By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 114


This interview with Paige Layle, an Autistic advocate and author, really moved me.

I often discuss the difficulties our neurodivergent children face in the world, but hearing Paige share first-hand her own memories of not feeling accommodated or understood in school—along with the relief and validation she found in her Autism diagnosis—deepens my resolve to advocate for our kids even more passionately.

Whether you’re considering an evaluation for your child, figuring out how to champion their needs at school, or battling the ableism and misconceptions surrounding neurodivergence, Paige’s story holds invaluable lessons, and I hope you’ll listen in.

Paige Layle 

An enthusiastic advocate for autism, Paige challenges misconceptions and highlights the real experiences of autistic individuals. Her influential memoir, But Everyone Feels This Way: How an Autism Diagnosis Saved My Life, calls us to have greater comprehension and empathy for neurodivergent children.

What you’ll learn in this episode: 

Grab a Copy of Paige’s Book:

Paige’s book But Everyone Feels This Way: How an Autism Diagnosis Saved My Life is available at major retailers like Amazon, Target, Hachette, Audible and more. 

This episode contains discussions about sensitive topics, including thoughts of suicide. Listener discretion is advised, and it is recommended to listen without children present.

Episode Links

How an Autism Diagnosis Saved Paige Layle's Life: Interview
Speaker 1 0:00 Growing up knowing who you are, there's a lot that you have to kind of shed of who you've been told that you are. And I honestly I think that that's more relatable to a lot of people that growing up even like being a woman, you I, a lot of us...

Speaker 1 0:00 Growing up knowing who you are, there’s a lot that you have to kind of shed of who you’ve been told that you are. And I honestly I think that that’s more relatable to a lot of people that growing up even like being a woman, you I, a lot of us are told to be a certain way as a kid that we have to we unlearn as we get older. There’s, yeah, a lot of us we’re not in the most optimal learning environments for our specific needs. Laura Petix 0:32 Welcome to the sensory wise solutions podcast for parents, where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT and mom to Lilyana a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new ot mom. bestie. I know my stuff. But I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Speaker 2 1:02 Okay, mom, enough about me. Let’s try the podcast. Laura Petix 1:08 Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I cannot wait for you to hear the conversation that I had with Paige Lael, who I interviewed today in this episode. Paige Lael was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 15, and is now an advocate and influencer for a better understanding of autism on social media. Paige began making videos in response to a degrading post about autistic people initially creating a four part series to address common misconceptions about autism. Now in her 20s Paige is an autism acceptance activist on YouTube and Tiktok. Paige also works part time as a dance teacher and shares her home in Kawartha Lakes Canada with her dogs Macy and Medusa and her cat Mikado. She narrated the audible original American Girl by Wendy Walker, which became an instant number one audible bestseller. Paige also wrote a book, which is why I have her here today, her book is called but everyone feels this way how an autism diagnosis saved my life. And we are going to be reading a few passages from the book and I’m just going to ask about her experience as an undiagnosed autistic child at the time, and how that was for her, not knowing for all of her early childhood years that she had a different brain. Very, very quick trigger warning for those of you listening, Paige shares in her book, and she does talk about it a few times in the interview about thoughts of suicide. And so if that is something that is triggering to you, please be aware that that is something that we discuss here. She also talks about going non contact with her parents, and how that relationship has kind of been tarnished throughout the years of them not really understanding her, if you are in any sort of emotional state about parenting or your childhood with your parents, and any of those kinds of topics are really triggering and hard for you to hear. And process at this time. This might be an episode to bookmark and listen to at a later time. I also don’t think that this is going to be a great episode to listen to with your kids because of the heavy topics that we do cover, but it is a fantastic episode. And without further ado, let’s get straight into it. Yay. Hello, Paige. Welcome to the podcast. Speaker 1 3:25 Hi, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me. Paige, Laura Petix 3:28 you wrote a book called but everyone feels this way. And we’re going to talk about it because I really, really loved all of the insights you provided about your journey as a child pre diagnosis, before you got the autism diagnosis, and then after and what that’s been like navigating that, but I have to say off the bat. I am not a reader. Like obviously I know how to read but I am not a bookworm. I am not a reader. And people always say you should do audiobooks. I just don’t have the attention span, hence, the current ADHD evaluation. I don’t know the results of yet. But I actually listen to your entire book from like the intro to the very end. It kept me captivated. I felt like it was a friend talking to me. So I was like, I’m actually like, really excited because I read the whole thing or listen to the whole thing. Yeah, that counts. That’s still everything. Yes. That’s so cool. I like that. Okay, so right off the bat. I love how in your book, you shared a lot of the internal thought process to the sensory experiences that you had, which is so much of the parts of parenting a neurodivergent child that parents who are not neurodivergent have a hard time understanding the intensity of the sensory experiences and See how that can translate to like behavior. And not only like, in the moment, it’s not always so cut and paste or not only so concrete where it’s like, oh, they heard the toilet flush, and then their child cries, but it’s like, it can like accumulate throughout the day and then like later have a full like burnout and like meltdown and feeling overwhelmed. And so I talk to parents a lot about this experience at school, and school can be so overwhelming for kids. So I would love to read a passage from your book and then asking more questions about it. This is from the third chapter when you were first going to school. Was it kindergarten? Or was it Yeah, Speaker 1 5:46 I was four. Yeah, yeah. JK or whatever. And yeah, okay. Laura Petix 5:50 Oh, yeah. In Canada, it’s called. Okay, so this is from Chapter Three called Imus, mommy and daddy. And I’m reading this because this really describes a lot of the thought process. Well, the internal experience of someone who has sensory overload, and is put into a multi sensory overwhelming environment, like the school in the classroom, even though neurotypical people might not see it as like, loud or overwhelming. So this is in chapter three, it says, I hated going to school, it was so loud and so much the lights buzzed. Everyone talked over each other all the time. I’d never been in a