Talking Drupal #374 - Neurodiversity

November 15, 2022
Today we are talking about Neurodiversity with Matthew Saunders.

Listen:

direct Link
Topics
  • What is Neurodiversity
  • People first
  • What got you interested in Neurodiversity
  • Youtube series My Neurodivergent Brain
  • How does it apply to Drupal
  • How can the community help Neurodivergent folks
  • How does this impact work relationships
  • How do you attend camps and cons
  • Is there testing we can apply to our projects to help
  • What are best practices in design
  • Will this be at DrupalCon
  • How would you improve the world for neurodivergent folks
  • Representation in media

 

Make your site experience aligned to your users by showing them content that share a taxonomy term with their user profile
Created to demonstrate how Drupal can make a site feel “customized” based on a user’s profile

Transcript

John P  
This is talking Drupal. A weekly chat about web design development from a group of people with one thing in common. We have Drupal. This is episode 374.

neurodiversity.

Welcome stocking Drupal. Today we're talking about neurodiversity with Matthew Saunders. Matthew started working on the web all the way back in 1995. At an experimental Dance Company in Ottawa, Canada, we're gonna have to ask more about that. This became an obsession with bleeding edge technology. His decades of experience in technology sphere as a project manager and web application architect segwayed into joining the Drupal community in 2007. He has spoken at a number numerous Drupal, cons and Drupal camps. Matthew is on the Drupal con Denver Organizing Committee is chairperson for Drupal, Colorado, was on the association board and helped found the EO WG the event organizer Working Group. His day job is at Pfizer, as director of technology as the health care provider portal delivery lead. Matthew, welcome to the show. Thank you for joining us.

Matthew S  
Thanks. Thanks for having me.

John P  
Absolutely, I'm interested to jump into this topic. But before we do that, I'm John Picozzi a Solutions Architect at EPAM. And today, my co hosts are Nic Laflin, founder at enlightened development.

Nic L  
Good afternoon.

John P  
And Randy Yost, Creative Director at Four kitchens and product lead of Emulsify.

Randy O  
Happy to be here once again.

John P  
All right. And now, to talk about the module of the week, let's bring in Martin Anderson-Clutz a Senior Solutions Engineer at Acquia, and a maintainer of a number of Drupal modules of his own. Martin, what do you have for us this week?

Martin A  
This week, we're going to be talking about a module called views user term filter, it allows you to filter the results of a view to ones that share a taxonomy term reference with the current users profile was created earlier this year back in July of 2022, currently has an alpha to 1.0 version available that supports Drupal eight, nine and 10 doesn't have any open issues. And it's actually only currently in use by two sites. But maybe the show will change that. As I mentioned, it's a module that I made and really was, is designed to try and demonstrate the power that Drupal has to to make a site feel more customized, especially if it's a site that has kind of authenticated users, the idea being if you're showing a list of information, then you can narrow that down to to information that aligns with something that a user has specified on their profile. So could be you know, what region they're in, you know, if they've indicated primary interest, those kinds of things to be able to, to help make the site content feel more more customed, to what you know about them. So wanted to maybe open this up to the grouper for these kinds of use cases, you know, what kinds of solutions have Have people been using? Before this module is available?

Nic L  
Typically, I would do some sort of like, configuration node, right, or object or something where it might be on their user profile. So it still kind of looks like they're editing it there. But it's just some sort of like, this is some sort of entity that holds some fields that has some configuration, and then you just build a view to react to that, that information. But it seems like this is, I guess, my main question is how my question always with these types of utility modules is How, how strong are the assumptions? Can it work with multiple vocabularies? Can it be multiple? Can they choose multiple taxonomy terms? Or is it really just meant to be you have one category that you want one vocabulary that you choose? And they choose one value, and that's how it works.

Martin A  
So again, because it is a newer module, I would say that that the initial use cases were really more around kind of the simple use cases. But that being said, if there was a need to, to make it work better with more complex use cases, then, by all means, you know, we'd love for somebody to throw that in as either a bug report or feature request and would, you know, I think it would be excellent if it could work for a variety of use cases, not just the simple one that it was originally written for. Absolutely.

John P  
It's interesting, I recently had a request or a need in a project to kind of gate content based on certain and attributes of that content and determined the taxonomy was the best way to do that. This, this module definitely is something that would have come in handy, or, or could have come in handy when I was kind of looking at that I think I used like more of the taxonomy access permissions module set to resolve that problem. But this, this module definitely kind of fits into there where where, you know, I can set a term for a user or a couple of terms for a user and kind of gate content for them. So that's definitely another use case.

Martin A  
Yeah, when I was setting up the use case, I had actually hoped that maybe I could use a token to sort of achieve the same thing. But in at least in my experience, I couldn't get the token approach to work. So rolled the central module.

Randy O  
I think this is awesome. Anytime we can add some personalization to an experience for users. It's it improves the experience for users. So I love the concept.

John P  
Thanks, Martin. If you have a suggestion for Module of the week, let us know on Drupal slack and the talking Drupal channel. Now, let's jump into our primary topic. So Matthew, before we dive deep into neurodiversity, right, this is something that you know, a term I've heard of. I mean, I don't think I'm as as familiar with it as I should be, can you kind of give an overview of what is meant by neurodiversity and being neuro, neuro diverse?

Matthew S  
Sure, I should start by saying that everything I talk about here is my own thoughts, my own ideas, and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer. Okay. Yeah, thank you. So, people are different, right? They've got different capabilities, different talents. And neurodiversity is the range of differences in brain function, behavior traits, it's generally regarded as part of the normal variation in human population. However, in this context, it's used to talk about folks who have attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders, and anxiety disorders. So it's sort of this this notion that people people consume, consume the world around them differently. And there's this notion of what's normal, but it's a it's a spectrum. So there's this normal range right in here, which most people you know, 80 80% of people fall into. And then you've got a range outside of that center, where, where, where people are considered neurodivergent or neuro diverse, but the whole idea is that everybody is a little bit different.

