Embracing Intensity

Use your fire without getting burned.
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Dec 22, 2021

Continuing our top 2019 reruns. This has been one of our top episodes from it’s very start! 2019 was our first year of guest speakers, and we took a break for 2020 but had a great run in 2021. I’m super excited about our upcoming 2022 series especially because all of my top choices got back to me right away and agreed to speak. I’m still waiting on a few scheduling clarifications, but I’m pleased to announce that Jan. 22 we will have Leela Sinha, author of “You’re Not Too Much” talk about the Intersection of Queerness and Neurodivergence, and Feb 19th we’ll have Alexandra Loves talk about Passion vs. Drama! Get on our mailing list for updates and log in information at You can support the continued growth of these free calls by joining our community at or supporting Embracing Intensity on Patreon!

Navigating relationships successfully can be one of the most challenging things we ever do. The intensity and outside-the-box nature of twice-exceptionality (gifted plus disability), adds in a whole new layer of challenge. In this episode, Dr. Melanie Hayes shares both the joys and the hurdles of twice exceptional relationships.


In this episode:

  • Common issues in all relationships.
  • Additional challenges for twice-exceptional people.
  • Meeting our unmet needs in relationships.
  • A recipe for twice-exceptional people to connect with who they really are and have fulfilling lives. 


Embracing Intensity Community

Support Embracing Intensity on Patreon

Dec 13, 2021

Continuing our top 2019 reruns. One of my most popular topics is twice exceptionality, especially as it relates to ADHD. This is what prompted my work in sharing stories of twice exceptionality on YouTube and my upcoming 2E Comics. I’ll be launching a Kickstarter in the new year to help fund support with illustration so I can make it happen with my limited time!

Coincidentally, this episode features input from Brendan Mahan of ADHD Essentials, and he just shared his most recent episode with me on twice exceptionality this week! Go listen to “Giftedness is Not Achievement w/ Aurora Remember Holtzman on ADHD Essentials!

I've been asked a lot about twice-exceptionality recently and especially on how to identify ADHD when giftedness is also involved.

In this episode:

  • Characteristics observed in people who are both gifted and ADHD.
  • Characteristics that may be common with giftedness, but are even more extreme when ADHD is thrown in.
  • Assessment patterns I've observed with kids with ADHD.


Embracing Intensity Community

Brendan Mahan's ADHD Essentials

Dec 6, 2021

Continuing the tradition of reruns for the month of December, and this month I'll be sharing some of my top episodes from 2019. The top guest episode was on Positive Disintegration w/ Chris Wells, and she has a new podcast on the topic that just came out recently! You can find the discussion recording and her latest talk on Overexitabilities in the Embracing Intensity Community.

Kazmiers Dabrowski was an early proponent of what we now call the neurodiversity movement. He asserted that what was viewed as "neuroses" were not an illness, but in fact a sign of high developmental potential! His theory of Positive Disintegration views the importance of falling apart, or disintegrating, before integrating into a higher whole.

This week, Chris Wells, Director of Qualitative Research at the Gifted Development Center, dives deeper into Dabrowski's life, what led to his theory and how it applies to us in the current day. 

In this episode:

  • How Dabrowski's theory relates to the current neurodiversity movement.

  • How his own life experiences and trauma impacted his theory.

  • The importance of values.

  • The three factors of developmental potential.

  • How dynamisms, or the forces that drive our actions, serve as a catalyst to higher development.


Chris' New Podcast on Positive Disintegration!

Finding Treasure In Ruins Blog Post

Embracing Intensity Community

Gifted Development Center

Nov 8, 2021

I first met today’s guest when he enthusiastically shared some of my animated shorts on 2E experiences. We have followed each other, and I’m a big fan of his advocacy work. Join us to learn more!


Dr. Matt Zakreski is a psychologist who works with gifted and twice-exceptional folks. We have connected over social media, and I’m excited to talk to him today and introduce him to the Embracing Intensity audience.


Show Highlights:


  • How Matt is intensely passionate about his experience as a “grown-up gifted kid,” helping people through therapy and training, ultimate Frisbee, craft beer, Bruce Springsteen, and comic books
  • Why Matt’s personal brand of intensity means that he wants things to be “this way,” and has a tough time when they aren’t; he wants to know expectations ahead of time
  • How Matt learned to embrace his giftedness later in his school years and had to find his people in the arts
  • Why Matt speaks the language of caring and wants to be around people who care about something
  • How even with ADHD and giftedness, Matt appreciates authenticity in himself and others
  • In his school experience, Matt realized how to “flex” his gifts in language arts but struggled in STEM classes
  • How Matt advises families to learn from his mistakes to “work smart, not hard”
  • How Matt felt responsibility and a lot of expectations as the oldest child in his family
  • How Matt felt the divide in high school between living in the sports world as an athlete and the arts world 
  • How Matt tried to tone himself down and embrace his leadership style of being second in command
  • How Matt felt his intensity out of control significantly when he was bullied in 8th grade
  • How Matt uses his fire for good by helping kids learn to lift others up instead of tearing others down
  • Why getting in touch with his emotional world and being vulnerable have helped Matt harness the power of his intensity
  • Personal habits that have helped Matt use his fire positively are taking time daily for long walks, podcasts, and music
  • How Matt helps others use their fire by helping them be their best selves
  • Why it’s energizing to make time for yourself 
  • Parting words from Matt: “If you are too much for some people, then those are not your people. Do something for you, and do your version of it. Have the confidence to put your own spin on what self-care looks like for you. We have to value putting ourselves in inspiring and charging situations instead of draining ones. You are worth putting yourself first.”