building with so many people talking people bumped into me and touched me. I didn’t like how dirty everything was. I didn’t like sharing. I didn’t ever know what to do. But I didn’t mean to cry. I don’t even remember thinking of something that then made me cry that felt uncontrollable, and unreasonable and never ending. And then towards the end of that page, it says, Sometimes I’d be holding myself together as best I could, only for the smallest inconvenience to send me down a wailing spiral. And then you list some of the things that triggered you to cry. But then you mentioned none of these were the real reason for my tears. They were final triggers. But I never knew why I felt so dysregulated all the time. And some of those things you listed where I put my shoes on the wrong feet and had to redo them. I got sand in my eyes. My raspberries tasted funny. Someone didn’t put the cap on my favorite marker properly. So it dried up. Someone tried to kiss me. I couldn’t hold scissors correctly. I hated the puppet. My teacher used to read us a story. That then you said there were a lot of things that were hard to deal with transitions, the kids the mess, loud sounds, the smells, my lack of autonomy, interacting with kids who were mean that everyone was a stranger and bigger than me and terrifying. But that’s not what I said. Because that’s not something I knew yet. Oh, that really? Like encapsulates it so well. How much of that? Do you still remember now? Like, why is it so vivid Speaker 1 8:12 everything? I even reading this in the audiobook, I had to take breaks, because I was crying. And that sounds like awful. Yeah, just remember well, being that little girl, and how helpless I felt, and how? Yeah, I remember everything I remember. Like, I remember that puppet that my kindergarten teacher used. I remember when she held it. And she looked at me. And she was like, everyone else misses their mommies and daddies and they’re not crying. I remember the whole class looking at me, and I didn’t want to cry. It just my body? Couldn’t, there was so much that I didn’t even know exactly what what it was what to explain. Because when you’re a kid, especially when you’re a neurodiverse kid, you don’t know that these things are even things to notice. Or even things that would be overwhelming to whoever’s. And you don’t even know that. Laura Petix 9:10 Yeah. And I think that people who see those things like those last triggers that you said, like my raspberries tasted funny or someone didn’t put the cap on. And if this were, you know, a less educated person writing like, let’s say writing notes home, like, oh, you know, Paige had a hard day at school. She’s again, doesn’t like when things aren’t in her control, and she gets mad at the other kids and like, they’re just making it about these social things. And it’s not even about that. It’s truly a nervous system reaction to a combination of all these sensory things and I think that it would be you know, it’s it would be so easy if parents could just ask their forte Why were you quiet? Why are you still crying? What is it if they were like Oh, You know, everything you listed, right? But that’s not the way that it is. So we have to take a lot of these. I think that’s the back Speaker 1 10:09 of it and backtrack. And what did you see all day? What happened to you? Oh, yeah, Laura Petix 10:15 and like observe the environment. So I think what, why I love being an OT and what OTS are so good at. Not all OTs, but a lot of OTS that really get this good training is we are really good at taking in an entire environment and like picking out what can contribute towards a dysregulated nervous system. I know that you didn’t get your diagnosis until you were 15. Have you heard of so it wasn’t sorry. Like, I want to remind with anyone else in those like kindergarten, early elementary school years getting accommodations that you were like, I want that or that would help Speaker 1 10:51 me 1,000,000% Yes, yes. But only only like, we maybe have one kid in the class that also had an EA that also went to other classes during the day to like, there was I remember, there was a kid that was in most of my classes growing up and his name was Tyler. And I’d always come in and I’d say Hi, Tyler. And he always had something in his hand. Like, I wish I had something like that in my hand all the time. And I’m like, What do you got today? And it was like something squishy or something pulley? And I’m like, Dude, that’s rad. Like, can I do that? He gets it. They have different things to sit on. Or he’d be able to move his feet while he was doing his work. He’d be able to go to the sensory room, and I never could. And I’m just looking at him. I’m like, Oh, that looks like so calming and so great. And I would just be like in I don’t know, but I’m like, I’m just being selfish. Maybe because I don’t need that or deserve that. Yeah, obviously. So I’m just being selfish. I can look from afar, but me actually using any of those things would not be fair. So if for some reason, it came into my head, Laura Petix 12:00 because you didn’t know at that time that you were neurodivergent Yeah. Speaker 1 12:05 So now those accommodations shouldn’t be there for anyone who needs them. So the Laura Petix 12:10 need so you wanted something like in your I cannot live without my fidget. So you do go I wish I had something for my hand. And I wish I could go to the sensory room. Aside from you know, having like feeling overwhelmed, like emotionally, were you naturally finding things to fidget with and move your body that like teachers would catch on to or tell you to stop? Or like, Was anybody else noticing that you had sensory needs in the classroom? But like, weren’t able to provide them for you? Speaker 1 12:37 Yeah, I think so. I don’t know what what was different about 2004. But I was told to stop doing a lot of things. One of the things was I was put into dance when I was two, three ish, because I moved all the time I was spinning around in circles. I love spinning, I loved the swings, I love just my wallet. Like, I had one of those little seats, your spin on you can spin yourself, I’d be on those forever. And my parents put me in dance. And I danced for a few years and tried really hard. But I cried every day at dance. So but I just I wanted to move but I couldn’t do the teacher. And so the Laura Petix 13:19 the House worked very structured and let you just wanted to shoot this mean, Speaker 1 13:22 like I remember her being mean, I remember her being like, stop moving, stop interrupting, stop talking. And as a dance teacher, now I look back. And I totally, she was probably just an inevitable teacher. But to me, it felt like I felt like a full person, you know, at three years old. And so when being like, stop talking, stop moving. I’m like, stop yelling, yeah. Why are you yelling? Just talk to me like a person. And that was what I couldn’t handle. I knew that there were ways apparently to move. To do something with my body. I loved being outside. I loved being with animals, with nature, with kids as I got older. And teaching is really where I found like a lot of where my special interests actually are utilized all the time. And that’s like a natural almost accommodation to me, that you don’t get even a choice to have when you’re a kid. You’re like, honestly to when you’re a kid a lot of people don’t like respect kids a lot. I think that kids are so smart. They know so much more than they’re given