This week I’m talking with Sally Willbanks, the founder of neurodiversity clothing line, ND Renegade. We discuss how she transitioned from being a well-known contemporary landscape artist to running a clothing line dedicated to neurodiversity; parenting autistic and ADHD profoundly gifted children; and the pros and cons of homeschooling to teach children life skills. Enjoy!
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About Sally Willbanks: After many years spent successfully building an art career in Australia, Sally found that parenting her incredible neurodivergent children required her to homeschool them. So, she shifted her entire focus to create ND Renegade, a contemporary apparel brand that aims to “shine a light on neurodiversity.”
Sally says: “We concentrate on producing quality clothing that focuses on awareness and acceptance of people’s neurological differences. We aim to make neurodivergent people feel proud and own their uniqueness. We believe the discussion about neurodiversity needs to change – we not only need to be aware of differences such as autism, adhd, dyspraxia and others, we need to accept and celebrate them.”
Join Sally and me today for a wide-ranging conversation about raising autistic and ADHD kids for success and happiness, homeschooling pros and cons, how she transitioned from painting to running a successful new business in just about a year’s time, and why neurodiversity advocacy is so important to her.
🎧 Rather listen than read this post? This interview with Sally Willbanks of ND Renegade is based off of Episode 21 of the Neurodiverging Podcast! Listen on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify
Transcript for Ep 21: Raising Successful Neurodivergent Kids
Introduction to Sally Willbanks
Danielle: Hi Sally, welcome to Neurodiverging. Thank you for being here today.
Sally: Thank you so much for having me.
Danielle: It’s so great to have you. Just to get us started, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, for listeners who are not familiar with your work?
Sally: Sure. My name is Sally Willbanks and I am Australian. And I’m actually a professional artist. I’m a painter, but I stopped painting to do my business which is ND Renegade. We’re a clothing brand that shines a light on neurodiversity. I also have two children who are neurodivergent.
Danielle: Awesome, thank you. Do you want to talk further about your children’s neurodivergences?
Sally: Yeah, with that we’re loud and proud. I have a daughter who is nine, and she is ADHD and she is also dyspraxic. And she has a speech disorder, a neurological speech disorder, called cluttering. And she is also gifted, and I have a seven year old son and he is autistic and he suffers chronic anxiety and he also is most likely ADHD and he’s also gifted as well.
Danielle: That’s great. Thank you. Your kids are like the inverse of my kids. I have an older seven year old autistic son and then a five year old ADHD daughter. So it’s kind of interesting having two different neurotypes, two kinds of neurodiversities in the same family and trying to communicate with each other.
Danielle: Every family is different but for our family, it’s both really exciting to see how different their brains are and how differently they think. And also, yeah, really challenging. When one person is stuck on their point of view, and the other person just can’t quite wrap their head around it. How old were your kiddos when they were initially diagnosed with neurological differences?
Sally: My son was the first one to be diagnosed, we actually realized at about 10 months, he was spinning plates. And I remember thinking, “Hmm, that’s what autistic people do.”
And then when he was about 16 months, he lost the ability to rollover. So my husband found him on the floor on his back, and he couldn’t roll and he was just stiff as a board and petrified. And from then on, we couldn’t lay him down on his back and or roll him or spin him in any way.
And then he had a whole lot of sensory issues all through age three, we saw an OT for sensory – no mess, couldn’t take his shoes off, wouldn’t open his hands because he didn’t want to touch anything. And then at four, we were pushed to get a diagnosis. But he was four years and two months.
And then over the course of the next few years, my daughter was flagged by my son’s therapist as something going on. And so we actually went to get her diagnosed for autism. And it turned out it’s ADHD and giftedness, and then you know dyspraxia are her problems.
Danielle: So I’m laughing slightly, because that sounds very familiar to me with my daughter. It’s interesting, because now that I know more about autism and ADHD and how they present, it’s obvious that she’s not autistic. But at the time, when we were initially trying to figure it out, there’s so many overlapping traits [between ADHD and autism], in some cases, that it can be really hard as a parent to simply see what’s going on.
Sally: She’s very quirky, which is where the [thought of] autism was. She’s an odd one. I mean, she’s awesome. But she is definitely a quirky girl. But she’s just quirky as far as I know.
Danielle: I would say in some cases, my daughter is more rigid and more prone to not wanting change in her routine and her plans than my son is, which is, I think, the opposite of what a lot of people think of when they think of autistic kids. But that’s just how it happened to show up in our kiddos. So yeah, it’s really interesting.
Sally: It is interesting.