John P  
Interesting. So it sounds like it encompasses a wide variety of, of, of things. You know, I don't want to call them necessarily, well, maybe they are disorders. I mean, what's the, what's the appropriate terminology there? Matthew?

Matthew S  
Yeah, so a lot of people have moved to the terminal learning differences, right? When I was when I was a kid, they were called learning disabilities or learning disorders. And that's kind of fallen out of, out of, you know, out of out of style. And mostly, I think, because because people are trying to be as, as inclusive as possible. And the idea that somebody is disabled, is a is a pretty is a pretty, it can be a pretty sort of shocking notion, right? Most people, most people don't want to be referred to that way. Most people want to be seen as whole whole people. Regardless of what kind of challenges that they've got in their lives.

Randy O  
I just have a question about, like, you were talking a little bit about like language, and that got me thinking like, you know, I know a lot of individuals with disabilities, there's typically like a People First language kind of situation, like referring to someone as like, you know, I, I'm blanking on any example, the only example that's coming to my mind right now is the deaf community, which does things both ways. People First, as well as also, like, you know, disability first, but I'm wondering, like, when it comes to neurodiversity, like, what are some terms to like, say with that, like, do we say that a person has ADHD? Do we say that a person has autism or is autistic, like how do we talk about that? That's a really,

Matthew S  
really good question, actually. And, and I'm glad that you brought it up. There's a lot of nuance to it, right. So first off, ADHD isn't really a thing any longer. It was removed from the DSM and number of years ago, so everybody, everybody who has this whole whole notion of ADHD which is, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it has been, it's all been sort of rolled into the ball of ADHD, attention deficit disorder. And the hyperactivity stuff came in mostly because of little kids and their, their, their propensity, you know, when they were weren't able to concentrate so, so well, of bouncing off the walls. And so a label was added to that to that particular particular situation. However, I'm going to give you a concrete example of of how to think about referring to folks with different kinds of neurodiversity. So the whole whole whole notion of Asperger's Syndrome came from the research of a guy, a guy by the name of Dr. Asperger, who was part of the Third Reich. And they were doing experiments on on, on on children at the time, sometimes euthanizing them. But until recently, the details around that weren't, weren't, weren't made, weren't public. So they're the whole idea of Asperger's was in fashion to, to, to refer to people on the autism spectrum, who were high, who were high functioning. autists. Right. And, and when this when this whole notion of what Dr. Asperger was actually doing came out, it created this, this almost a rift and the whole Asperger's diagnosis got rolled into autism, the autism spectrum at that point. Now, there are a lot of people in the, in the Asperger's community who don't like being lumped in that way. Because there is a notion that somebody who's got autism may not be as highly functioning may not be as as capable, or may be more different from a neurological standpoint than than, than other people. So you need to listen really carefully to people in in the community as to how they want to be referred to. So for example, if you hear somebody who says they're neurodivergent, and they're on the autism spectrum, you should, you should refer to them in that in that in that way, you shouldn't refer to them as being in you know, having Asperger's. But if you have, if somebody, you know, approaches you, and they and they, and they and they, again, I'm neurodivergent, and but I'm an aspie, they're making a very clear statement to you how they want to be referred to. So I would liken it to to how how we're, we're referring to gender these days, right? It's a very similar sort of dynamic where, where people want to be able to identify in the way that they want to identify with, and they want people to identify them in that way. And it's totally okay to ask, yeah,

John P  
I like, in my, in my brand, sorry, Nick, in my brain, I just had this like, I don't know, I don't know if I want to call it an epiphany, but I just had this like light bulb go off where it's like, you know, people went in education, right? People are classified as like visual learners or audio learners like, this feels just like an expansion of that where people could be, you know, need the information in a certain way or a different way, in order to be able to understand it better. Is that Is that a fair analogy?

Matthew S  
It's absolutely true. That's what what special education is all about. Right? It's about helping kids who, who, who may be extraordinarily intelligent, learn in different ways. As a good example, I still don't know my times tables. I've never learned them. And but I've got tools that allow me to to get around those those kinds of deficits. Has it affected my life as a professional in any meaningful way? Absolutely not.

John P  
I am with you on that one. I also would like to interject there a little bit. Like, to me it just feels like education. Like I don't know that we need to label it a special education. But that's that's a that's a different thread, I think.

Matthew S  
Sure, sure. But but let's let's let's be clear that when when a kid needs accommodations around the way that they're being educated, in, in, in our system in the United States, you go down the path of getting an IEP for your for your kid, and all kinds of things for those accommodations. Right. And remember, I'm a I'm a product of my generation, right, I'm a Gen Xer and I accept the fact that maybe special isn't the right word, but but it it does it does encompass way, way, way more than than then you might think I would, I would, I would say that the you know, when you're dealing with like, gifted and talented as well, that's special education, it's catering to a specific need.

Nic L  
Yeah, exactly. And going back to kind of the classification discussion to, I think one of the, one of the important things is, it's very difficult to work through things if you don't have a language, a common language to talk about something. So like, if you're trying to find the best way to serve a population, or best way to be functional in your job, or whatever you're looking for having that classification, that language, even if it's sometimes imperfect, is helpful, because you can, you can build a language around it, but on some level to people, people can advocate for themselves, too. So what you were saying, Matthew, like, however, people identify, you know, might change from person to person, and people can so they can advocate for how they want to be identified. And there's no substitute for finding out how, you know, how an individual might want but you know, as a group, or as a class, like having that language, you know, as it's been, it's evolving, you know, it's not, you know, people, people didn't come up with the perfect way to name stuff in the beginning. But having some way to talk about it in this is true programming, too. I mean, I'm literally dealing this with this with a client right now we have, you know, you're building a bunch of different components, you kind of throw them together, and then at some point, you go back and go, Okay, we called it an h ref here, and we call that link URL here, and we call the link dasheroo. URL over here, let's have a discussion about whether or not we should be consistent or if they really should be different names. Naming is hard. That's true, whether it's in how you identify or in programming.