credit for. And I think that all of us actually when we were kids were smarter than maybe we think that we were or that we remember. And as we grow up I think that you know life gets a little bit fogs up a little bit and you start having perceptions of yourself or and just have kids in general and you forget At that, like, No, you were smart. You didn’t know, like you had hopes and dreams that you probably still have. You knew, like kids are so smart. They know, right from wrong. If they’re like, that doesn’t seem fair to me. Yeah. And I’m like, You’re right girl is for real. And don’t listen to the adults that tell you that you’re wrong, or that tell you that, like, don’t try to snuff that out of you. You’re right. And by pushing against people that tell you, you’re wrong. Yeah, Laura Petix 15:27 I think that that is so important. Because even, even aside from like, knowing like factual things, and kids that know a lot of how many times do adults override what kids are saying about their own bodies, right? Even a little thing, you should wear a jacket, you must be cold. Well, I’m like, How do you know I’m cold, like my body is experiencing cold. It’s like the different or you haven’t eaten all day, you should be hungry, like take another bite. It’s like, but I’m actually not hungry. Like my body doesn’t say that I’m hungry. There was Speaker 1 15:57 a time in SK. So the year after JK, that all of us were to go to the bathroom, there was boys bathroom, girls bathroom, like you’re done, you line up at the wall. And I remember being little and saying, I don’t have to go to the bathroom. And she’s like, yes, you do. Every one has to go to the bathroom. And I’m like, Oh, I don’t I remember being so frustrated. Because I didn’t know any other words to get across. What I wanted to say was that I don’t need to urinate at the sun. Yeah, actually, I’m not I’m gonna go in there and walk around and come back. And she was like, yes, you have to go, everyone has to. And I was like, No, I don’t have to. And she thought I was defying her. And then I started crying because I was the Laura Petix 16:37 language communication. And there’s some of those things where, you know, in some environments, it makes sense, you know, as a convenience factor, like the the teachers, probably it’s more efficient to take everyone to go at one time, or at least try and empty so that we don’t have like everyone going every five minutes, obviously. You know, when you’re five, when you’re five, and also at home with parents, mostly where it’s like just constantly have like taking away that sense of autonomy and their own experience of the child where it’s like, well, I guess my parents said, I shouldn’t be mad. I should be cold. I should be hungry. I should be sleepy. Like I guess I know nothing about my body, then. Yeah. Speaker 1 17:19 And also why am I not feeling these things? Right? What’s What else do I not know? Right? Yeah. What else am I understanding? Laura Petix 17:27 So I can see how that’s very confusing to have these trusted adults and caregivers. Well, meaning I will always say that parents are well meaning and as a parent, now I understand the convenience factor. But trying to separate that is you have these trusted well meaning adults who are caring for you, and I love them. And they’re telling me these things about my body because they know better. They’re smarter, they’re older, they know everything yet, this is my own body. And I’m not connecting with what they’re saying. So I must trust what they’re saying. Like that experience must be so really hard to get over. Yeah, Speaker 1 18:09 it’s and I think that it can, for me, it even goes deeper than that, too. And I think that just growing up knowing who you are, there’s a lot that you have to kind of shed of who you’ve been told that you are. And I honestly I think that that’s more relatable to to a lot of people that growing up even like being a woman, you i A lot of us are told to be a certain way as a kid that we have to we unlearn as we get older. There’s Yeah, a lot of us we’re not in the most optimal learning environments for our specific needs as kids and it definitely is something. Laura Petix 18:54 Yes, yeah, I really Speaker 1 18:55 love I love. I’ve always loved kids. I’ve always connected to kids. And now that I’m like, not a kid. I’m like, so much more respected. And I’m like, we better treat kids better. Yeah, I am now not a kid Everyone listen to me. We better accommodate these kids. Because these kids, they need better. Yeah, sound smart, like their Laura Petix 19:14 people. Yeah. Okay. And, okay, that’s a perfect transition because I had a list. I mean, I could list so much more. But I had some common accommodations that I tell parents for kids who are entering kindergarten or any time of the school year really, but they’re noticing their child has maybe anxious or sensory overload or needs a different kind of learning experience. And I just had a few accommodations that I commonly recommend. I would love to hear your opinion on if they would have helped you if you would have been like yes or no or anything like that. So the first one that I commonly recommend that I do for my daughter is I always request an early Meet and Greet for the teacher and the classroom. Um, yes. So I’m hoping, well, okay, so I posted this on Instagram that I had to call the principal and asked for this. And then people message like, Oh, our school does that automatically for only kinder. But some people were like, that would be awesome. Can you do that? So you have to ask. And I mean, we otherwise for us in the US, the public schools, like you get, you go to the you get like a email and you get like a list of what your teacher’s name is, and what room to report to, you have no idea anything else, it’s like the day before school starts. My daughter, much like me very much benefits from being prepared. And visually what to expect the name with the teacher looks like everything. So I called the principal and was like, Can you give us like two days heads up? And can we also meet with the teacher and walk through the classroom? So I got that setup for my daughter. I’m guessing that would have helped you Speaker 1 20:53 so much. So yeah, that’s absolutely wild. I do that sidenote, sorry, I also I teach dance, and I love it. But I do that there are anxious kids that come all the time. And we actually will do that for any kid like to come in the studio when no one’s there. We’ll walk around, show you the bathrooms, here’s who I am. I love that. I’m so glad people are doing. Okay, Laura Petix 21:12 another accommodation. I heard you mention this in the book. So I know you’re gonna agree to it. But I just want to share this with parents out there. This is so a lot of kids who it’ll present as kids like avoiding certain like writing activities and like they hate writing, they hate worksheets, they hate Writer’s Workshop, they are, you know, defiant, they’re not listening. And then we’ll do a little bit more digging. And it’s like, the stress from the timing of the writing, or they’re not really they’re not able to come up with idea of what to write. There’s maybe motor planning issues with the handwriting, and then that forced time pressure of like writing at that time. So I often suggest to parents to ask the teachers for a preview of what’s coming that week in advance so parents can prepare. And it’s like, you know, on Wednesday, you guys are going to write