Danielle: I love OT. I’m glad to have you got access to it with young, young kids. We had a lot of trouble accessing OT when my kids were very young, without a pre-existing diagnosis. I know it’s different in different places.
Sally: Yeah, we had actually a great team. It was a government-funded organization. They actually tested him for three days and then said, we can’t diagnose him with autism, because we’re not his pediatrician, but this is what we think it is, go to OT and then go from there.
Danielle: And you were saying that having different brains in your family can sometimes be really difficult. Is there more you can tell me about that? How does it show up for you as a parent?
Sally: Well, my son gets very, because of his anxiety, he gets very angry. And because my daughter is ADHD, and they’re prone to being more sensitive, and emotional, she gets very emotional. So the combination of the two of them causes a lot of difficulties.
My daughter likes to really move her body because, you know, she feels the need to at all times. And my son hates to see that extraneous movement. And so we get a lot of stop moving, stop dancing, and it’s constant. Yeah. So, you know, small things like that end up being big things, because it’s, it’s all day every day.
Danielle: Yeah. That also sounds [familiar] here… It’s less common for me to see kids with [the same traits as] my kids than I would like, I guess.
What Is It Like to Raise Neurodivergent Kids as a Neurotypical Parent?
And is there anything that you find is easier for you than for other parents of neurotypical kids?
Sally: Yeah, the thing that came easy for my kids was their reading. They both taught themselves to read, or learned to read at three with no help from me. So once they could read and their comprehension was all there as well, they have just taken on their education themselves. So that has been easy. I know people struggle with teaching their children to read at all ages, and I haven’t had that worry.
But that’s pretty much been the only easy thing. They’re sponges as far as intelligence goes, they are absolute sponges, and they surprise me with their knowledge all the time. Yeah. But other than that, everything else is more difficult.
Danielle: How do you see that working for them when they’re older? Do you expect them to be independent adults?
Sally: I do hope so. That is part of the reason why I started ND Renegade, because I don’t see them actually working in a typical work situation. I think they’ll both be entrepreneurs, they don’t follow directions very well. So I wanted to start a business where they can kind of just watch how business grows and develops and learn how to be in control of something themselves. So I kind of can see that more in the future than, you know, the standard job working for someone else.
Danielle: It’s really interesting to think about how different brains work differently, or how different brains function best in certain environments and propel themselves differently. I know, I’ve always done better with the kind of job that has… I’m autistic… a discrete list of tasks that I can just follow the tasks and they go and then the job is successful. I think also, that for my kids, that independence is something that I think about a lot, trying to figure out what kind of work would they be successful at, and what can I do to start them off on the right foot for that.
Because they’re so, they sound similar to yours again, that they are very clever, and remember things that I… my memory is not like their memory is. It’s so great. I have a very good memory for obscure research, like certain obscure things like, I’m very much a special interest autistic, I have, you know, certain things that I know really well. And I can do your three hour tangent on them. But I think normal everyday things don’t stick as well for me.
But my kids help me remember so many [things], without me asking them, to just remember what we’re supposed to be doing. What step comes after this step.
Sally: I always say, like sponges!
Danielle: It’s so great. It is something that I find very helpful, because I’ll just be standing in the room going, what am I doing? What am I doing? And my daughter’s like, you were making me a sandwich. And I’m like, Okay, got it. I can do it. That’s really good.
But yeah, and I think that’s a really interesting and excellent motivation for opening [a store]. Because moving from art, because it seems like you had a relatively successful, sorry for the background noise, a successful career. I saw you had several shows and everything for your painting, and to totally switch the themes like [that[, in my brain anyway, a very big gear switch to, you know, a clothing line for neurodiversity.
Sally: And it was. It wasn’t the idea to have a successful career. Well, it was going successfully. I even have a painting in Parliament House here in Australia. Yeah, I’ve got paintings in embassies, and I’ve done really, I have a very good dealer here, it’s hard to come by.
Um, he’s not thrilled. I spent many hours painting alone in my studio. And I just was so separated from my family. Painting is a very solitary process. And I needed to be not separated from them anymore. I needed to show them how to be independent and make your own money in something that included them rather than [excluded them].
Painting is not practical at all. And I need to make a more practical choice. So yeah, the many hours alone in the studio just got my brain ticking. And my last show was in February. So I finished up in December of last year, and I haven’t painted since then.
Danielle: Wow, that’s a big gap, I’m sure, after having done it for such a long time.
Sally: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I miss it. Yeah, of course. But it’s just not my time at the moment.
Why Did You Start ND Renegade?
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. And what went into your switching gears so completely? Wanting to be with your family and wanting to show them a different line of work that your kids could aspire to and learn the skills for… But why did you choose a clothing line specifically, and a neurodiversity clothing line specifically?