John P  
I think I want to I want to clarify my point to it wasn't that like, I don't believe in special education, like I very much do, I just feel like we need to change our norms to say, like, it's education, and like whether you need to learn in this way, or you need to learn in that way, or you have, you know, you need some sort of help with how you're learning like, we should just be like, more inclusive, I guess, instead of kind of sectioning people out, it was all I was trying to get.

Matthew S  
And that's, that's absolutely a valid point. When I was when I was growing up, when I was a little kid, I was identified with a reversal problem with hyperactivity with a with an opposition problem with an A with a with a, with a short term memory problem, all kinds of things, we've got better labels for now. And what what what happened to me was, I was because they had no way of dealing with a kid like me, I was an experiment, and I was put in both the remedial program and also the Gifted and Talented program at the same time. And what this practically meant was, I didn't fit in anywhere, the kids, the kids who were in special education, didn't want to have anything to do with me, because I was I was in the Gifted and Talented program, and vice versa. And the normal kids never had anything to do with any of those groups. So I ended up going through my life because of those boxes that you're talking about John, extremely lonely, until I got to university. When when all of the people that were part of that stigma, were no longer part of my life, where where I was able to start rebuilding who I wanted to be him. So I hear you, I hear you loud and clear on that. Those those kinds of things are tough.

Nic L  
I think and we'll we'll get back to the agenda after this, I think but I think it really highlights to the trope where people you know, not having that common language is a hindrance as well, because, you know, people, you know, I have friends and stuff, sometimes we'll be like reading something, they'll be like somebody like, you know, I have ADHD, and they'll be like, these are my symptoms, like, that's not add, I have those same things. It's like, well, yes, you should talk to a doctor, you probably if you have those same struggles or same say I don't want to say symptoms, but same, you know, behavior patterns or things that you have to deal with. And there's now tools to help you with that. And having that language helps people realize about themselves too.

Matthew S  
And, and the truth is that those morbidities overlap between different different different kinds of, of issues. So it takes it takes some some real, some real introspection of you know, yourself, but also working with somebody who, professional who really knows these things in order to identify the right path to go down. Yeah,

Nic L  
absolutely. So so if we take a step back for a second, Matthew, what got you interested in neurodiversity?

Matthew S  
Oh, man, so I touched on it just a few minutes ago, right when I was talking about being part of the part of the The remedial program, part of the Gifted and Talented program and all of that. But, I mean, the fact is that I've known since I was small that I was different, back then wasn't called neuro divergence, right? It was called learning differences or learning disabilities. And my my issues were, were were serious enough that I was legally entitled to accommodations from the Canadian Ontario governments. And this is back in the 80s. Like, the, the idea that you'd be entitled to accommodations in the 80s is sort of nuts. So that's sort of, I lived with that for a good chunk of my life. And it went through high school, and then through university where I sort of stumbled my way through. And then a number of years ago, quite a few number of years ago, we, we, I ended up spending a good chunk of time researching my daughter's own challenges. We adopted her from social services at the age of five, and her experiences that she she came to us with, were pretty, we're pretty rough. And that that led to me to, you know, to read and go into classes and seminars, because I really needed to understand as much as I could about her own neuro divergence, so I could be her advocate. And during this research, I had light bulb after light bulb after light bulb go off in my head, because I was recognizing things that I was learning about in myself. And I was just like, it was it was it was just like, like these, these these fireworks in my brain. So in a very real way, if it hadn't been for my daughter, I would have just continued coping, and I wouldn't have known that I had ADHD or dyslexia. And I certainly wouldn't have understood come to the explosive realization that I was personally on the autism spectrum. So all of that led to my really wanting to dig in, and and learn as much as I possibly could about neurodiversity, neuro divergence, coping mechanisms, those kinds of things.

John P  
And this, I mean, this was purely like outside of like, your day to day, your day to day job and work. Right. You were doing this like, of course,

Matthew S  
yeah, of course. Of course, of course, because we were in a in a situation where, where my daughter really needed accommodations, and the school system wasn't providing her with what she was honestly legally entitled, and entitled to. And I needed to build up enough ammunition that that either either they were going to say yes. Or, or they were going to find themselves in a legal entanglement, right. And I'm a bit of a nerd, like a lot of us in, in in tech are right and, and what I found was I ended up nerding out entirely on this stuff. And, you know, it's led to it's led to some pretty pretty awesome experiences, talking to other people doing doing doing talks at conferences, like Drupal con and Drupal camps. And, and the reason that you reached out to me, John, on this, the series of videos that I'm doing right now, short videos that I'm doing right now on YouTube,

Randy O  
which is something that I wanted to ask you about. Ai, can you tell us a little bit about that video series? It's, it's called what my neuro divergent brain? Right?

Matthew S  
Yeah, it's based, it's based originally, on the the talks that I've been doing at conferences, right. And, and what I found in the conferences was that the the, the, the, the nuggets that did that the points that I was going through, like anger, joy, oppositional behavior, those kinds of things, there were different people who had different reactions, good and bad, to the different areas of the of those talks. And I also found out, you know, from folks that I was talking with that, that they they found it difficult to keep up over the over the entire, you know, 45 minutes hour, around around the different areas that I was that I was talking about. So what I've done is I've broken up the concepts that I've been that I've been discussing for the last three years, and I've and I've bundled them into, into four to eight minute videos, the idea is that you can, you can go in, you can find out about one thing, and and and you don't have to you don't have to spend a lot of time on it. You don't have to invest a lot into it. And you don't have to have a ton of background around it. And and it's very new. I've only been doing it for about two months. But I'm hoping I'm hoping that that that it helps folks out there who who found themselves in you know, similar challenges as my own.

John P  
We'll definitely put a link to that in the show notes for listeners who want to check that out.

Randy O  
Now, the videos, are they geared towards people in technology? Or are they more broadly applicable.

Unknown Speaker  
So I think they're more broadly applicable. But the fact is I come from, because I come from, from a, a tech background, almost everything that I do, is wrapped within the context of, of, of technology. That said, there is a lady who runs a Facebook group called What in the ADHD, who's been very, very interested in in, in, in the stuff that I've been, that I've been doing on on that YouTube channel, they've been gracious to allow me to post in their private, private group, and so on. So I feel like despite the fact I approach life, as a technologist, the general the general learnings, and are applicable to pretty much anybody out there who might find themselves on the spectrum or, or have ADHD or dyslexia.