about your summer vacation. So do you remember what we did over a summer vacation? Let’s write like bullet points. Or maybe even I would say, Have the child tell you and you, you write it down and then take that with them. And they just copy the sentences that they said, but now the letters are in front of them, and all they have to focus on is transcribing like that. So they’re like looking like they’re writing and participating. And it’s still their words, but it was prepared in advance. Yeah, I think that would have been helpful in an elementary school. Speaker 1 22:34 That is yes. That’s so cool. That’s yeah, I definitely elementary school. I didn’t get anything before. And I think that there is a layer of understanding something in school that a lot of neurotypical people don’t see that a lot of us have to do. Like you read something, you have to like, what did you do this vacation? Okay, yeah. What did I do? Now? I have to take all this time thinking about it. But and before I do that, I got to talk think about like, what I want to talk about how I want to talk about it, writing it out? What are they actually testing right now? Are they testing for writing and grammar? Are they testing for creativity? Could I make something up right now? Would that be fine? How much time do I have? Like, there’s so much to delegate? Whereas if you know beforehand, total that you’re delegating? Yeah, do the tasks that they actually want, which is probably yours, check your grammar, like, you know, like they exactly usually don’t care about all of those things that I actually need to know in order. Exactly. Laura Petix 23:31 And on top of that, being able to pull from those that executive functioning, that top layer of the brain, you know, you have to be regulated. And if there’s all that sensory stuff going on, there’s no way you’re gonna be able to access that and like hearing your own heartbeat in your ear and like feel like your tummy grumbles and then the person next to you has this like, smell or like the sound of their voice, all of the things is just overwhelming. So I think that that can be helpful. Also just advocating for no homework, which I tell parents to ask for all the time, like homework has long been researched. They’ve debugged the fact that you even need homework to begin with. Yeah, especially if it’s causing more stress at home. Yes. Speaker 1 24:16 No, I didn’t eat like I did homework every day for like six hours a day. I don’t even know if I actually did it. You know, I was just sitting there everyday crying, stressing Laura Petix 24:26 remember that in the book and barely what was it? What was interesting is for me as a Filipino. My parents were very strict about like academics. And so I felt more of the pressure from my parents, but it sounded like some of what your parents are like page it’s like it’s on a big deal about like the test or like so they were even telling you to like, relax about it. And for you that was still I didn’t turn my shirt Speaker 1 24:50 yet. And my parents didn’t understand like they my parents said since I was really young that I was smarter than them and I couldn’t like I I never could go to them to ask questions. Life or about homework. Like they’re like, I don’t know. Like, if you don’t know, I don’t know, you know, and so I like oh, you know, I’d come home I’d get an 85 I’d be losing my mind. They were like, Paige, we literally got like, 65 in high school. Like you’re doing great, kiddo. Yeah, I don’t know what but I think like now I know. I think like, it doesn’t I know, I wasn’t feeling okay with that. And I never got that validation ever that like how I was feeling about it was okay. It was always how I was feeling about it that was wrong. And like, No, you should be okay, within 85 You should be okay. You shouldn’t be you should be good. Now I understand why I wasn’t. Now I understand how I was feeling every day and why that was the end of the world at the time. How Laura Petix 25:48 do you think what what do you think someone could have said or could have done? So that grades or that like performance? You know, your output in school wasn’t as important to you because parents were saying, you know, it’s not a big deal. I’m hearing you say that you wish you were more validated for the experience you were having in general, which is important. But is there anything like would it have been like a teacher telling you directly that like page grades don’t really matter? Like you’re fine, or like what would have taken that pressure off of you if your parents couldn’t do that for you? Speaker 1 26:20 I think that it was the whole gist to me what school was, and to me, it was life. Like that was the only thing that I was ever good at. It was the only thing I ever like, I got really, really good grades in school. I got Yep, I got awards, and I got praised for it. And yeah, that was the only time I ever got recognized or praised. Okay, I think ever. I also think that I saw school I didn’t do a lot after school I did, I acted, but I was never into sports. Never could just get the hang of sports. Like my brother was really into sports. My dad was into sport. So they worried about sports. And if their grades kind of suffered, they’re like, that’s okay. I’m not going to do great things. I’m going to do four things, right. I was supposed to be. All I knew was I was good at work. And I wasn’t good at like anything else. And I think I was just so stressed as a human. Every day. I just felt like something. Had the I had to work for something. I was like I want everything was such a struggle, there had to be a reason why I was struggling. And when a grade wasn’t good. It was like that, why this sucks all the struggling for what all of this. And then you’re still left tests are stupid, because then after a test, I got my mark back. And I’m left with so many questions. I now need to learn this. And then we just move on to the next unit. Like, there’s all of this stuff that apparently I don’t know, I would like to know it or ask about it. That’s important. How can I move on and not be stressed from that? If I receive a not good mark, and then we just keep going? When I’m a little kid in the mindset that school is the most important thing for me in my life. Laura Petix 28:26 How do you think you’ve got that? So you’re saying that you got that school felt most important for you? Because that’s what you were good at. So you wanted to just continue? I will also as your identity, I Speaker 1 28:36 think, yes, but I also think I was heavily pressured by my parents, not specifically to like be smart, but to be perfect at whatever it is that I’m seeing doing it. Like it’s definitely something that I mean, I am autistic. But I know that this isn’t inherently like I’m stressed. That’s an autism thing for sure. But the stress and the pressure that I was feeling didn’t need to happen. If I were like, emotionally attended to, if I had like that was really, school was the only it was the only thing that my parents did like to interact with me like we never my parents, we never talked or hung out or like, did stuff we never like watch movies together, or any of that stuff. It was only like, how do they have a school? They tell their friends about how great I was at school. They wouldn’t tell me but they tell everybody else. Oh Laura Petix 29:49 wow. And so that for you was like your form of like they’re showing they’re like being proud of you and you wanted to really