Sally: I wanted to do something still with art. And I’ve dabbled in graphic design over the last two decades. So I do have all the computer software and I’m an artist, I need to do something. Yes. Like my kids, I like creativity as well. So that kind of the design aspect seemed like a no brainer to me.
I just figured it had to be something that either [the kids] were interested in or was about them, and I’m so passionate about them and their future and letting them know that they should be proud of their differences. I just had to do it. I had to do a neurodiversity clothing line, and I couldn’t see anything out there either, that was comparable to what my idea was.
Danielle: Yeah, I think that’s very true. I’m not up on your competition to the extent you are, I’m sure. But I know that when I’ve been looking for more clothing, t shirts and stuff that is neuro positive, it’s not there. And I remember when I joined Instagram, when I started this podcast, that your account was one of the first ones that multiple other people were following and I was like, Oh, a neurodiversity clothing line! And then I was like, “Aw, they’re in Australia.” Which, like, you know, it’s great that there’s neurodiversity representation in Australia. But I was like, Wow, that’s a huge gap. Like, how is there not something like this [in the US]? Like, I’m glad you’re here. But also, it’s like, well, why aren’t you in every continent? You know, it’s really amazing that there’s such a huge gap in in that.
Sally: Yeah, you can find those very bold, brightly colored puzzle pieces. You know, like to look at a message that’s offensive. It’s just not good. Yeah. I needed to change it.
Danielle: Yeah. And it seems like it’s been going pretty well. So you only started doing this full time in January? Yeah, that’s about right when I started this podcast. So that’s a funny coincidence. You’ve been really successful, then in a very short period of time.
Sally: It has been good. I get messages from people, I’d say two or three times a week, private messages that thank me for doing what I’m doing now. it’s enough to keep me going, you know, whether they’re buying or not, you know, that’s not the point. I just, I want people to, I want them to be proud of themselves. And I want them to know that there are other people who aren’t neurodivergent, who are proud of them as well.
Danielle: Yeah. You know, that’s a really great message. And I think your designs do a really good job of showing the diversity within neurodivergence, in focusing on all the different kinds of aspects and all the different ways people identify. And again, that’s something that I haven’t seen another line.
Sally: I’m missing a few. Like, I can’t, I can’t figure out what design I would do for dyslexia, like I have all these [ideas]. But I don’t want to do just like “dyslexic and proud,” you know? Yeah. But, I’m working on it.
Danielle: There are so many different kinds of neurodivergent people, it’s hard, I’m struggling with the same thing with the podcast. Like, obviously, I don’t want to represent folks that I don’t have the experiences of like, I’m not dyslexic, I’m not going to speak for dyslexics. But I also want to do episodes that are informative about that. And I assume, in a different way, similar difficulties exist when trying to create clothing that you’re trying to sort of create a very small message that packs a big punch, you know,
Sally: I want the message to be subtle, because I want people to enjoy wearing the clothing. I want the clothing designed comfortably, it has to be tagless. But the message has to be there as well. And kind of coordinating all of that, you know, it can be tough.
Danielle: Yeah, that’s a big challenge. I also loved when I was on your website, I saw that you have some autistic models, and I assume other neurodivergent people model -s ome of the folks I didn’t recognize by sight, but some of them I did. How did you go about organizing that? Because I think that’s so great!
Sally: That’s just a challenge every day. Yeah, I just contacted a lot of we want people to, we want the world to know that these people are here to stay. And they are the game changers, and who can kind of poo-poo on that message? So a lot of people that I contact say yes, of course, sure, I’d love to do it.
Danielle: It’s just so great that you even went out of your way to find [neurodivergent models]! I mean, it should be like a basic level thing for clothing companies to do, but it’s so rare to see, you know, disabled models, fat models, like anybody who looks different than the average, and to see neurodiverse models is really fantastic for me – like people I’ve actually talked to, or people I actually know of, so that’s great. I love it.
Homeschooling and Teaching Life Skills for Neurodivergent Families
Danielle: So you said that one of the reasons that you started the clothing line was to help your kids learn by doing and learn how to be an entrepreneur by doing. And I know that we talked a little bit about how you homeschool? And how does that kind of learning by doing tie into your feelings about education for neurodiverse kids? For your kids, I mean, not generally.
Sally: Yeah, yeah, I can definitely speak to mine. But we have to homeschool because the kids just don’t fit the school mold. My son has terrible performance anxiety, like it’s shocking. And if he were in school, he would need a one on one mentor. And he’d need to be in the special ed class, which is fine, except that he is also profoundly gifted. So that crossover, it’s too difficult.