Find Matt on Facebook.


Oct 25, 2021

If you or someone you love is a gifted person, you understand that it can complicate many situations in life. It’s wonderful to know that empathetic and supportive professionals are dedicating their lives to advocacy for these individuals. Join me to learn more about one such psychotherapist in today’s episode!

Gail Post is a clinical psychologist, parenting coach, workshop leader, and writer. In clinical practice for over 35 years, she provides psychotherapy in the Philadelphia area with a focus on the needs of the intellectually and musically gifted. Gail does consultations with educators and psychotherapists and parent coaching throughout the US and Canada. Dr. Post served as a co-chair of a gifted parents’ advocacy group when her children were in school, and she continues to advocate through workshops in schools and parenting groups. Her writing related to giftedness includes online articles, several books, chapters, plans for an upcoming book, and a long-standing blog, Gifted Challenges. Gail is just one of the popular gifted writers whose work is included in the book, Perspectives on Giftedness: Sound Advice from Parents and Professionals by GHF Press.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Gail is intensely passionate about working with gifted and twice-exceptional teens and adults, advocacy, parenting issues, nature, art, music, and trying to make a difference
  • How psychotherapists help clients with mirroring and attunement to create encouragement for the changes people need to make
  • Why it’s difficult to find psychotherapists who specialize in giftedness
  • Why Gail’s personal brand of intensity looks like overthinking and being passionate about her work and values
  • How Gail grew up feeling things intensely and feeling out of sync with others as she tried to fit in
  • How Gail was affected by white privilege and by other issues of the 70s like the Vietnam anti-war movement, women’s right, and civil rights
  • How Gail had to tone herself down as a shy child when she learned to hide her abilities and talents
  • Why Gail got out of control when she felt things and reacted strongly, especially in work settings
  • How Gail uses her fire for good in helping people, writing, and utilizing her strengths, and engaging with her interest in the human psyche and behavior
  • How Gail harnesses her power by knowing her strengths, pacing herself, and managing stress
  • How she helps others by encouraging them to feel safe and accept themselves with empowerment in challenging situations
  • Gail’s upcoming book, Perspectives in Giftedness, written with several other authors: her articles include “How to Explain Giftedness to Your Child,” one about what happens when kids know they are smart by society or school tells them they are not, and one about college planning to teach students and parents what they don’t know about the process
  • Why we shouldn’t tell kids their IQ number because it can harm them or hold them back
  • Final words from Gail: “I encourage everyone to work on self-acceptance with who you are because that’s the foundation for moving forward in life. It’s also important to accept your child’s imperfections and all of who they are.”


Gail Post 

Gifted Challenges 

Connect with Gail on Facebook.

Perspectives on Giftedness: Sound Advice from Parents and Professionals, (A Collection of Essays by GHF Writers)

Oct 17, 2021

We are celebrating our 5th anniversary of the Embracing Intensity Podcast by sharing past guests, listeners and community members answer to the question "What does Embracing Intensity mean to me? 

I'm also launching my new website at - go check it out and explore! 

Oct 11, 2021

The podcast is marking a huge milestone this week as we celebrate our 5th anniversary! In today’s show, we go outside the box as we discuss the importance of storytelling when it comes to giftedness, equity, identity, and inclusion. Join us to learn more!

Marc Smolowitz is a previous guest on the show, and I’m thrilled to have him back to talk about one of his projects, The G Word film. Marc is a multi-award-winning director, producer, and executive producer who has been involved in more than 50 independent films. His works have touched viewers on five continents and screened at the world’s top-tier film festivals. Marc is currently in post-production on The G Word, a feature-length documentary that aims to be the most comprehensive film ever made on the topics of gifted, talented, and neurodiverse education across the US. The film tells seven stories with different perspectives and asks the urgent equity question, “In the 21st century, who gets to be gifted in America, and why?” The film is poised to premiere in 2022.