uphold that. Speaker 1 29:56 And I also say that I never saw a future I always saw when I was in school, I always saw that I would kill myself one day. Laura Petix 30:08 In the book, yeah, Speaker 1 30:09 I never prepared for something after I never had goals. And like, what do you want to be when you grow up? I’m like, I don’t actually like, I don’t want to wait too much. And people said, like, Oh, you think you’re struggling now as a kid? Wait till you’re an adult? And I’m like, I can’t do that. There’s no like, I can do more than this. Yeah, so school was like, you know, eight hours every day you do it, you come home, my home life was not fun. And so school was it. I just, I thought that’s what that was it. That was all my life was was work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, because I couldn’t ever I could never feel because all my feelings were wrong. And if I ever felt anything, I was pushed away shove away. So I kind of feel so all I did was work. And if my work wasn’t 100% I I don’t know, at the time, I was just like, this is this is it out? This is outrageous. i It’s unexplainable to me now. That must have laying the change from now, in Laura Petix 31:17 terms of your mindset of it. Speaker 1 31:19 Yeah. Just have that thought in that situation. Laura Petix 31:24 Yeah. And that must have been such a, I don’t want to say identity crisis, but such a No, for real went when you mentioned the that you stopped college like you left and you didn’t you didn’t continue right. And as someone you know, for me, I know you mentioned it was because you were thinking you didn’t really have a future period. But for me, it was you know, get the grades so you can get this in high school and then get that award and then get this in college and then go to the next school and and this on your resume. So then, for you so much pressure on your your entire academic career. And then college was too hard too much with that kind of lifestyle. You weren’t like, prepared for that kind of lifestyle. was how did you come to that? I mean, I’m sure it was hard to come to that decision. But is that something that you think now like how do you how do you think of that choice of when you left Speaker 1 32:22 of leaving? It was it was really, it was really sucky. It was like worst case scenario when it happened. I was I was a TA in second year, I was a teacher’s assistant, I ran my own anatomy labs with first year and even like, there was some fourth years and I’m there 19 like cutting into brains and stuff. Yeah, we had a class. Yeah. Like, it was amazing. I was like this is I love teaching. I love anatomy. I’m like, This is so amazing. And I wish that I could do this. But I just I didn’t know how to be a human. And it didn’t seem that it didn’t seem like it made any sense. And there was just what really hit and when it really hit was when I went to I had a few counselors at the university very cool. And a counselor took me to the hospital assigned to the university because there was a some hospital. And they’re like, You need to be checked in. Because you are suicidal. And I’m like, No, I’m thought this is the same way I felt my whole life. Yeah, I’m fine. Like, I’m, you know, it’s fine. But then that psychiatrist when I saw her, I talked to her. And she was the first doctor I think who felt to me like the way that I the way that I felt about it. She wasn’t like, oh, oh, honey, she was like, she was like, why are you in school? Yeah, because I have to and she’s like, You can’t live. Therefore you can’t do school. Like you need to get out and work on being a human and how to live and survive. Like she was not. No BS not sure no saying that the Yeah. And I was like, oh, that’s no one has ever called me that I can just give off. Laura Petix 34:22 Well, she was probably the first psychiatrist that wasn’t like a pediatric specialist if you were accessing this in college, so maybe she was more used to working with adults, right? And this is real life stuff. This is real life stuff. And it’s like, this isn’t the baby stuff. Like you’re talking about that like let’s get we’re not playing anymore. Day to day life for you that actually works for your brain and body. At Speaker 1 34:44 first it kind of like it hit me. I was like, she’s being so so cold. Yeah, but I’m like, Thank God like It felt good to my nervous system when people were always like, Oh, you can do you can do Yeah, felt invalidating and I didn’t know that. and her being like, you literally want to die. How can you be a doctor when you’re dead? You can’t. So yeah, you What are you doing? Yeah. And I came home and I, I was with I had roommates and my one roommate was my best friend. And I’d never gotten nonverbal in front of her. And for like, five hours, she just sat with me and just cried and tried to get get through to me. And I just, I couldn’t even my brain, there were just so many thoughts in my brain that none of them were the right one. And I just could couldn’t, couldn’t do anything. And it was such a, like, she’s never seen me like that. And she’s never, like, I’ve always been really safe and comfy with her. But I was so Dalton is so burnt, and that it really made me realize, especially talking to her the next day, too, that like I’m You’re serious page. And I think the reason why you pushed yourself for so long, is because no one took you seriously. And so you didn’t take yourself seriously. But now, now that other people are taking you seriously, take yourself seriously. Take care of yourself, you know what a good to have? Yeah, it was good. But uh, you know, I really wanted to do online school. And they were like, No, we don’t offer that at all. And then four months later, was March of 2020. Yep. And everything was online. And I’m like, I hate this so much. But then that’s also when I started talking on social media. And I thought you know what, I being a doctor and going to school for 12 years is not it? It wasn’t when I was stressed out Paige that was so into just work and stress all the time. But especially if I have this option to do anything else, because it especially I do I have this platform, I get to speak to people, I am I going to do this for as long as I can. And I actually get such so many more chances to actually make meaningful change and impact. And actually now I get to speak to the very people that I wanted to yell at my whole life and say like, this is what I’m thinking, this is what I want. This is what I need. Now I get to do that. And Laura Petix 37:36 it actually is amazing. It’s worked out so well for you. I’m so I’m very, very happy for you that this is all fall into place. Right? That’s amazing. I have a lot of kids who feel anxious at recess or like unstructured play time. So I was talking about giving helping parents come up with a list of things kids can do like a menu, you can read, you can play hopscotch, you can even if it’s like a trusted adult, like I have so many clients who work who like prefer to hang out with like the janitor or like the librarian or like just because adults are easier for them to talk to than the other kids who are fast and messy and bumped into them and like didn’t follow the playground rules. Right? So do you think that would have helped you? If someone’s like, I don’t know how hard recess or lunch was for you? It totally Speaker 1 38:29 was and lunch? Yeah, just like unstructured, what am I going to do? And where like, it always felt like people had just their