John P  
Just out of curiosity, this goes back to something you said a few minutes ago about you giving talks and people you know, enjoying them or, you know, having good reactions and bad reactions. I'm just curious what the bad reactions were.

Matthew S  
So I think it's sometimes hard for people to recognize in themselves as they're, as they're, as they're emerging in terms of their own own self realizations.

John P  
So like a little bit of denial, I

Matthew S  
think there is sometimes Yeah. You know, you earlier on, it was said, you know, I, I was talking about my ADHD symptoms, and and, and, you know, my friend said, No, there's no, no possibility, right?

The I've got those symptoms, right. Like, there's, there's a lot of that out there. And, and people don't want to be labeled, right. People want to be seen as as, as being as being especially young people. Right. So I look at my daughter's my daughter's cohort, she's 22. And there's nothing worse at at that age than being seen as something different than than your peers. There's a strong desire to fit in and not not be not be different than then then other than other folks. And I think sometimes, you know, there there there there are folks outside that at the outside that spectrum, of course, but I think in general, people want to tribe, right. And they don't want to fall too far outside the boundaries of that tribe.

Nic L  
Yeah, I will say, though, I think you know, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I do feel like, that's definitely true. On an individual level. Still, I think more as a community, though, because people are talking about it really is being D stigmatized, too. Absolutely, absolutely not perfect, but it's definitely, I think it's definitely moving in the right direction, people are more willing to get the help or that they need or, or even learn, you know, look for resources, that kind of thing.

Matthew S  
Absolutely. That's why I do these things. Right. I came to the conclusion, you know, what, pretty secure in my career at this point, I've been doing doing my work this kind of work for nearly a quarter century. I'm not going to find myself self in a position where I'm not hireable because I talk about my own my own life experiences. And I, I talk about the kinds of things that that I'm the kinds of things that I think other people experience as well, to the extent that at work at Pfizer, they they asked me to do a keynote, for the for the, for the entire entire digital practice at the at the at the organization during one of our during, during one of our internal conferences just on this topic. So I do think that there's a whole lot of effort to to d stigmatize the whole whole notion of what neuro diversity is, what neurodivergent people are. And and and I think a big, big part of it is that lots of lots of people are realizing that they may nibble on the edges of it, right? Because it is a spectrum. And I think that helps for folks to know they're not all that different than one another.

Nic L  
Yeah, you're not alone.

John P  
It's funny. I was I was coming back when we talk about topics like this and I And I know we've talked about, you know, accessibility topics in the past, and I like, we're all just people. And we're all we're all different. And we all need to be more accepting of the fact that we're all people. We're all just different.

Matthew S  
But Yep, I agree with that.

Randy O  
The more we talk about it, the more it normalizes, and the more it normalizes, the more people are okay with like, you know, becoming or acknowledging that they're part of like whatever groups, you know, or like, you know, like, it's, it's comfortable to be able to say, I am neuro divergent in this way. Whereas maybe like, when we were kids, you know, that was something we weren't going to do. Sure, sure.

John P  
So this is a Drupal podcast, as indicated by the title, I'm interested to hear if you could tell us some of the ways, you know, neuro divergence applies to Drupal, and the community.

Matthew S  
Sure. So I'd start by saying that it's estimated that about 1% of the population has autism spectrum disorder. And then when you when you move into the, into the, the software development industry, you move into tech that jumps to roughly 4% of us self identifying, right, this isn't the people who who, who haven't haven't realized it or, or, or have, or are masking and don't want other people to know, 4% are self identifying. And then then when you take a look at the population around add, 4.4% of the population has ADD, again, that jumps up to about double that, when you're when you're talking about the the the tech industry, and I would, knowing a lot of technologists, I would say it's probably quite a bit higher than that. Right. But again, this is self self identification. And then finally, roughly 20% of people have dyslexia. And a lot of a lot of those those, in those circumstances. A lot of us didn't even realize it until we were quite a bit older. And that also jumps when you when you get into the tech industry. Now, what I'll say is that, that folks like myself, who who are artistic, who have been successful in school and have managed to, to build the coping mechanisms around how to how to work with others, and living a, a neurotypical world, a lot of us do gravitate to industries, like software development. And because of our nature of wanting wanting a tribe, it's also very common for us to, to gravitate to open source communities. So what I see and this is this is purely anecdotal, my working within open source in the Drupal community, what I see is this sort of concentration that's occurred, right, of really, really smart people that don't quite fit in, in in the rest of the neurotypical world. But I think, I think that with a little bit of understanding and a little bit of effort, both from the neurotypical standpoint and the neurodivergent standpoint, we can we can put ourselves in a place where we all understand one another, much, much better and, and, and can work together and really, really creative and positive, positive ways. So that's a long way of saying the Drupal community is is a concentrator. It's, it's a it's a it's a place where a lot of us have found a home. And a lot of us may not even realize why we found the home that we found.

Nic L  
I'm definitely glad to hear that. I'm curious, though, you know, if we can we can spell some of that out. So as as a community, how can we help neurodivergent folks, you know, not just, you know, be comfortable, but participate be part of the community? How can we help?