Show Highlights:

  • How the pandemic has affected Marc’s work on The G Word and other projects
  • A broad overview of The G Word and the important stories highlighted by the film
  • How changemakers are working to make a difference in the gifted and talented community
  • How we can use our voices to be allies for the disenfranchised
  • How a zip code can be ultra-defining in the resources and opportunities available to people
  • How Marc is working to “take the temperature” of people around the country in assessing how giftedness has been affected by the pandemic
  • A look at the spirit of G/T/N Awareness Week (gifted, talented, neurodiverse), which is scheduled for October 25-29; this is a FREE five-day slate of virtual programming with a different focus each day. (See Resources to register.)
  • Why free and appropriate public education is a social contract--a promise made to all parents for their children
  • Why we as advocates and allies cannot quit fighting to make a better civil society for “more of us rather than less of us”
  • Why we need a much more communal and collective narrative around giftedness and neurodiversity in our country
  • Why The G Word is a mainstream educational film


The G Word Film  Find out more about the film, find resources, and sign up for G/T/N Awareness Week.

Find the film on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sep 27, 2021

I’m excited to introduce you to today’s guest. She’s a highly esteemed expert in the area of neuroscience and twice-exceptionality. Join us to learn more!

Dr. Nicole Tetreault is a compassionate author, meditation teacher, and international speaker on neurodiversity, neurodevelopment, creativity, mental health, and wellness. Her book, Insight into a Bright Mind, explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains while advocating for new directions of human diversity and neurodiversity. Nicole is the founder of Awesome Neuroscience and translates the most promising neuroscience and positive psychology for people to live their best life. She is on the faculty at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity and Education, and she leads a new generation of meditation practices by fusing novel discoveries in neuroscience with the ancient art of meditation. As the recipient of the Milton Career Exploration Prize from CalTech, she founded the novel nonprofit, Beyond the Cell, a transformative program to rehabilitate incarcerated women through guided meditation, neuroscience, literature, and expressive writing. Nicole believes we have the ability to wire our minds for positive plasticity through compassion and wisdom to live the life we dream.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Nicole is intensely passionate about neuroscience, positive psychology, and understanding diversity with compassion
  • How Nicole knew from a very young age that she was different than others and greatly affected by social injustices
  • How Nicole struggled when her intelligence didn’t match up for her in the classroom
  • How Nicole spent her adult years rewiring her brain with new patterns, thoughts, stories, and ideas
  • What Nicole would tell her former teachers about how they were “missing” each other
  • How Nicole experienced stereotyping and white privilege growing up as a blond Caucasian girl in a private school in a part of Los Angeles with a large Latino and Chinese population
  • How Nicole had to tone herself down in phases in her life, mostly by learning to hide in middle school and again in grad school
  • How Nicole’s intensity got out of control in grad school when she felt pressure and anxiety to be perfect
  • Nicole’s transformational meditation practice to regulate her intensity and emotional intelligence
  • The challenge in balancing a good mindfulness practice with what goes on in today’s world
  • Nicole’s take on spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity
  • How Nicole uses her fire for good in connecting and partnering with others who are passionate about equality for neurodiverse people
  • Nicole’s habits that help harness the power of her intensity: giving herself breaks for investigation, creativity, and curiosity; meditation; writing every day in a journal; and partnering with other creatives in the community
  • How Nicole helps others use their fire by helping students see their magic and helping other people see their individual gifts
  • How Nicole’s book: how it came about when she listened to her gut, how it inspires others, and how she wants to change the language about being twice-exceptional


Nicole Tetreault 

Find Awesome Neuro on Instagram and Twitter

Insight into a Bright Mind: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Stories of Unique Thinking by Nicole A. Tetreault

Connect with me: 2E Connection

Sep 13, 2021

Today’s solo episode is about a topic that I’ve thought about for a long time, so I’m happy to bring it to you. We will discuss getting an assessment as a gifted or twice-exceptional adult, so I hope you find it helpful for me to share my thoughts and tips.

Show Highlights:

  • Considerations that are universal to all assessment types:
    • If you think you are gifted, you probably are.
    • Make sure the person doing the evaluation has experience with giftedness and twice-exceptionality.
    • Realize that every assessment will have limitations and strengths, and every evaluator will have personal biases.
  • Five types of assessments:
    • Diagnostic assessment
      • This will be done with a trained professional who can give a diagnosis. Always look for someone with experience with giftedness and neurodiversity, and ask what tools they use.
    • Psychometric assessment
      • This evaluation can give valuable information about your strengths and weaknesses, and it’s very standardized for comparison to others. It has limitations, like false lows and big gaps in highs and lows.
    • Qualitative assessment
      • This evaluation looks beyond just the numbers with things like observations, records, interviews, etc. It gives very useful information.
    • Self-assessment
      • The challenge in this evaluation is that there is a lot of information to take in.
    • Multimodal assessment
      • This kind of evaluation can be any combination of the other four types; it uses a variety of tools all together.
    • Helpful books: (See Resources for more information.) The Power of Difference, The Dyslexic Advantage, The Gifted Adult, and Your Rainforest Mind


Connect with me: Aurora Remember 

Find out our upcoming group call on Overexcitability with Chris Wells:  Embracing Intensity 

Check out the following resources:

Cognitive Processing Inventory at LDinfo

Gifted Adult Checklist at Gifted Development 

Paula Prober’s Giftedness Checklist from Your Rainforest Mind


The Power of Different by Gail Saltz, M.D.

