom when I was a kid, it’s like, we don’t want to put a label on her, she’ll probably grow out of it. And I’m like, I wanted to like find these people and just yell at them. Like you screwed me over my entire childhood. Thanks a lot.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah, it’s hard not to ruminate about that, right? It’s like if this one thing would have been done differently so long ago, like how would my life look now? You know what I mean?

Amanda Antell: We’re out of time, but do you have any closing comments or questions or any final thoughts on this?

Mackenzie Morrow: There was one thing I just wanted to quickly comment that I thought was funny. It’s like, isn’t it funny how everything in the quote, normal space, or like to be compared to is of a white male? Like, it just makes everything so hard, really. Like, that studies are not diverse enough with anything, and it’s just really fascinating to learn about.

Amanda Antell: I actually kind of find it depressing because I’ve actually done a lot of research about the foundational studies of autism and, not really ADHD so much, so I’m not going to comment too much on that. But it was very similar.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: And basically the gist of it is, it was white boys with specific privileges that researchers had access to, that it’s just what it was at the time. And it’s like girls and people raised as girls were just dismissed, just automatically, and people of color were barely considered even human. I don’t care what people say to me, really recently, like 1970s. I’m sorry. Like, I feel like–

Mackenzie Morrow: It’s absolutely true.

Amanda Antell: I don’t care what the textbooks say, racism is still alive and well, and it’s still it’s still reflected in our school systems. And like, I’ve talked to several people of color at this point about this too, and they are just like, yep, I have autism and ADHD. But I was always known as like the bad kid or something like that. And I actually remember in school, there was this Hispanic kid in fourth grade where I felt so bad for him, even though he was like one of the people who bullied me the worst. And I felt bad for him, because my teacher would put him in the back and then have his desk actually face the hallway. I remember that so well, because I saw it every day for five days a week, for nine months. I can’t forget that.

Mackenzie Morrow: Yeah.

Amanda Antell: And I would just feel so bad. And the way racism was taught when I was a kid in the 90s was that it happened specifically between white and Black people. And other races just weren’t even discussed, like Hispanic weren’t discussed Indian weren’t discussed, no one from the Middle East was discussed, and Native Americans obviously weren’t discussed. I mean, unless if we’re talking about in the context of Thanksgiving, which was presented in kind of a Disney-esque fashion, which was horribly inaccurate on all levels. And that’s kind of why I want to have these conversations and just how to change them. Yeah, we have these studies, we can kind of, we can kind of talk about them and use them in some way. But we need to also talk about how wrong they were, and how they kind of set us up for failure.

Mackenzie Morrow: Definitely, I think I ruminate that a lot about what I learned as a kid in school about certain topics and certain things. And it was all just so wrong, right? And I think that’s very destabilizing as an adult, because it’s like, we just need to be teaching kids from a young age, just including everybody, because that’s racism, ableism, all the isms are very alive and well. And they’re always going to keep changing unless we interrupt them. Just one quick little closing thing, interesting experience. My sister’s a teacher and their school is very inclusive. So anybody with learning challenges, behavior, challenges, whatever, they’re all in the same classroom together, which I was like, I wish we always had that, right. But she was saying that it’s really hard because a lot of the high-support kiddos don’t get the support they need because they’re not staffed well enough. And so then it just becomes really stressful for everybody. And I was like, oh, that sucks. There’s something that’s being framed in a positive light, like having this inclusive environment that not staffing or having enough teachers to really support it and make it a successful experience for everybody. And so I think that’s where a big focus is needed too, is like making sure that we’re like employing people to do these jobs, and not like adding too much work onto people that are already overstressed because nothing’s ever going to happen if you do it that way, you know.

Amanda Antell: So thank you very much for sharing your experiences today, Mackenzie. Like I hope this podcast was as enlightening as it was for me because I feel like I actually learn quite a lot from you just with you talking about your hard-of-hearing and just how it kind of plays into your autism and your ADHD. And again, I have tremendous respect. I really feel like whoever listens this podcast, I feel like everyone like owes you a lot of respect for that, like tremendous respect.

Mackenzie Morrow: Appreciate that. Yeah. Thanks for getting this started.

Amanda Antell: Thank you for listening through today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed hearing Mackenzie’s story as much as I did. As you can tell, each podcast conversation is going to be very different, even if consecutive episodes focus on the same topic. One thing to take away from this conversation is how two different people with autism experience this condition. Mackenzie and I highlighted many aspects of our autism and Mackenzie’s ADHD, including how we both feel kind of exhausted and energized by various levels of stimulation. I hope you enjoyed today’s podcast and will tune in for the final episode of autism versus ADHD in women and people raised as women next week.

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