Like we’ve actually been to schools, and they said, Look, I don’t think we can handle your kids. We don’t know what we do with them. And our doctor, he’s brilliant. He’s a pediatric GP, and he specializes in autism, ADHD, and he just signed my kids off from going to school and said, they’re not fit for school. You’re doing better with them at home. But do not worry about the academics at all. Focus on things like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, catching a bus, going places on their own, just general life skills, paying bills, learning money, to get them fully functional so that when they leave the nest, they’re golden.
Yeah. So as far as education goes, we don’t sit and do schoolwork. I can’t, we can’t sit and do schoolwork. My son just doesn’t know, either. Yeah, yeah. My daughter, her attention span’s about three minutes, and she has trouble sitting up at a desk. She’s got low muscle tone, and she just slouches and slides off the chair. And so that’s, that’s one trouble and then my son, if you put any piece of paper in front of him that has a slightly challenging or different problem on it, and it is just the most horrific anxiety provoking sign, it’s just awful. So we don’t do it. We just don’t. we do the minimum requirement that we need to for school.
Danielle: Yeah. And a lot of the stuff that – we homeschool as well. We are new homeschoolers. I know I talked to you about this a little bit, for podcast listeners, I don’t know if it’s come up. We started homeschooling in early September, because we were trying virtual schooling where it’s done on the computer with teachers and it was just not working.
And my son who is seven and a half tried his best. He’s kind of a people-pleaser personality. He really wanted it to work. And he would sit there and he would do it. But he was not, he couldn’t tell what was supposed to be going on at what time and he’s not computer literate yet. He’s seven and a half. So he couldn’t click in, log into all the programs and move from tab to tab.
And my daughter who’s five is just like no, like ADHD five year old, like, Nope, not doing it. I got her to login at the beginning of the day for the like morning song. And at the end of the day for the closing song, because she likes music, but the whole middle she was just like, Nope, I’m not gonna do it. So, and then going, they did attempt to bring us back to physical school earlier this month. But it’s already gone back to virtual because the right COVID spike, you know, how we didn’t want to send them to real life school.
And so I just decided to homeschool. I talked to the kids. And I was just like, I think we can just do this at home. What do you think? And they, we all just decided to homeschool. And it’s been going really well because we can focus on practical life skills, like you’re saying, but also in ways that they care about because they’re minor and gifted in the sense that you know, and also they’re young, so who knows? Yeah, but they’re very smart kids and they’re motivated by what they’re motivated by, as I’m sure your kids are. And you can, if you can target the life skill in such a way that you’re, you’re using something they’re already interested in. It’s just so much easier to pick up so I can see why you’re home doing this.
Sally: I just make sure that the kids, we get out every day. So we do like a family tennis lesson. They do equine therapy. Um, we do swimming, we do homeschool group, you know, so I’m sure we’ll get out every day. And then there are things on their own and they do Minecraft and Roblox and among us and all the other things that parents worry about. And every once in a while I go, you got to do an app, you’ve got to do a map app so that I can write it down for you. Yeah. Yeah. That’s it. We live every day, just like it’s the weekend Really? Because I have no choice. I mean, I do worry about it. But what point is worrying about it? I don’t have a choice. Not at the moment.
Danielle: I personally feel that a lot. I’m sure Australian schools are different than American schools, so my comparison might not be accurate, but at least compared to what the things I learned in school that I actually use as an adult person with a family who, you know, organizes the grocery shopping and the household and stuff, and I work as an admin online. So I’m definitely one of those solo business people where I don’t have to talk to other people, I just do my job.
But with like those skills, I did not learn those in school, I got, you know, thrust out of high school or into college, I learned some of the organizational skills just to attend my classes successfully. But after college, most of it was I just suddenly, you know, thrown into the world had to pick it up. And I was lucky enough that I was able to, but it took much longer, I think, for me than most neurotypical folks. So if I’d had some of that, like, practical skills, education at home, when I was younger, like my kids or your kids, it would have, I would have just done so much better. My mental health would have been so much stronger in my early 20s especially.
Sally: Isn’t it? I think that learning those life skills, they can do it just literally by living. Life skills change with their age, and so they’re learning as they go. And they’re learning what they’re interested in. And they’re learning what they’re passionate about. Because they have the freedom to do it.
Danielle: Yes. And there’s none of this sort of false reward, or punishment/reward dynamic that you get in some schools where, you know, oh, you failed to do the thing. And so now you’re bad. And then there’s, it’s very hard to motivate yourself as an adult to do the thing that you constantly failed to do in school, at least for me, so it, it just messes everything up. So I really, I know, homeschool isn’t for everybody at all. But for some types of neurodivergent kids, I think it can be really helpful to break.