Matthew S  
Yeah, so there's so so many ways, and more than I can talk about during this particular

chat, but and I'm going to add that I can I can speak to my lived experience. But I think my lived experience is common common to others. So let me touch on a few things. I'm going to start with anger. My experience of anger is different than than the experience that other people might have with anger. So for me, my feelings of anger are almost never directed personally towards another person, right. I I may be angry about a situation, I may be angry about a circumstance. And until I learned to cope, and, and, and, and rein in those angry feelings they could come out as extraordinarily oppositional outbursts really, really disruptive really difficult for other people to understand. However, when those feelings fade, and they that can happen incredibly quickly, there's no feelings that I have of animosity towards the person or people that it might seem that that anger was, was directed towards. So that can be extremely confusing for the for the person who, who thought that I was angry with them, or the people or the group of people. Because they can't understand how somebody can, you know, do a 180 so quickly. It's also really confusing for somebody who's neurodivergent like myself, because they can't conceive of why somebody still upset with them, after they've let go of the of the irritability. So, so I think when you're when you're when you're, when you're working with people on the spectrum, please consider that their feelings manifest differently than than other people's might. They feel deep, deeply about things that you wouldn't expect, necessarily, that they feel feel deeply about. And I think that it's super important to avoid approaching this as an overreaction. So if you say to somebody who's upset, who's neurodivergent, you're overreacting, all you're going to do is add fuel to that fire. Under certain circumstances. It'll make the situation even more challenging, and it makes it makes the person feel like those feelings are less valid or real, then then, at least in the opinion of the person that's talking to them. So for me, I found that it's totally fine for somebody to say, hey, what's, what's up? What are you feeling? Why do you feel that way? And I'm totally happy to talk about these things, as long as those feelings aren't being dismissed. So if you're in a long term personal or professional relationship with somebody who's neurodivergent, it's really helpful to learn what triggers them, and are likely to lead them to these extremes. So you can help an awful lot just by understanding just by by by sort of starting to get a sense of where those triggers occur. Another thing is that people's names can be baffling to a lot of us, so I'm looking at the screen. And honestly, I don't remember any of your names right now. And, and that that isn't that isn't because I don't want to, but names go out the window completely, particularly when you're under stress. And, and, and over stimulation, I can even forget the name of a close friend. Crowds freak me out, there's just too much stimulation, I get anxious, just going to a shopping mall. I find it exhausting, meeting new people figuring out how to negotiate those relationships. So if I'm going to be in a situation like that, often pick one person who I know and trust and I'll say, keep an eye out for me, I'm uncomfortable, and they may need a way out. So if somebody on your team is on the spectrum, and they say to say you say to you that they're experiencing too much stimulus, believe them, help them get to a quiet, quieter place, lower lighting can help. And really, really don't be offended if they if they if they can't remember your name. If they asked you to remind them of it of your name, just tell them it's not it's not anything personal. It's just, it's just just the way that the brain is wired. For me, it's the same with books and TV shows, I recognize faces immediately. But putting putting names to faces is really, really, really, really tough.

John P  
So I want to dig into this a little bit because you said a couple of different things there that they were all they're all great and provide great insight, but I want to I want to dive into a couple of them. And then the first the first one I think is work relationships, right. So you talked about having, you know, obviously as we all work with people, we develop relationships with people, right? Can you talk a little bit about how you how you manage your your, your feelings, your your your neuro divergence in a work setting, is it something where, you know, you tell your fellow co workers like this is this is kind of how I roll or is it? You know, is it something that you just kind of handle on a case by case basis?

Matthew S  
So to answer that question, I have to go back to my late teens and early 20s. So I meant I talked a little bit about A little bit about my experience with being both in the the the special needs program and also in the, in the gifted, intelligent, talented program, and how that experience followed me all the way through high school, why didn't follow me all the way through high school to the end of high school because all the kids that were in the same middle school as me moved into, into into the same high school setting. And despite the fact that, that at least most of the educational learning needs had been dealt with, by the time I got to high school, I built up coping mechanisms and, and strategies that would allow me to be successful in high school, none of that stuff went away. And, and, and I and a lot of that I pinned directly on myself, I pinned directly on my own behaviors. So there's a period between finishing high school and going to university, it was about two years where I just went, I I don't understand why, why I don't have friends, I don't understand why I make a friend. And then they're, they're out of there. They're they they, you know, they have no interest in, in sticking around, and was unbelievably lonely. So what I did was I, I got myself a bunch of notebooks. In every interaction that I had, if it was good, I wrote down what I did, how I behaved, whatever it was that I was thinking, and and what the outcome was, if it was bad, I did the same thing. And I did that for about a year and a half, I started analyzing what what what what behaviors, elicit the positive responses that I want, what behaviors elicit negative responses that I don't want. And for about a six month period, before I went to university, I experimented with with, with those with those assertions with those with those observations that I had, that I put down to paper. And I found almost almost almost to a fault that I discovered a formula for making friends and building relationships, which I then applied at university. And I'm pleased to say that, you know, when I got there, I flourished. I had lots of friends, people liked me, it was the first time in my life that people had liked me. And and that is that's basically in my professional life. Now, I use those tools, I use what I learned, because because I was a very sad and lonely person in my late late teens and early 20s.

Nic L  
So I have to ask, please share, what's the secret? What's the formula to making friends? The secret to success in life?

Matthew S  
So So dude, if you if you really want to do what I did, it's it's hard work. You have to be you have to be absolutely brutal with yourself, and you need to write it down. When things don't go right, write it down, write down what you were doing what you were thinking. There is no special special magic wand. I can't like, you know, sort of Yeah,

Nic L  
no. But I think you're right. It's one of those things where whether you're neurodivergent, or not like that amount of effort that, that thought into your own personality and reactions and actions to you know, the people around you is something that a lot of people don't go through. And, and frankly, a lot of people could go through. But it's work like

John P  
I will I will say that Matthew and I met on the event organizers, working group board and knowing Matthew for you know, a year plus now I find it very hard to believe that he never had friends. He's a very likable guy very easy to talk to. So, you know, clearly you've you've worked on that and and hopefully that that helps others that maybe maybe having that, that that issue and might need that help. One other thing I wanted to touch on. You had mentioned that you're not comfortable in groups, they kind of maybe stress you out a little bit. But yet at the beginning of the show, we talked about how you speak and attend the Drupal camps and Drupal cons. How how do those two things kind of work each other out?