own groups. Right. So that would be nice. And I yeah, having like, these are things that is okay to do. You’re okay to be by yourself to during recess, and just being alone? That’s totally fine. Yeah, I know that. Also, I would have loved to be able to be inside sometimes, like with an adult or just like with my teacher with a librarian something. Yeah, walking around talking to my favorite teacher? Yeah. Laura Petix 39:02 Do you think that any of the classroom if you were to get classroom accommodations, like whether it’s noise reducing headphones, or the fidgets or the bands around the chairs to kick their legs? Would that have made you feel any sense of like, insecurity of like, you know, like, other kids aren’t using this, like, Why do I have to use this or like, would have felt like you were standing out in some way? Speaker 1 39:28 I’m thinking about like, I’m like, now I’m not obviously not. But I’m 23 years old, and yeah, you know, back when I was like, six, I might have thought that but that is also because I probably would have been the only one. But I’m sure in a classroom. It’s not just one kid. There’s also Laura Petix 39:43 tell parents cuz I asked you because I say like, you know, you know, like they’re hiding under tables. They’re crying because of like, the sound from the event is too loud and like, I always say, How much is your child standing out now? Like without the fidgets without the compassion? They’re probably in hauled out of the classroom, they’re getting in trouble. They’re hiding. They’re crying. Something. Is there on them. Yeah, no matter what, oh, yeah. Right, unless their child is like highly masking, but you know, it’s it Speaker 1 40:11 then, like there are I mean, I was finding true. I was highly masking, I broke multiple times. And yeah, like my classmates, anyone could tell you like, they saw me cry. Lots of people know that I’m a big crier. Laura Petix 40:25 Just yeah. And you mentioned in the book, that when you would cry or have a meltdown, you said your parents would ignore you, because they thought that giving you attention would make it worse. Yeah. That is a huge thing in the parenting space, where those of us who are trying to help parents see their children or the emotions that they’re having, and not the behaviors that they’re having. Right? We’re trying to, you know, like, we don’t ignore that. Can you lend more context and insight and how you like real it? Like, did they ever say that to you? Or like, how did you come to that conclusion? Speaker 1 41:00 I Yeah. And then present, and I was before I could, like, say the words I remember my, my parents would say, like, shut up, stop crying. Like you’re making it up. You’re being dramatic. Like go to your room, they shut the door, you know. And when I finally got the words to say, in between my sobs when you yell at me, it makes me cry more. Yes, it was like their whole world turned upside down. I’m like, Guys, I’m Ford. I’m telling you this. And you’re just getting it now that when you the person who I think loves me more than anyone else in the world, is yelling at me for being a kid. And not helping me get through, like how to be a kid to then successfully being an adult. Like, it hurts. It hurts to see you yelling at me, it hurts when you when you call me names, it hurts when you think that I’m making it up, it makes it worse, because now I’m alone to and doing this. I’m alone. I’m scared. I’m nervous. And I don’t trust you with much, you know, with my emotions. Laura Petix 42:02 And you mentioned in the book that you think that it was highly likely that your dad was autistic as well. And then you said at the end that you realize most of your family is neurodiverse. I don’t know if that includes your brother. But so that probably does color some of the way that they raised you or didn’t know how to support you. But I also hear a lot from parents who were like, you know, if I were like, when I was a kid and have I cried like that’s it like they would like shut me up. They would wash my mouth out with soap like I didn’t. Yeah. Gosh, I was so that. Oh my gosh, I happen to you to know. Yeah. Speaker 1 42:35 Well, it’s just generational trauma. Yeah. My dad’s mother, like, I I’m no contact with my parents. And my dad is my least favorite person. My dad’s mother is like the worst person ever. And so my whole life I’ve, I’ve understood my dad, you know, I’ve never excused it though. And my dad now being like, 50, whatever he is, the I remember him telling me it like 49 him finally realizing like, Oh my God. My mother is the reason why I hate women. And him saying to me, and I wasn’t even shocked that he said that to me. I was shocked that he was just realizing it now at 14. Like I’m like you just understanding now that your mom sucks. Yeah, I’m like, I’ve known that you suck since I was like, eight. Like, you know, like, this is wild. But but just like, yeah, how it impacts people. And I know that. I know that if my dad because my like my dad, not not friends. But if he took like the time in interesting care in me. I bet you that I would have changed his life. Yeah, because I bet you that he would realize that how he was raised. wasn’t okay. It wasn’t fair either. Yeah, like he deserved better too. Yeah, there was a little boy inside of him. That’s still crying. And it’s still Yeah. And I know what I hear it from his stories. I hear it from when I used to talk to my grandmother. And I’m just like, Wow, you really missed out dad because he’s miserable. And I get to help people. And he’ll probably never even listen. And that’s but that’s, that’s how that’s what happens. That’s why it’s also so important that if your parents sucked, that you try not to suck before. Laura Petix 44:23 Well, you’re reaching the right parents now because most of the parents I will say all the parents are listening to this are already on the right track because they care and they want to do the right things and they want to learn and so they’re already anybody listening to this is already on the right track, because you’ve identified that your child has a different brain, whatever that may look like. And you explain what an autistic meltdown feels like as an adult versus a child. Speaker 1 44:49 Oh, yeah. As the difference as the difference now as an adult versus a child I have is now I don’t feel I don’t feel helpless. I don’t feel like it’s never ending and I’m doomed. When I was a child meltdowns were a lot more intense, they hurt inside a lot more. They brought out a lot more they were, they were really amplified. And they lasted longer. And I think that my thoughts just, there was no stopping anything, there was no way to stop it. The only way that my body ever stopped, was when I would pass out. And that’s how you have to stop now you can’t rehab. But now as an adult. And this isn’t just because of like this is for a bunch of factors. I don’t know if it’s just growing up a lot of therapy and healing, obviously getting my diagnosis and stuff. But I feel like it’s normal for me to have meltdowns sometimes. Yeah. And if I have a hard time, I know, I know what to do to help me get out of it. I know what to do to help me prevent it in the first place. And I know that if and when it does happen, I just hug myself and give myself grace. And though that’s going to happen, this is the world that you live in, and you can’t perfectly accommodate yourself. And now you need rest. And rest is okay. And before when