The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide

The Gifted Adult by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen

Your Rainforest Mind by Paula Prober

Aug 30, 2021

Today’s show lets you listen to our recent group call with Jeff Harry of Rediscover Your Play. Jeff helps us with tips, insights, and interactive exercises to learn more about “Playing With Your Inner Critic.” Join us to learn more!

Jeff Harry is a Workplace Play Consultant, International Play Speaker, and Positive Psychology Play Coach. He helps individuals and companies navigate difficult conversations and address their most challenging issues using play and positive psychology. While we spend most of our time pretending to be important, serious grownups, it’s when we let go of that facade and just play that the real magic happens. Fully embracing your own nerdy genius gives you the power to make a difference and change lives. Jeff believes that we already have many of the answers we seek, and by simply unleashing our inner child, we can find our purpose and help to create a better world.

Show Highlights:

  • An interactive exercise to shed light on how we judge ourselves and need to allow more freedom in our mindset
  • The reasons we don’t play anymore are because the external noise and our internal negativity bias keep us from playing.
  • How leaning into our intuitive mind allows us to work with our inner critic
  • How our brain makes connections when in a flow state and allows creative actions
  • How to get in flow: relax, figure out what calms you down, quiet everything, and allow yourself to “get bored”
  • Your inner critic has a playlist; what does yours say?
  • How to identify what your inner critic says to you
  • How to identify what your inner critic sounds like and looks like, and why you need to give it a character name
  • How to empower your inner child by affirming the opposite of what your inner critic says
  • How you can create new neural pathways by using empowering language
  • How addressing your inner critic helps deal with the outer critics
  • How to spark your inner child
  • Why you need to allow feelings to flow through and go
  • How to ask, “What is driving my decision?”(The answer SHOULD be play, curiosity, and experimentation!)
  • What old BS story are you willing to let go?


Rediscover Your Play

Aug 16, 2021

Today’s guest is truly a multipotentialite with interests spanning gender nonconformity, psychology, healthy eating, photography, and the creative arts. He has discovered ways to embrace his creativity and merge his talents to offer meaningful help to others in their struggles. Join us to learn more!

Greg Halpen is a food blogger and food photographer who created the food blog, Craving the Yum: Eating After Chemo. Chemotherapy can do a number on our palates, leaving our taste buds desensitized and frustrated about what to eat that actually tastes good. Greg gives chemotherapy patients the steps and practical tools to reimagine meals without compromising the YUM factor. Through his food blog, he shares the secrets to preparing meals that are simple, healthy, and extra.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Greg is intensely passionate about helping people navigate the frustrating and difficult waters of figuring out what to eat during and after chemo
  • How Greg’s personal brand of intensity covers multiple areas of creativity: music, theater, food blogging, and photography
  • How Greg’s childhood trauma spurred him into creative outlets as coping mechanisms
  • The difficulty for Greg in not having a support system to help him grow as a creative person
  • What Greg wishes he knew back then: “There are people in the world who WILL see you and get you.”
  • The cultural factors that affected Greg as a gay young man with confusing feelings that couldn’t be expressed and realized
  • How digging deep into learning about homophobia and hetero-normative thinking helped Greg cope
  • How Greg has had to purposely shrink himself down to be smaller because of his insecurity as a person
  • How men are affected by sexuality and gender issues very differently than women
  • Why Greg has felt out of control when he couldn’t harness his creativity amidst the chaos of life
  • How Greg uses his fire for good in being of service to others and helping people
  • How he learned the important lesson that he isn’t at the center of everything
  • How therapy, cooking, and helping others with food relationships have helped Greg harness his intensity
  • How Greg helps others use their fire by helping them to make small changes and understand “diet culture confusion”
  • Up next for Greg: writing a book (the free mini-version is available on his website now!)


Craving The Yum 

 Get Greg’s FREE mini-cookbook, Eating After Chemo!

Visit our website to learn more about the Embracing Intensity community and events

Visit our new platform with resources and events for the 2E community

Aug 10, 2021

I didn't promote last week's episode very much because I got super deep into the rabbit hole on a new project that really. Kind of pulls together a lot of the little projects that I've been doing in this past year.

It's called 2E Connection, and it's a directory for twice exceptional folks to share, explore and find support!

In this episode:

  • What inspired me to create 2E Connection
  • A sneak peak at some of the content so far
  • How you can support keeping this free site accessible AND sustainable


2E Connection

Embracing Intensity Community

Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity Workbook

Aug 2, 2021

My guest today was diagnosed with ADHD and twice-exceptionality later in life. We have connected through TikTok and are learning a lot from each other. He demonstrates kind accountability in his TikTok posts and shows authenticity in his longer YouTube posts that I greatly appreciate. Join us to hear his unique perspective.