Matthew S  
Well, first of all, after I get back from an event, I turn into a hermit and I curl up in a little ball and I recharge. I find them exhausted. I say we all I find them exhausting. And it's not that I don't like people I do like people it's it's it's it's that it's that negotiating. So So I think part of it is I never learned I don't have I don't have the instinct of cause and effect. Okay, it was for me cause and effect is a is a has been an intellectualized learn learned learned behavior. I didn't realize as a young as a youngster if I did, if I did action A, that that, that it would cause B to occur, whether it was good or bad. So, in my life, I'm constantly circulating in my brain. I'm about to do this. What is that going to mean? From my experience, I'm about to do this. I'm about to do this I'm about to do and it happens extremely quickly now. But I have had to intellectualize all of this, as opposed to, as opposed to understanding instinctively, and I didn't know that other people did weren't doing what I was doing until I was well into my, my, my late 20s, early 30s, where I was like, wait, what? Most people this just comes naturally?

John P  
Can you? Can you so elaborate on that just a little bit.

Matthew S  
But but, uh, sure, sure. So. So. And the reason that I'm actually let me let me finish answering your first question. Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things that I do, when I get up in front of people is, is first of all, after about 30 seconds of speaking, a literally avail drops down. And I'm no longer that is as as as aware of people as individuals. When I'm when I'm speaking, that's the first thing. The second thing is, if I decide I'm just not going to think about cause and effect during that period of time. I don't worry about what people are thinking, or what they're doing, or whether they're leaving the room, or whether they're, they're shuffling their feet feet, or whether they've decided that they're going to look at their phone instead. It's it's a, it's almost, it's almost like a an altered state that I that I ended up in, which is the reason that I can I can get up in front of, of many people, and, and talk and not really feel feel particularly nervous.

Nic L  
So I'm curious, and and if this is, if any of this is too personal, feel free to let us know. And we can shift we can shift gears a little bit. This isn't that type of show we just dig into deep. But as you're talking about this, I'm curious about the podcast itself, like is this? A? Is this a similar situation? Like if you're not physically in a room at a camp? Is it as stressful with just, you know, three or four guys on a podcast? Or is it? Is it different for you?

Matthew S  
It's all the same?

John P  
So I want to go back a little bit to the cause and effect. Part of that conversation, right? Sure. Because I personally find myself always like, Okay, I'm going to make a joke, like, what how's that going to be received? Or I'm gonna do this thing, how's that going to be received? And thinking it through and kind of going through that? And, you know, I always assumed other people did it, but it will does it different? If is it different for you, like,

Matthew S  
people don't? Most people don't most people, most people instinctively understand the how their behaviors are going to affect other people. Most people, most people don't intellectualize it. So I, at least that's my experience. That's that's, you know, from when I've talked to folks about it.

Nic L  
I think it's, it admit

Matthew S  
it, but it becomes automatic.

Nic L  
Yeah. I think one of the things that can really apply to directly that people might have some more direct experience with is something like, stand up comedy, right? People think like, you see a comedy special, you think that the person just stood up there and decided to be funny for an hour, right? Yeah, they don't, they don't realize many times and unless they watched Him through a documentary or have a friend or something, they don't realize that these comics before they have a stand up special. They're each one of those jokes. They've tried 678 100 times so all different audiences and they've tried one time with a pause of three seconds and one time with the pauses 10 seconds they tried this word versus that word. And and they literally sit there with each other and talk about okay, what makes something funny, like what is comedy? What are the different types hopes of jokes. And it sounds like what you're saying for neurodiverse, folks, is that you kind of have to apply that same thing to other interactions, not just like, I'm trying to be funny. How do I make a funny joke? But sometimes it's also like, Okay, I'm going to go in, I'm gonna go to the cashier, how do I handle that interaction? Without being super awkward? Or super angry? Or? Or whatever you need to process?

Matthew S  
Yeah, for sure. So So I would, I would, again, emphasize, re emphasize this is my lived experience, right? I'm not going to speak for any other person, who's got to who's whose narrative urgent, but I have heard other other folks who are neurodivergent say, hey, that's what I do, too. But you're you're absolutely right, let's say, as an example, I'm at the butcher's counter. And using that grocery store, sort of analogy, I'm at the butcher's counter, and a lady butts in in front of me. And, and I'm in a bit of a hurry, right. And I start to feel some anger, not towards the lady, but towards the situation that I getting later. And later, and later in time, time is another thing altogether, I've got what's called time blindness, which is a completely completely different conversation. But time time is stressful for me the whole notion of time, they don't really understand it, still don't understand it. So I'm sitting there, and I know that I, all I need is to get is to get the those, those chicken drumsticks right, and, and I need to get out of the store, you can find yourself winding up, winding up, winding up, winding up, winding up. And by the time you get to the cashier, you could very easily take all of that angry energy out on that cashier. As I'm walking towards the cashier. As I'm walking towards that line. I'm thinking to myself, Okay. What if, what if I, what if I go to to the first cashier instead of third cashier? Is that going to be any better? Looking at the different cashiers looking at what they're what they're the presences about them? Okay, I'm going to choose number one. Now, as I'm, as I'm approaching the cashier, what am I actually going to say? What is going to get the best reaction? How do I best defuse myself and ensure that I don't make somebody else's day bad, these are things that I think about, that I don't just internalize and, and feel, they're things that I think about. And, and, and, and, you know, do the do the scenarios. And by the time I get to the, to the cashier, I figured out the scenario that I want to engage, and all of that goes back to my my late teens, early 20s, writing all of this stuff down, because back in my late teens or early 20s, I would have just been a jerk. And, and, and I and I know and I know that I've seen it, I've seen it with other people who haven't taken the time to figure out why it is that they have problems with relationships in their lives. Right? It's because it's because they haven't taken the taking the time to be introspective, and look at how you can engage in getting positive outcomes. And and I would bring this back to software for a second. It's it's it's a little bit like if then statements, right? Yeah, I live my life with if then statements.

Randy O  
Interest Oh, but thinking of the like grocery store example like, you know, you've got your experience going through that. Kind of flipping it around and thinking about it. What can the grocery store do to like, improve the experience for neurodivergent people? And to bring it back to something more specific to this podcast? I'm thinking about like websites, and like, I can do accessibility testing, I can test for like, making sure that there's like inclusive language, like what kinds of things can I do to help with current common like neuro divergent, like issues on websites?