Sally: It’s very hard work for the parents.
Danielle: Oh, certainly. I feel very lucky. I wish everybody who wanted to do it could do it. Because I know lots of parents of autistic ADHD kids who would like to homeschool and just can’t do it.
So yeah, I feel very lucky about it. And I’m sure your kids are doing great like to be able to focus on the things you actually need to be a useful person and a compassionate person and somebody who, you know, can make connection…
Sally: Well, my kids need the most help with relationships, with relating to each other, with relating to their friends and other people. That’s where, that’s the struggles with neurodivergent kids, a lot of them. And that’s, I mean, that’s I just let them fly with that. I have to.
I have to let them go and play with the homeschool kids. And it’s different people think the home schoolers don’t get to be social. We meet up at the homeschool group every Wednesday and every Friday. And it is a full day exploration. The kids are out hunting and not real hunting, but like playing and exploring and they’re swimming all day. And it’s like two full days a week where they get free, absolute free play free.
And then usually another day we meet up with family and you know, do a river swim or something. Yeah. And they just get so much experience with that. And that’s what they need. They need that free connection with children. And that’s what homeschool is perfect for and most people don’t think about that. They think they’re antisocial but it’s the opposite.
Danielle: I think in in traditional schooling situations, you have this very falsely structured classroom situation where you’re all sitting in your little desks and you’re allowed to interact in these certain ways at these certain times. And I did personally fine in traditional schooling situations because I understood the structure and I understood what was expected of me. But then I got older and the types of things I was supposed to say changed, and the types of conversations I was supposed to have changed.
I was just lost like as a young adult, I did not understand what I was supposed to be doing because it was such a different situation, and an expectation of theirs but the people had for the situation. So I think again, same thing – if I had been given more, like, I had free play at home, but home time was limited compared to school time. So if I’d had more kind of free play time and more time to sit with feelings and the feelings of other people and think through that… I do a lot of that with my own kids because they’re very young. But you can say, Oh, you know, what do you think your sister’s feeling right now that this thing has happened and kind of have those emotional, deep dives into? Yeah, how to learn empathy and learn compassion, that there wasn’t really room for in the public schools.
Sally: I don’t know how, I honestly, my daughter was crying to me two nights ago, because she’s saying that I don’t spend enough time with her.
Are you kidding me? all day, every day, many of you had to go to school. You know, you get like, school, you have to do your homework. And if you didn’t have time to get an hour with me a day, there was no connection on time. Yeah, I’m on. I’m like, literally like I’m on demand all day like this.
Danielle: We’re around all the time. Me too. Me too. And I like it, because I can be sure that they’re getting connection. But when they were in school, even with my youngest, you know, was in first grade before COVID, at the traditional public school, and he was doing great. But I felt like I never saw him and I’m like, you’re six, you’re six, like, there needs to be more, there needs to be more parent connection.
Sally: We just moved up to this area where we’re living now. we’ve moved nine hours, about three months ago from where we’re going, because there was an education center r here that takes neurodivergent kids and other kids that don’t fit the school mold. And basically, it’s like a daycare, for kids aged five to 12, where they get to play and go out in the woods and make river bridges and stuff like that. And my daughter loved it. But my son just stuck into my anxiety being away, but I suffered anxiety. They’re only there two days a week and I couldn’t handle it, was ridiculous. I was like, Oh, I’m so used to having them home, I miss them.
Danielle: I have the opposite. I just really, I don’t want to send them to school in a pandemic, obviously. But I also am somebody who very much values my alone time, I think I have a challenge, right? It’s so it’s so funny, the parent you think, I don’t know, I have this kind of constant battle between the parent that is my ideal parent in my brain, and then the person I actually am in real life. And one of those is, I want to and I do enjoy, obviously, I enjoy my children very much. And I’m really glad that I can be here with them during this kind of time. And I, it’s really fun to do homeschool together and see what’s going on in their heads.
But at the same time, I am a slow processor. I think slowly, I need to like sit with my brain a little bit. Hopefully regularly, like every day would be great to actually figure out what I want to be doing and what my you know what my goals and my life, you know what I want out of my life kind of stuff. But also just to do basic practical, housework things, like it takes me a really long time to put together a grocery list, or to, you know, pull out all the stuff for dance this week, or whatever it is. And I don’t have that now. Now they’re home time. Yeah. And it’s I really do miss like getting them out of the house.