Sean Szolek-Van Valkenburgh grew up in Indiana surrounded by orchestral, classical, and contemporary music. His formal musical education began at age 7 when he started studying piano and performing in choral ensembles. As his musical education progressed, he noticed that he had the unusual gift of chromesthesia. Through TikTok, Sean avidly posts about being a professional musician and artist and connects with over 680,000 followers; he refers to them as “kings, queens, and monarchs.” He hopes to provide a safe, inclusive, and entertaining platform that prioritizes genuine content creation and critical thought.

Show Highlights:

  • What is chromesthesia? Multiple senses cross in the brain, making it possible to hear music and also see it in colors, textures, and patterns
  • How Sean uses TikTok to share music and chromesthesia
  • Why Sean is intensely passionate about educating and helping people see the world in different ways, especially the “lightbulb” moments of learning
  • How Sean’s personal brand of intensity cuts through to the truth and presents it to people, shining light on obscure areas in the legal system
  • As Sean grew up, he was very adamant about certain fixations, like dominoes and Jenga; his twice-exceptionality was masked by his ability to study and learn, but his ADHD was overlooked for a time
  • How his ADHD impacted the way he planned and self-regulated himself and caused imbalance in his mental health
  • How Sean was socially isolated with a few superficial friendships and focused on his hyperfixations
  • How Sean had to learn in college to apply himself to social constructs
  • The cultural factors that affected Sean as he and his sister were black twins adopted by white parents, and how this helped inform his cultural understanding
  • How Sean had to tone himself down as a counselor at a fine arts summer camp and learn how to expend his energy in appropriate ways
  • Why Sean depends on established routines and structures that work with his ADHD
  • How Sean has gotten out of control on social media in exposing the truth and presenting the facts, sometimes finding it difficult to strike a balance
  • How Sean uses his fire for good in helping people channel their fire into artistic expression in different ways
  • How Sean harnesses the power of his intensity through self-regulation and recognizing the power behind his personality and neurodivergence
  • How Sean recognized his twice-exceptionality
  • How Sean has learned to take time for himself and take mental inventory with introspection
  • Sean’s advice: “Be educated and aware when you speak about ADHD. Know your abilities and disabilities. It’s a long journey. Find your authentic self and work on defining yourself.”
  • How to ask for accommodations
  • What Sean is working on for the future


Find Sean on Instagram:  @seanszolekvanvalkenburgh

Find Sean on Twitter:  @SeanSzolek

Find Sean on TikTok:  @seansvv 

Jul 26, 2021

Our July Guest Call was on Intuitive Flow & Creativity with Kari Betton

About Kari:

Kari Betton is a coach and mentor for highly sensitive and twice-exceptional people, with a passion for helping them find their innate sense of intuitive flow.

Too often, we can be focused on developing our mental health, physical health, intellect, etc, but including intuitive development in our personal development practice creates an easier foundation for all types of development within you to be congruent with each other.

A personal intuitive wandering practice can have profound implications on achieving the results and designing the life that you desire. In this call, Kari will focus on how to attain clarity and enough space in your life to listen to the inner wisdom that you already have.

In their spare time, Kari enjoys recording and producing their podcast Decolonizing Sexuality, vegan foodie adventures with friends, and painting galaxies.

You can find out more about Kari and their work at:

In this episode:

  • What is effort transcendence?
  • Maintaining a trajectory of expansion over time
  • When to give drops, and when to be your fire hose self


Embracing Intensity Community

Workbook on Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity

Jul 19, 2021

I’m excited to introduce you to a speech therapist whose work is informed by the autistic community and her personal experience in identifying as twice-exceptional. Her heart and passion are to help give a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves. Join us!

Mara McLoughlin has over ten years of professional experience working with autistic and other neurodivergent people and their families. She has been a student and teacher of yoga and mindfulness for over 25 years, knowing that building these skills can help build a better world. She is a certified provider of the PEERS program that exists for the educational and enrichment of relational skills. With both her bachelor’s and master's degrees in Communication Science and Disorders, she knows that communication is fun, difficult, and the key to life. To learn and gain confidence in the initial steps of founding friendships and self-regulation skills can help improve the lives of everyone.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Mara is intensely passionate about yoga and working with autistic people and their families
  • How Mara’s intensity looks like a strong sense of fairness and fiercely advocating for those who can’t speak for themselves, especially those with autism or aphasia due to stroke
  • Growing up, Mara was a precocious speaker who struggled in school and was a determined but difficult child
  • How the masking component has affected Mara in “code-switching” according to different situations
  • The misconception about autism and the children who aren’t identified by their response to social cues
  • The relationship between non-binary gender identification and autism
  • How cultural factors affected Mara as she grew up in white, conservative, suburban Chicago as she didn’t follow the “rulebook” or the status quo
  • Why she was unsuccessful in toning herself down or tuning herself out because she couldn’t conform to others’ expectations
  • How Mara moved to the West Coast and found where she fits in and feels at home
  • How a stroke affected her partner at age 43 and brought out Mara’s advocacy skills
  • How Mara uses her fire for good by being a fierce advocate for people who have different brains, helping to build capacity in environments for different learners
  • How Mara harnesses the power of her intensity through breathing, yoga and movement, meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude
  • How Mara helps others use their fire through the PEERS program with social and emotional development in making and keeping friends and solving conflict
  • Mara’s business, IRL Social skills, which is a collective of speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists who help families of autistic teens and adults
  • How Mara uses immersion therapy in her work