I was a kid, rest was never okay, relaxing. didn’t exist. And now I’m like, chill. Yeah, yeah, it makes it like my life and who I am in my emotions. I don’t judge myself for them. I don’t hate myself for them. I don’t sit there while I’m freaking out. Yeah, freaking out about the fact that I’m freaking out freaking out. Yeah, why am I freaking out? Why am I like this? Why is this? Why am I crying? Why can I breathe? Why is it so hard? For me? I go, this is hard. Because autistic, and then I can just focus on the hard thing, and not the fact that it is hard all the Laura Petix 46:57 time. Well, all of those thoughts that you said, Why is this happening? What? That is a lot of thought process that goes for parents when we’re seeing our kids have really long meltdowns, right? And we’re like, why is she having such a hard time? Is she going to be melting down forever? Like this is the sixth time today? Like, yeah, how do I change this. And so there’s all these thoughts of how to make the meltdown stop. And it took me a couple years to realize that it’s like you’re focusing on the wrong thing, like get her through the meltdown, keep her safe. I don’t know if you had aggressive, like really big meltdowns, but my daughter used to bang her head bite her finger. So I would have to physically safely restrain her. And I tell this to parents, I’m like, Look, it doesn’t feel good. They do escalate. And yet, this is still what you have to do to ensure the physical safety. And then you can do the talking through it like way later, way later, but like the stop crying, like that just Unknown Speaker 47:51 isn’t gonna work. Yeah. So Laura Petix 47:54 do you think that would have helped? Like, the physical restraint is something that parents struggle with? Because of course, sure, doesn’t look right. Not fun. But letting your kid bang their head a million times against the wall or dropper charging ourselves? Yeah, Speaker 1 48:06 to protect your kid’s body. Of course, like I say to my dad’s kids, like they have the right to their own body, but their parent, like an adult has the right to their safety or like yes to take care of you old enough to take care of your body. So I have to do that. If you can’t and so yeah, that’s yeah, like, if you have to hold your kid down, they have they’re definitely you know, however, they might fight and scream, but the best way to regulate someone is CO regulation and yeah, yeah, let letting letting them freak out and cry and like, Hey, you’re not freaking out and crying for no reason. Like, this is horrible. You had, like, that was not okay. What allies are like, yeah, like you’re upset because of whatever. Like, that’s okay. You’re upset. I’d be upset too. You’re allowed to be upset. Let’s be upset. And then oh, yeah, calms it down. You know, you get to a place where they’re alive. They’re surviving. They’re here now. And then it’s like, okay. Yeah, now we can talk. Laura Petix 49:03 Now we can talk. That’s great. Well, it’s interesting this to hear you say, because I think there was. I don’t, I don’t remember which chapter it was. But there was a few times that you said that you don’t like labels and boxes, like you’re not a fan of labels and boxes. And I think it was in reference to like levels of functioning. I think I’m not sure what specific the context you might have to remind me because I couldn’t scan through it to find the spot. But I hear this a lot from parents who are using this as the reason why they don’t want to get their child diagnosed. So do you consider having an autistic, an autism diagnosis, something that puts you into a box? Speaker 1 49:41 No, I think so. Good question. I think I don’t the reason why I don’t like labels in boxes is because I question and argue the boundaries and where they are and why they are. And I think that you can do that with All with every like box with every label is where are the boundaries. And that’s confusing to me because there’s, it’s things aren’t black and white like that. But that’s the thing about being autistic is, it’s still about black and white, there isn’t one way to be autistic. And like being autistic and saying like you have autism. It didn’t put me in a box. So much is it like it, like gently scooped me up in its hands and put me in a garden with my friends and said, Here you go. Like, there’s your little spot where you belong, kiddo. I was like, what you look at this look around who knew I was supposed to be here. My whole life. I love that. Yeah, it was really cool. Laura Petix 50:48 i Okay, so that makes it, it makes sense more, because I often tell parents that. I think that, that if it’s not going to be a diagnosis, at least recognizing your child as neurodivergent, and not responding to the typical ways of teaching and communicating of behaving, and not at least holding them to those kinds of standards, I would rather them, you know, just at least know that your child needs this kind of teaching this kind of communication, but they’re just when they hear any sort of like evaluation or assessment. They’re like, I just don’t want this diagnosis attached to them. And then it like, deters them. And I’m like, but it’s almost it’s, it helps you learn more about them. Speaker 1 51:37 Yeah. 1,000,000%. Yeah. And I knew I was different. Yes, Laura Petix 51:41 that’s what I tell them. I said, I’m pretty sure they already know that they are different. And but they, they can sense it, but they don’t have the validation, or the wrong caregivers, to know that you are right, you you are different. And that’s okay. Rather than them feeling like why am I so weird? Why does no one else feel this way why. And actually, that is a passage that I think I had done. That would like, really, really connect the dots. For some parents. It was like two parts to it. So there was one on in the chapter at the back right corner of the class. And in the field notes, you say I often thought of myself as an alien. Like I was not being what like I was not a being of this planet, or of this world or this universe. It felt like the other kids had been on Earth for so much longer than I had, and they understood the rules, whereas I had to figure them out all the time, all by myself. And then in the aftermath chapter, you also said, I longed for a world that never ignored me, that took me by the hands and said, Here’s everything you need to know about how your brain works, and what you can do with that information, to work with your brain to create your most happy, successful life. We can tell you because we studied autistic people a lot and really care about your well being. And I think that that really ties it together because I that’s what I when parents come to consult me and I work with them one on one. And they’re like, Well, how do I get my child to do this? And I was like, first step, talk to them about neurodiversity. Like how many times do caregivers and parents alike get this like cheat code manual on we learn all the things to say and do with our kids, but we don’t share it with them. And we’re like programming them and doing things to them. Even it’s, it’s well meaning, but we’re like setting but it’s like, can we like share this information with them so that like this light bulb goes off for them? I’m Speaker 1 53:37 present. As a dance teacher. i There are a lot of kids, a lot of neurodiverse kids that dance, but it’s mostly neurodiverse people that want to move their bodies 24/7 And I don’t make a habit of