Sally: Yeah, I thought I was gonna love that break. That’s one of the reasons we live because I’m like, I’m gonna have a break. I’m gonna be in business. But by the second week, I was like, I don’t think I can do this. I just want them back. Yeah, yeah. You know, and that that tripped me out because I thought I was like, yeah, free time
Danielle: I know what that is like. Yeah, finding the happy medium is nice, because I didn’t like when my first grader was in school full days, five days a week, like that was too much. But then not having them gone at all, is proving to be a little bit too much in the other direction.
Yeah, and we’re also not the ideal homeschool in this situation because of COVID. So obviously, we’re not doing our groups, they’re just kind of here. I’m very, I feel very lucky to have two of them, so they can at least talk to each other. And, you know, they’re good friends at this age, luckily, but if it were happening when they were a little older, I don’t know that I would be feeling as lucky.
How Did You Come to the Neurodiversity Movement?
So I want to kind of backtrack a little bit. So you realize that 10 months that your son was spinning, which is very similar [to mine]. I feel like spinning is one of those very early like, Ah, this is a something different. My kid could spin, we were actually really proud, he could spin anything, like anything you gave him. It didn’t matter.
Sally: If my son at 10 months old crawling and spinning these I’m like, wow, that makes sense.
Danielle: We were just like, how did you even figure out how to spin it like it’s it’s so I can’t figure out how to spin it. It doesn’t spin but he was so motivated. And it was it was really wonderful. But how did you feel as a neurotypical person, like realizing how much neurodivergence was present in your family, especially, you know, now that your goal is trying to kind of promote neurodiversity and make space for that.
Sally: Going into it when my son was diagnosed, I was just devastated. I knew nothing about autism besides watching rain man, you know, just what the standard neurotypical person knows I, my world was just crushed. And no one could help me because my family, they’re all saying, oh, he’s gonna be fine, nothing’s changed. And of course, I knew that. But they knew as little as I did, they knew as little as I did. So I didn’t believe anything they had to say, Yeah, and I just started researching it.
And after about a year, after all the research, and the books, and the TED Talks, and the YouTube videos, and the podcasts and everything, and after that much therapy that we had, then I started to kind of come down and go, you know, I think this is actually going to be okay. And now I’m nothing but proud. So, no, last three and a half, four years, that’s a big leap from being absolutely petrified to being so proud.
Danielle: Yeah, I feel like the narrative of autism – and again, it’s probably going to vary because we’re in different countries – but at least where I am, the narrative is so negative that anybody with an autistic brain is not going to be functional or happy. I pursued a diagnosis because my son needed speech therapy, and we could only get speech therapy, if he had a diagnosis of a stroke or autism. That’s just the way. So I was like, Okay, he’s autistic, but the only reason I’m going to go get this diagnosis for him is because we need speech therapy. And the, the team that diagnosed him were so negative, it was so depressing.
They were so like, he’s autistic, like it was a cancer diagnosis or like, a lifelong… like it is I understand a lifelong developmental disability or set of traits, you know, depending on kind of the level and how it affects the person, but it’s also not necessarily the worst thing that’s ever gonna happen to you. I feel like a lot worse things have happened.
And also, like, for me, I didn’t realize I was autistic until after he was diagnosed. And so, for me finding my diagnosis was this huge positive of like, Ah, this is why I need all these extra things that other people don’t seem to need. Yeah. And that negative perception, like as a parent can be so traumatizing and so difficult.
Sally: That’s what I want to change. Yeah, I want to know that it’s okay to be neurodivergent. And when parents get that diagnosis for their kids, I want them to know that their life’s not over.
Danielle: I feel like it should be a neutral value diagnosis, like it’s not a good or a bad. It’s a this is how your brain works, Isn’t that cool?
Sally: You have to make accommodations going forward.
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s Yeah, I feel very frustrated. That. That is, I feel like especially mothers get that. Just since we’re the kind of traditional caretakers we still have, even though it’s changing a lot of this weight or feeling of it’s our responsibility to make our children’s lives, quote, unquote, normal people. And then when you get a diagnosis, and you’re like, I have failed as a parent, which is obviously false.
Sally: Oh, of course, yeah. there and you think about what could I have done? And what did I do to cause this or what you know? Yeah, of course, that all goes through your head, all these ridiculous, you’re in a downward spiral? Because you think it’s, you think it’s honestly the worst thing that could happen? Yeah. And it’s absolutely not.