Connect with Mara:  irl Social 

Find IRL Social Skills on Facebook and Mara McLoughlin on Twitter and @pawsomesocialskills on Instagram.

There are lots of upcoming great events happening in the EI Community. Check us out at Embracing Intensity 

Jul 13, 2021

A while back I had seen a lot of posts about the overlap and similarities between ADHD and Autism, and it got me thinking about some observations I’d made both personally and professionally testing neurodivergent kids over the years.

I posted this tweet asking folks the following questions:

Curious with the #Autism vs. #ADHD discussions recently, if you have one or both, what do you relate to more:

  1. Big Picture vs. Details
  2. Order vs. Chaos
  3. Think in Words vs. Pictures
  4. Acquired Knowledge vs. Novel Problem Solving
  5. Process Fast vs. Slow

Elaboration Welcome

More recently I posted the same questions with elaboration on TikTok and the responses were fascinating!

I think my biggest takeaway from hearing personal accounts from so many neurodivergent folks is that even when there’s a consistent pattern that is statistically more likely in a specific area of neurodivergence, they are not hard and fast rules. 

Jul 5, 2021

I met today’s guest through the neurodivergent community on Twitter. Join us to learn more about his inspiring story.

Joseph Gitau is a writer, singer, and blogger who has been diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar I. With his childhood and youth being spent between his native Kenya and the US, he has a unique perspective about how neurodivergence is treated differently in both countries. Joseph uses his talents to promote mental health throughout his creative outlets.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Joseph is intensely passionate about mental health and the arts
  • How Joseph’s personal brand of intensity includes music and twice-exceptionality
  • How Joseph’s journey of discovery through school was difficult because he was an introvert
  • How the Kenyan tradition of children being “not seen and not heard” was very difficult for Joseph as an ADHD music-lover who always wanted to sing and play music
  • Joseph’s years in Kenya and the US, and how his ADHD and bipolar diagnosis came about
  • How Joseph has to tone himself down--even today
  • How Joseph’s intensity got out of control when he dropped out of university, and he didn’t know what to do next
  • Why Joseph does the important work to break the taboo around ADHD and promote mental health awareness
  • Why Joseph’s writing includes interracial characters
  • How celebrities represent neurodiversity to the world
  • Why society uses labels to put people in different boxes
  • How Joseph came to accept his neurodivergence
  • The mixed feelings around neurodivergence, superpowers, white privilege, and economic privilege
  • How Joseph uses his fire for good through his blog where he talks about the educational system, neurodiversity, and how marginalized people are affected
  • Joseph’s plans for the future
  • How Joseph harnesses the power of his intensity through yoga and learning to balance structure and flexibility
  • Joseph’s parting advice: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Nothing is set in stone except what you did yesterday. Do what’s right by you, and people will respect you.”


Find Joseph Gitau on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Jun 28, 2021

Today’s conversation is with a creative who has overcome obstacles to find her place in the world where she isn’t afraid to be seen and heard. She helps others connect and engage, no matter how they have been “othered” by society, and she has learned how to effectively use her superpowers. Join us to learn more about making the world a brighter place for us all.

Jen Sujin Yoon is a creative consultant, storyteller, people-connector, and future-builder. We met on TikTok and immediately vibed with each other’s content. Jen is starting a new adventure as she launches The Dork Web Production Company. She lives in the Bushwick community of Brooklyn and loves this “cool hood” filled with passionate artists.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Jen is intensely passionate about connecting people and using The Dork Web as “a light corner of the web where people meet and are inspired to make the world a brighter place.”
  • How Jen’s personal brand of intensity involved her awareness of how “it all comes together” in her characteristics of being highly sensitive, neurodivergent, and 2E
  • How Jen’s intensity was always shut down as she grew up as a Korean-American having to live according to metrics and expectations; she turned to art, comics, fiction, and pop culture as forms of escapism
  • In Jen’s school experience, she was bookish and in the gifted program, but she never felt like she fit in or was good enough at school or at home
  • Why toning down and tuning out was just how Jen learned to live, and she’s only recently learned to own her space and put her voice and face out there to be heard and seen
  • How Jen learned to make herself small to try to fit in and be a people-pleaser--these were her survival skills
  • How Jen felt “othered” in many ways but wants people to feel like they belong
  • How Jen’s intensity becomes out of control in her moments of “Hulk-smash” crazy anger
  • How Jen compares her ADHD to superpowers that make her loud and proud
  • Why Jen views her past traumas as what has developed her into who she is today
  • Why Jen wants to normalize ALL emotions
  • How Jen uses her fire for good as she uses her interdisciplinary experience and embracing leadership to help promote others and their work that aligns with her values
  • How Jen harnesses the power of her intensity as she watches her younger sister (whom she mothered) grow up and have awareness of the world’s realities
  • Why Jen explains her childhood narcissistic trauma as “death by a thousand paper-cuts”
  • Jen’s advice: “Even if you're a problem-solver and leader, you still have to take care of yourself and not be a martyr. No one is coming to save you---you have to save yourself.”