talking to parents and saying I think your kids autistic. Yeah, what I do is I will wear my autism shirts when I teach. I’ll talk about being autistic. I’ll talk about Okay, you guys are talking too loud. For me. It’s making it hard for me to concentrate. I’ll talk about things that I need. And kids start to understand that they are like Miss Paige. Okay, it’s and the parents Laura Petix 54:22 come up to you. And like asked or said parents Speaker 1 54:26 have well because I with the shirts I wear whatever parents will say something. And I’ll put I put my book out now at the studio when I’m teaching I’m like I have a book if anyone wants to stand up, but I haven’t. There have been there are so many kids that I think it’s really easy for me to tell especially when you’re with kids for like yours straight. Like that kid is probably but more than anything that kid just needs help it regards you know and they need the kind of help that I also need, and I know how to, like how it works or what kind of help in a way, just because naturally, I’m autistic and a teacher and can see that, and that helps them figure out more about their brain to. And when they have teachers that don’t go with it, they go, Well, I know that it’s actually okay that my brain works like this, because Miss pages like that, and Miss pages, and I’m really, I’m really, really, really lucky to view it that just Laura Petix 55:32 being able to be represented by one Speaker 1 55:36 also, like, I just, I’m happy that hopefully like those kids that are autistic, that they will, they’ll know and they’ll feel okay. And they’ll understand, yeah, they just have another adult that, you know, to ask questions to your healing Laura Petix 55:50 your inner child every day, to show up to, to represent for all of that. So that, that makes me feel so, so happy for you and for all those kids that are in your class. Okay, just a couple last questions. So on the topic of diagnosis, parents asked me, How soon should I tell my child about their autism diagnosis or ADHD diagnosis, and I’m always like, as soon as possible. But I always say I guess Step One would be to make sure that the parents really understand the diagnosis itself in more of a positive light, and like, you know, like, getting rid of like the stigma that they might have from it. Like you want to have fully processed this before you tell it to your child, because you don’t want to deliver it as like bad news. Speaker 1 56:36 Right, that stigma, Yes, child by accident. Laura Petix 56:40 But I think it’s very important to get ahead of the narrative for your child as soon as possible, though, that does take some whatever grace period processing period for the parent themselves before you sit down with your child and tell them that I think writing Speaker 1 56:56 before to a child knows like, you’re autistic or you have ADHD, they need to know what, like how neurodiversity works, or what it even is they need to know about different brains, and that it’s normal. And then hearing like, hey, that’s like you, they’re gonna be like, Oh, cool. Yep. Like it is going to there is thankfully there is some more representation. There are like Kid books and kids stories that can be really helpful in communicating that with your child and just introducing them to even the concept and the idea. They’re going to be able to connect with it to Yeah, at the same time that you’re learning about it, too. And then not one one day when you tell them or whatever, share it with them. They’ll feel like it makes sense. Oh, Laura Petix 57:44 yeah, that’s exactly why I wrote my book, the book about neurodiversity, and I read it for my child, my child’s class and all of that. And it’s really a book for neurotypical kids because I want them to know about different things. So 1,000,000% Speaker 1 57:59 that’s, so that’s why it’s important to talk about neurodiversity with everybody, because everybody’s people are everywhere. Exactly. To know how to interact with neurodivergent kids as well. And yeah, Laura Petix 58:09 okay. Okay, last fun question. Do you have a favorite fidget? Or like any sensory strategy, like something you couldn’t live without? Speaker 1 58:19 Um, I think that the answer would be squishy things I always have something I really like squishy stuff. And so I always have something squishy in my hands. This is my one now I have a lot of small stuffed animals even like smaller that’ll hold in my hand and did you Laura Petix 58:35 always have those as a kid to like you would have Speaker 1 58:36 Yeah, I always had I had a bag that I would fill with like just fidgets and I brought it everywhere I brought it everywhere and I put like just stuff that I loved but there’s always be like Yeah, little gadgets that I could move on to Yeah, cool pencils that were like fidgets but I Laura Petix 58:52 resonate with your love for the stationery and the pens and like your Yes, I get so excited with like stationery stores like brand new cracking open notebook, and starting like the first line. Oh, feels so good. Speaker 1 59:08 I went to Kohl’s the bookstore and all of their journals are like flowery green and purple right now and I’m like these are my colors. This is five How do I not buy a new notebook? Stop it I do not need to say Laura Petix 59:23 the same I prefer I really love handwriting like in planners but then I sometimes want to quick like search and find so I like always want a digital one and then like I have all these notebooks all over the place so me totally get that to like you know what I Speaker 1 59:37 do? I do one notebook for everything I try and make that yeah, that’s that has been the best thing and then anything I need I can just put onto my okay my electronics like But then I’m like then it looks good. I’m like okay, this is for Laura Petix 59:52 but you know, literally everything is there. You just have to like flip yet. Yeah, Speaker 1 59:56 I literally have a table of contents. But for all the pages on the journey, I love that oh my gosh. Laura Petix 1:00:04 Oh page, I can talk to you for hours. No. I know. But we have to keep this episode somewhat reasonable. So I’m gonna have to say bye for now, but this is definitely not the last time we’re going to talk. I really really enjoyed having you on and your story. I think every parent needs to hear your story. So can you tell people where they can get it? Is there like a best place for them to get it at? Yeah, you Speaker 1 1:00:31 can get it at HashSet go. But it’s also available on Amazon Indigo target Walmart, anywhere books are sold. You can just go up to the library and go hey, could you get but everyone feels this way. And they might just Yeah. Oh, you can find me on social media at page layout. Big le y le. Pretty much everywhere. Yeah. Laura Petix 1:00:51 Okay. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Everyone go check Paige out her content is amazing. Her book is amazing. Thanks for being here. Paige. Speaker 1 1:01:00 Thank you so much for having me. This has been so bad. I’m so excited. Laura Petix 1:01:04 If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating it and leaving a review which helps other parents find me as well. Want to learn more from me? I share tons more over on Instagram at the OT butterfly. See you next time. Transcribed by




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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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