Danielle: No, it’s absolutely not. I was really pleased when we got a diagnosis because it meant I could access therapies, which is an American insurance problem, but was still a very helpful, but also because the behaviors that I had been interpreting as negative or like, purposely difficult for my kid were not that; they were sensory issues. I just had no idea that they were sensory issues, because I didn’t know anything about sensory processing issues at the time. And having more information about it was definitely a net positive for us, just because it was like, Oh, my child isn’t actually trying to make my life horrible. He’s trying his best to like, fend himself off from this really terrible onslaught of sensory information. So having that information was just so valuable.
Sally: Yeah, there’s no understanding. So how can you move forward? How can you help them? Yeah, we got that knowledge.
Danielle: Yeah. That’s why I think it’s so important, what you’re doing and also why I started this podcast is just to get more information and more awareness and, you know, clothing is obviously a great way. I feel like if people were walking down the streets with You know, autistic on [their clothes]? That’s a little I know that’s a little bold, but like some of the
Sally: … the human side that comes …
Danielle: Yeah, that’s a good one. So like, if you saw one in 10 people or one, even a couple in every hundred people with that, wouldn’t it normalize it to such an extent, you know, that would be so fantastic. I want parents who are going into that process like I was, and maybe like, you were to just feel so much better.
Sally: Yeah, exactly.
Danielle: And, as a neurotypical person, are there other ways that you’ve otherwise, I guess you’ve had to like defend space or carve out space for neurodiverse Kids? Like, for one example, I know you mentioned briefly the schools. I know that parents here struggle a lot with wanting to keep their kids in the public school system and getting a lot of pushback from administrators and teachers, about their kid not fitting quote, unquote, in the classroom. And some of that is, you know, a difficult situation, but some of that is just a teacher not wanting to change their teaching style. How have you encountered that? Or what other places have you noticed?
Sally: um, I think it’s the same that a lot of neurodivergent people feel just living in a world like that. places on accommodating to neurodivergent people, the lights are always too bright, it’s not soundproof very well. And noises are too loud places are too crowded. You know, and it’s, that’s the same with school. It’s the same with going to the shops, it’s the same as going to the movies. It there’s just the world as it is. And I do think that spaces need to be more accommodating, particularly schools for the kids, I do think that they should be included in environments with all neurotypical because neurotypical kids can learn from your divergent kids. And vice versa. I mean, why not have them together? Yeah, but I do understand that it can cause difficulties if there are some children that need more help beyond the other children in the class. And I don’t know how to solve those problems. And I think that it’s going to be a long time coming before those problems are solved. But neurotypical people just myself included, just don’t understand neurodivergent people. I don’t know what it’s like to be autistic. I don’t know what it’s like to be ADHD, I can’t really take the word of my children and other neurodivergent people as a truth, because I can’t understand it, but my heart and my mind is open to understanding. I think that’s what we would need from the world.
Danielle: It’s very well said, I think it’s obviously I don’t know what it’s like to be a neurotypical person. I do think there’s a an assumption that neurodiverse people are going to have to learn from neurotypical people. But you’re right, it doesn’t go vice versa. It doesn’t go both ways. There’s no expectation for neurotypical people to learn autistic styles, for example, or ADHD styles. And that is very frustrating, I think, to a lot of us that were meant to to learn this totally kind of alien culture. And nobody is learning our language in return.
Sally: And it goes both ways. I mean, there are enough people out there for this to be worthy of change in should absolutely go both ways. Yeah.
Danielle: I absolutely agree. I think a lot of us agree. And, and also, you know, as neurodivergent advocates, we see that there is value in neurodivergent people’s approaches to the world, like your kids approaches my kids approaches, and they’re gonna be the future. So if there’s value in them, there must be value for neurotypical people. Right? Like the value exists for everybody for everybody.
Sally: And I think that a lot of things that neurotypical people struggle with like the sensory overload. I actually think that a lot of our new divergent people struggle with the sensory overload. I think that a lot of neurotypical people suffer with it too, but aren’t as aware. So I think they might go out to a mall or go shopping or to a restaurant. And subconsciously, they know that it’s too loud and too bright and too crowded, and they come home in a bad mood, but they don’t know why. They’ve just had the same sensory overload, but to a lesser extent, then an autistic person say would have going out there. Yeah, they just don’t realize it. So if the world listened to neurodivergent people and made it more friendly and accommodating, I think everyone would benefit.
Danielle: Yes. I mean, I have sensory processing issues. So my bias of like, I can’t think of a way that lowering the lights, and the noise wouldn’t help everybody. But obviously, my brain is known, but yeah, I can’t, especially women. I feel like the number of people. I’ve talked to who are neurotypical who wants to explain sensory processing disorder. They’re like, Oh, oh, that’s the thing that I have. You know, I have all the time. I’m sure men have it too. But I don’t know. I, you know, I? Yeah, it’s a really interesting conversation. So I’m sure like neurotypical people have it have the same issues as the ways and we’ve, the neuro diverse population has developed some mechanisms to accommodate it. Yeah,
Sally: Neurotypical people don’t feel it to the same extent, but I think that it just is like one of those underlying all this has put me in a really bad mood and they don’t know why.