Find The Dork Web on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. Website coming soon at The Dork Web

Jun 15, 2021

We had our first neurodivergent book club on Saturday, and one of the things we talked about was the complexity of labels. On the one hand, they serve as a tool to get information, support and connect with others, but it can also serve to separate us into "us and them" if we're not careful. 

In this episode:

  • Why I avoided using the terms gifted and twice exceptional for so long, and why it's helped to finally use them. 
  • Just because we can get by without a label, doesn't mean it wouldn't be helpful. 
  • Being in both parent and neurodivergent adult spaces, parents are hesitant to label kids with disabilities, but not giftedness, while adults wish they'd gotten disability diagnoses sooner and often dislike the gifted label. 


Embracing Intensity Community

Free Workbook on Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity

Jun 7, 2021

Today’s show is all about taking a holistic approach to achieve balance and take back control of your life. Join us to learn more.

Zarya Rubin is a physician and functional medicine health coach. She is a formerly stressed-out mom who now helps women in mid-life get to the root of their health issues and manage their stress to take back control of their lives.

Show Highlights:

  • What is stress?
  • The relationship between stress, control, and our response to stressors
  • The body’s primal response: fight, flight, or freeze
  • Zarya explains her self-care graphic and gives factoids about stress
  • How unmitigated stress often leads to burnout
  • Personality traits that make you prone to burnout: being a workaholic, superhero, perfectionist, or lone ranger
  • Common stressors in daily life are work, family, life events, health, finances, change/loss, and pandemic stress, which all of us have experienced in the last several months
  • How stress CAN be a positive thing that motivates us to accomplish daily tasks
  • How women can reduce stress levels by sharing with others and finding community
  • Three types of stress: acute, episodic, and chronic
  • The gut/brain connection and how stress affects it
  • How to prevent stress, manage stress, and build resilience:
    • Use stress-busting techniques.
    • Take care of the basics.
    • Use a checklist, speak up, and practice self-care.
    • Practice breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness.
  • What self-care is
  • Types of rest: physical, mental, social, sensory, emotional, spiritual, and creative
  • Zarya gives examples of breathing exercises and meditation that you can try at home
  • Tips for good health habits for those with executive functioning impairments


Find out more about Zarya and her work, and find her FREE Guide to Becoming Stress-Proof:

Wild Lilac Wellness

May 31, 2021

The foundation of my work on my blog and podcast has been about intensity, and it's origins came from my work on excitability, also known as over excitability. Excitability is when you receive and respond the world more intensely than others. 

In this episode:

  • Excitability as a sign of high developmental potential
  • The 5 areas of excitability
  • Using your strengths


Free workbook on Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity!

Embracing Intensity Community

May 24, 2021

Today’s show is with yet another intriguing person I met on TikTok. I’m especially interested in her experience with twice-exceptionality and the work she’s doing in TV.

Shadi Petosky is an Emmy winner and Wendy’s Employee of the Month-winning TV showrunner. She co-created and showran the Emmy-winning Danger and Eggs for Amazon Prime Video, which was also a Critics Choice and GLAAD nomination. She executive produced Twelve Forever for Netflix and the upcoming live- action, gender-bending sci-fi series Forever Alone with Adaptive Studios. She most recently directed the live-action comedy pilot, Let’s Go Atsuko for Quibi, and her show, Pretty Cursed, is in development at Circle of Confusion TV. She was the animation supervisor for all 72 episodes of the hit show Yo Gabba Gabba.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Shadi is intensely passionate about making stuff like comics, art, games, designs, visual effects, and TV writing
  • Why Shadi’s personal brand of intensity is “clownish with a Willy Wonka vibe”
  • How Shadi grew up living a series of ADHD cliches, being a daydreamer and a nerd later in high school who loved theater and clubs
  • In school, Shadi was bullied a lot and involved in many fights; she stayed in trouble, was an extrovert, and says she was never anyone’s favorite person
  • Cultural factors that affected Shadi include growing up in rural Montana and then a military kid who lived an isolated and classless existence in remote areas
  • Why Shadi’s childhood affected what she thought was possible in pursuing dreams
  • How Shadi didn’t have to tone down or tune herself out as a kid, but has had to learn as an adult to handle conflict, deal with people, and tackle her intense irritability
  • How Shadi has handled her executive functioning issues in managing other people
  • How Shadi uses her fire for good in making TV shows with queer kids and doing fulfilling work that matters, especially when it comes to justice sensitivity
  • What Shadi has noticed about the evolution of TV shows in the representation of trans folks and other marginalized groups
  • How Shadi’s creativity was affected by the pandemic and quarantine
  • How Shadi harnesses the power of her intensity by making lists, going to therapy, DBT, and new medications; she has also tried to cut down on stressful jobs and prioritize leisure time
  • How Shadi helps others use their fire by helping young writers, teaching, and working with kids
  • Why it’s tough to be vulnerable online
May 18, 2021