Matthew S  
Yes. So in general, there isn't testing that you can do. If you're engaged in good accessibility practices, you're going to cater to many of the many of the needs that neurodiverse people have already. However, here's an interesting little tidbit for you, okay. The National Library of Medicine, reports that 80% of males have colorblindness. Then when you take a look at the the folks on the autism spectrum, that jumps to roughly 30% it oh wow, why don't we don't really know why. And this was discovered in like 1992 or 1993. So using myself as a as a as an example, I'm Red Green colorblind. Now that doesn't mean that I don't see colors, it doesn't mean that I don't see red doesn't mean that I don't see green. But deep, deep and dark greens and reds look the same to me. And then, and then if you're looking at a screen where somebody's got blue on red, or red on blue, and everybody around you saying, Wow, that pops that makes it so obvious when I'm, and I'm just sitting there going, I can't see that at all. So So one of the things that you might want to think about is is, is when you're when you're dealing with a neurodivergent population, can you tone down your colors? Can you make your contrast really, really, really clear? And again, this all comes back to good accessibility to begin with, right? Yeah,

Nic L  
I mean, as a as a fellow red green colorblind person, I can give you an example that people that directly affects me so the red and green and stoplights. Oh, yeah, for especially old stoplights. They look the same from far away now. I know, you know which ones the top which ones in the bottom. But a lot of the new stoplights. They're like LED or something they just have a different read in a different green. And no matter how far away am, I can immediately tell whether it's red or green.

Matthew S  
And that's the reason that we can't be pilots.

Nic L  
Yeah, yeah, cuz they use red and green on the wingtips. Why can't they use like, yellow blue or something?

Randy O  
Yeah, well, coming back to coming back to websites and designs like being creative director, one of the things that I do with my team is to make sure that not only do we do color contrast issues, but we also use a tool like sim Delta aneurysm on the Mac that actually allows you to overlay over the screen and and see as if you were a colorblind individual, the different types of colorblindness so to make sure that like, okay, is this going to work? Okay, for people with red green colorblindness. Is there enough like contrast that that like it can be distinguished?

Matthew S  
Yep. Yep. That's cool. Yeah. That's really cool.

Randy O  
We also have a baked into storybook, too. Yep. Yeah. It's really nice.

Nic L  
Absolutely. So I'm, I'm curious about the upcoming Drupal cons. Is this something that you're Is this a topic that you're working on? There? Do you have a topic accepted yet? Or?

Matthew S  
Yeah, I don't think anybody has a talk except yet. What I'll say is that I've I've spoken on this to DrupalCon. So far, back in Amsterdam, and then in Portland, and there were two different talks. You didn't need to go to the first one to to understand the second one or anything like that, but but the first one really was my journey. And it started touching on my neuro divergence in that journey. And it was really around, identifying when opportunities are there for you, and sometimes you don't recognize them at the time, and talking about how maybe you can recognize those opportunities a little bit better. And then they the last one was, was really talking about tools and tips, and how you can how you can live in a neuro neurotypical world a little bit a little bit more easily. And how neurotypical people can work with you to help you in that world a little bit easily more easily. I've got a submission for Pittsburgh called an unexpected whistlestop tour in neurodiversity, where you know, I've been talking about all these little these little percentages and tidbits and stuff like that. And one of the things that I started discovering as I did that last talk is there all kinds of crazy things that you wouldn't expect are connected, that actually are connected. As an example. If you if you have learned differences, you are 80% more likely to get testicular cancer than somebody who doesn't have learning differences. And it hasn't been discovered exactly why. But but it is it is a thing. It's also been been shown that that you're you're you're four times more likely to to die from it if you get testicular cancer. If you're if you're if you've got learning differences so a little a little a little public service. Notice here if if you if you are up there, you're a guy and you're neurodivergent at least once a month in the shower, check your boys out make sure that the that there are no lumps and bumps because if you if you catch it early, it is high Highly, highly curable. And I say that as being a 22 year cancer survivor of testicular cancer. And that's one of the reasons that I sort of made this connection. But again, it's one of these things that they didn't figure out until the mid 90s. So so the answer the question is, I really hope that my my talk is, is accepted, I think, I think that it'll be fun to, for people to sort of get these wacky, wacky connections between different kinds of different kinds of learning differences and things that you would think are completely unrelated in your in your in your life. And I'll pull it all back together. If I'm able to do the talk, what I'll do is I'll pull, I'll use that as a nugget and I'll pull the the stuff that that was in the first two talks into it to sort of finish what I hoped would be a trilogy of talks to begin with. Okay, I'll be there. That'll be great.

John P  
I agree. And is that I'm assuming that's a topic that you're bringing into the video series as well.

Matthew S  
We'll see the video series right now I know exactly what I want to talk about. All of the video has been has been has been has been done. It's not all been cut, I've got one more in the can. And I need to, I've got three more that I need to that I need to edit. But I think that when that particular series, my neurodivergent brain is done, I'll probably start another another another group of videos after that. And I'm not sure what they're what they're going to be yet but it's not going to be like a never ending series. The idea is that these are, these are limited limited series that talk about different things.

John P  
Wacky night neurodivergent facts,

Matthew S  
maybe others,

John P  
maybe that's what we'll be called, there you go. So I gotta I gotta like pie in this pie in the sky question. If you had a magic wand, and you could you could, you know, globally improve something for Neuro neurodivergent. Folks, what would it be?

Matthew S  
Oh, yeah. So I think the number one thing is early education. You know, the earlier the earlier that, that people are, are put in a situation where they can, where they can learn, learn new new coping mechanisms, learn learn strategies to, to engage in tasks, and in relationships in all kinds of things, the better the outcomes are. And, and sadly, sadly, early education at this juncture, isn't doing enough. I don't think to to help kids who, who teachers might look at and say I know exactly what's going on here. But the price per pupil triples when you when you when you engage in certain kinds of accommodations for a kid. And school boards have limited budgets. So that's the reason that a lot of parents end up having to struggle and end up having to fight to get kids there the accommodations that they that they are legally legally, you know, the legally legally should beginning.