Danielle: Yeah, yeah. I can understand that.
I guess, the two questions I have that I don’t believe we covered are? Well, I know we covered a little bit. Some of the reactions to your change of career, like you said, you’re dealing with a fan. I don’t know if you have anything else that you wanted to talk about regarding that. Or also, why did you choose the name?
Sally: As far as reactions to my career change. It’s there’s been a lot of shock and surprise, and I still got people asking, oh, how your paintings going? Well, they’re not I haven’t done anything in a while. And I still get a lot of emails from people requesting, you know, commissions and just I packed up my studio and I don’t have as we moved, I don’t have a studio and I didn’t have a place to paint at the moment, which is kind of crushing. But you know, I’ve got a I’ve got a study now that the computer in a tablet to design on everything, but it’ll come at some point. It’ll come.
Sally: I think that covers that. What was the other question?
Danielle: Oh, just how you chose ND renegade?
Sally: That’s right. Um, yeah, it was just the first morning when I knew that I was going to do the business I felt Okay, I gotta have a name. And I was thinking neuro cool. That’s where the near cool t shirt comes from. But that was actually taken that system scientific totally. Um, and I just wanted something that included the lettuce nd or near diversity in your division, and I wanted it to be a really strong sounding name because we need to provide these people with the messages is you know, pride and strength and and belonging. So I wanted the logo and then they seem to be very strong and powerful and going against the tide going against what mainstream believes. And that’s where the word Renegade came in. And once it came to me and Renegade I knew that was going to be the name and like, It was all available on Instagram and Facebook and the domain was there. I was like, Ah, that’s it. So once I got it, it was, you know,
Danielle: I was sold on it. That’s awesome. Yet the finding the domain is like the scariest.
Sally: Not easy, but it was so smooth this time!
What are some of your future goals for NDRenegade?
Danielle: I believe it. So it was meant to be. Yeah. That’s excellent. Thank you. And to start to wrap up, what are some of your future goals for NDRenegade?
Sally: The goals are to start conversations, to be in every corner of the world starting these conversations, to instill pride in neurodivergent people to make them no longer feel ashamed, and they are different, but different is good. It’s not a bad thing. And while we’re advocating for them, I want them to start advocating for themselves. And I think they can do that actually, by wearing a T shirt that says loud and proud. You know, I’m autistic, I’m neurodivergent. I’m ADHD. I think that’s a good stepping stone for them to start advocating for themselves, because it will start conversations, hopefully. Um, and we just need the world to understand your divergent minds and to show them the respect that they deserve.
Danielle: Absolutely agree with that. Thank you. And do you have a takeaway, or advice for others in your situation?
Sally: My takeaway is, my advice would be to get on Instagram and follow there. Be near divergent community on Instagram, I learned so much from Instagram. I mean, I knew I knew about neuro diversity. I knew the term obviously, that’s where the name came in. But I didn’t actually know that there was a whole movement. I didn’t know it was a movement. I didn’t know it was like a paradigm shift. I just knew you’re on university to people with differently wired brains. Um, but I didn’t know it was something that people could agree or not agree to. I just thought it was and that that was just how it should be really, yes. But I learned so much from the Instagram community, and I’m still making mistakes this day. It’s a community community that is actually easily offended, and rightly so. Because I’ve been misunderstood so much. And you can only learn from your mistakes. And I learned from reading and everything, but when I do make an error, then of course, I, I changed my wording and my phrasing, and, um, you know, there is so much knowledge to be had from the people who actually are autistic and have Tourette’s and bipolar and dyslexia and ADHD, we have to listen to those voices. And those voices are easily accessible on Instagram. So I suggest everyone wants to go to know more, go to Instagram, follow some accounts, start reading, maybe hold off on the comments for a little bit. Just get to know these people in this world because they’re so interesting. And there’s a lot, a lot to learn.
Danielle: I completely agree with that. I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with diverse folks on Instagram and all the education they offer. And although people do get offended, I don’t feel like they’re pretty, at least for me particularly hard to offend. Like, it was also so many just like any community, so many differing opinions on certain things. And so, yeah, there’s just so much to learn. It’s It is such a great community. It’s a really good, really good resource.
Sally: It’s it’s huge. Yeah, it’s great resource.
Danielle: That’s a really good idea.