I once again had other plans for this episode but I realized I've hit survival mode for the school year. Every year since 8th grade, I've had what I called Spring Fever when I'd crash at the end of the school year. I've come to realize that it's the fatigue that comes from over taxing my executive functioning skills for too long. 

Add a pandemic, last minute taxes, aging hormones, unfavorable med change and adapting to my son's new schedule getting up earlier Mondays, and my brain's pretty much toast today!

In this episode: 

  • My creativity and new thought currently dried up
  • Meds are like brain glasses
  • Giving grace through the end of school
  • I'm opening up some 1:1 spots for coaching and adult learning assessment 
  • An exciting collaborating to revamp my website with more info on how that looks this summer!
  • Threadless sale 15% off and just added all of Jays Workshop squirrel merch!
  • Call recording for Breaking the Stress Cycle available in the Embracing Intensity Community
  • Next call on Asyncronous Dev in Gifted Adults with Tiffany Chhuom


May 10, 2021

Today’s guest had all the markers of traditional success, an Ivy League Education, letters after her name and a well paying career, but she realized she was miserable because she was not being authentic to herself. She broke out of the medical system to help people in a more holistic way. Join us!

Dr. Zarya Rubin is a Harvard-educated physician and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about helping people heal through functional medicine. She partners with her clients to get to the root cause of symptoms and create a roadmap to wellness.

Show Highlights:

  • Why Zarya considers herself a “multipotentialite” who is passionate about many interests and has engaged her entrepreneurial qualities in many varied careers
  • How Zarya’s love of opera singing has fared during the time of COVID
  • Zarya’s personal brand of intensity means that she has always been “a lot,” but seemed like a “garden variety normal intense person” during her time in NYC
  • Why she is intense about political activism and her many passions but has learned to be quieter as she has aged and come into the coaching space, learning to live a slower paced life on the west coast
  • How Zarya’s intensity has transformed over the years as she grew up as a shy and quiet child
  • How the acceleration from kindergarten to 3rd grade in one year led to Zarya’s inner struggle with darkness and anxiety
  • The disastrous outcome of Zarya’s acceleration in school leading her to become a burnt out gifted kid
  • Cultural factors that influenced Zarya stemmed from her very Jewish, very intense, and very loud family
  • How Zarya had to tone down and tune out for decades to make herself more acceptable to women in friendships and men in relationships, which also meant she dumbed down her education and career
  • How Zarya’s intensity never appeared out of control outwardly, but she inwardly dealt with anxiety and PTSD
  • How Zarya uses her relentless pursuit of answers and solutions for the good of her clients and her family
  • How Zarya’s husband helped her gain a new perspective on social media posts
  • What parents of gifted kids really want
  • How Zarya harnesses the power of her intensity by embracing, recognizing, acknowledging, and accepting it
  • How Zarya’s goal as a coach is working with women in midlife to help them find their spark, joy, and passion again


Wild Lilac Wellness

Visit Zarya’s website to get her FREE Guide to Becoming Stress-Proof

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May 4, 2021

I've observed a lot of themes around integration and disintegration recently so I thought it would be a good time to do a quick overview of Kazmier's Dabrowski's theory of Positive Disintegration.

You can find a more comprehensive overview on ep. 154: On Positive Disintegration with Chris Wells, and my Blog Post “Finding Treasure in Ruins.”

Dabrowski believes that intensity/excitability is a sign of high developmental potential, and neuroses, which we might call neurodiversity, anxiety, existential depression etc., can be positive if they move us towards our higher selves. 

In this episode:

  • 3 factors of positive development
  • Dynamisms are the inner and outer forces that drive our actions.  
  • 5 types of integration and disintegration
  • Resources on integration
  • 5 Types of overexcitability
  • Thoughts on Integration
  • Over identification and/or rejection of certain parts of our identity
  • What is Dabrowski's Sweater?
  • Getting your conflicting parts to communicate with each other.
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