Nic L  
So before we close out the show, I kind of have one other question to representation matters, as we've been kind of talking about during the show, both for both sides, you know, representation matters if you're neurodivergent, because it helps you see that you're not alone. But representation matters also for people that may not identify as nor diversion, because it helps build empathy and understanding as well. I'm curious if there's any, anything in media like TV shows or movies that are particularly good representations that you've found? If somebody's kind of curious about that?

Matthew S  
Oh, that's a super good question. And of course, you've asked me a question that has memes in it.

Nic L  
Oh, sorry. You mentioned that that's awful of me. Well, let me let me change that. Let me ask about a specific show that I that I particularly enjoy and see if it's if it's a good example. And that's a typical is a new show one of well, I guess it's not new anymore. It's three or four years old. Now Netflix about somebody that has is on the autism spectrum that I don't know if you're familiar with that show. Again, I'm doing it again. You don't know names? Yeah.

Matthew S  
Yeah, I don't I don't know the show. Actually, when you name something that's different than asking me to remember a name.

Nic L  
Interesting. Yeah. Okay. But But

Matthew S  
I haven't, but I haven't watched it. There was just recently I watched a show that I thought was really good around this, but it's not coming to me right at this moment. I'll follow up with you. Okay. Okay. That we're on that

John P  
I think Also, Nick, I don't know, because I've never watched the show, but I think the good doctor on I don't know.

Matthew S  
It's okay. It's

John P  
okay. All right. All right. I just I just knew that it was kind of like in that space of the question.

Matthew S  
Yeah. I mean, it's a bit of a parody. And they don't mean it to be. I mean, they they don't. And parody is the wrong word. What's the word that I'm looking for? It I think it exaggerates, exaggerates. The, the, the, the experience, in a way that they're trying to make, they're trying to make this this guy look highly functional and highly non functional. At the same time, they're trying to, to mix two ends of the spectrum in a in a in a sort of an awkward way. And, and I, I'm not entirely comfortable with it, I stopped watching it.

Nic L  
Yeah. And before we close out, just say why I asked this question. And it's because you know, I think people when you watch media, you kind of generally, if it's not something you're familiar with, you generally take it as at face value, right? You're right, like this is probably it's probably not perfect, but it's probably decent, right? But whenever you see something that's in your domain of expertise, you're like, like, if you ever watched, like, NCIS is famous for you watch anything that's due to technology and NCIS. Like they're hacking by both people typing on the keyboard at the same time. You're just like, Yeah, that's really absurd. I just have to assume that the same is true. And like I said, Well, if you follow up with me on that, then both throughout the show notes for the listeners as well. But I just wanted to kind of set a set a baseline in my mind for you know, what's good representation and medium was not

Matthew S  
sure. Yeah, I can follow up.

Randy O  
So I'm just kind of take us home. Is there anything else that you'd like to add? Or any, like final remarks that you'd like to make?

Matthew S  
Oh, yeah. Thanks. Appreciate that. So I think, thank yous empathy, if you're on the spectrum, and I'm not talking about just just folk folks on the spectrum wars, but folks outside the spectrum. If you're on the spectrum, though, you have to work twice as hard to understand how others perceive the world. And if you're on the, if you're not on the spectrum, you need to work twice as hard to understand how your artist friend colleague or partner thinks, make me think that people need to make patients central to their life. That was one of the one of the things that changed my my, my experience in the world, in ways that I can't even express. So so make patients central to your life, it's muscle that needs to be exercised. And those with AD D and autism become irritable more easily than atypical people. And that can lead to outbreaks of anger. So practically, what this means if you're neurodivergent, you really need to be monitoring what you feel, why, why you're feeling that way. And if you're neurotypical, you can really help your friend by watching out for warning signs and triggers. And finally, I think kindness. Kindness should be your go to even when you're upset. People should assume that people are approaching a situation or a problem with good intentions unless, unless they prove otherwise. And particularly in our in our industry. I feel like that's that's the case. And we ended up having all kinds of miscommunication arguments in our community that could be could be avoided, if not entirely, a great deal just by being more kind to one another. Yeah,

Randy O  
that's something I can get behind.

John P  
Yeah, I mean, I think we can all we can all get behind that. And I think those are those are amazing thoughts and words stand on. Matthew, I appreciate your time. And thank you for joining us.

Matthew S  
Yeah, thanks for inviting me. I'm really happy to have this conversation with you all.

Nic L  
For our listeners, if you have questions or feedback you can reach out to talking to Drupal on Twitter with the handle talking Drupal for now and by show attacking drupal.com You can connect with our hosts and other listeners on the Drupal slack in the talking Drupal channel.

You can promote your Drupal community event on talking Drupal. Learn more talkingdrupal.com/td promo.

You can get the talking Drupal newsletter for show news, upcoming Drupal camps, local meetups and much more you can sign up for the newsletter at talkingdrupal.com/newsletter

John P  
Thank you patrons for supporting talking Drupal, your support is greatly appreciated. You can learn more about becoming a patron at talking drupal.com and choosing that button in the sidebar that says become a patron. All right, we have made it to the end of our show. But Matthew, if our listeners wanted to get a hold of you and chat more about this topic or any topic for that matter, how would they go about doing that?

Matthew S  
So I'm at Creech on on Twitter. And you should feel free to contact me there. Also, if you want to email me, you can get me at [email protected] 

John P  
awesome. Randy, what about you?

Randy O  
Oh, I am AmazingRando just about everywhere on the internet on Drupal on Twitter for as long as it's still structurally sound. And I also have amazing rando.com The website so you can always find me.

Matthew S  
Actually, that's a good point with Twitter collapsing I'm I'm also at Creech on Mastodon, and I've started to shift the shift some of my some of my activity over there.

John P  
There you go. Nic Laflin. What about you?

Nic L  
You can find me pretty much everywhere at nicxvan.

John P  
And I'm John Picozzi You can find me on all the major social networks and drupal.org at JohnPicozzi, and you can find out more about EPAM at epam.com.

Nic L  
And if you've enjoyed listening, we've enjoyed talking see you guys next week.

John P  
Thanks a lot, everyone.

Matthew S  
Thanks for having me.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai