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    Why the Second Season Premiere of 'Abbott Elementary' Is an Inclusivity Win

    ICYMI, the award winning show “Abbott Elementary” is back for their highly anticipated sophomore season.   I fell in love with “Abbott Elementary ” during its first season, and I made a joke that every time it goes off air, whether it be for a break or it’s between seasons, my life goes to shit. That being said, I counted down the days until the second premiere. One of the perks of “Abbott Elementary” is that it manages to be over-the-top comedic while still maintaining an emotionally intelligent core that is full of heart, and they didn’t disappoint. This new episode highlighted Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) attempting to make her classroom ADA friendly for a student that uses a wheelchair, Jacob (Chris Perfetti) who learned American sign language (ASL) and uses it to communicate with one of his students, and Janine (Quinta Brunson) who is trying to keep it together after a breakup, when she is quite frankly falling apart. What makes this episode (and show) so great is that while it’s a fictional world, it really does showcase the difficulty teachers have when it comes to supporting their students, and how sometimes no matter how hard they fight, at times they aren’t the ones in control of accommodations. Barbara used the grant the school received in the last season to build a ramp, but still lacked a desk that would accommodate her student who uses a wheelchair . She tried her best, but ultimately wasn’t successful until Greg (Tyler James William) went down into the school’s spare stock and found one. Additionally, Jacob spends the entire episode talking about how he learned (a little) ASL over the summer, and how he would be teaching it to other teachers. The way they wrote his character and this mini-arc were brilliantly hysterical, because it’s clear they’re poking fun at people who treat ASL as a fun quirky thing to learn that makes them better than others, versus an actual language with its own dialects. While that was exceedingly clever, when the moment came to use it, he managed to actually make a difference for a young girl who needed that accommodation. These two plot lines were subplots, which beefed up the main plot line of Janine not having her life together after the breakup financially or emotionally. While “strong Black woman” syndrome was never discussed explicitly, she portrays it perfectly. She isn’t asking for help while burying herself in work and pretending that everything is great when she’s actually deeply grieving her long-term relationship. She tries to push through her trauma and grief, only for everyone to rally around and remind her that the only way out is through. Yes, I just spoiled a lot of the first episode of the second season, but I guarantee you it won’t ruin anything. Normalizing disability and mental health conversations in the media is so important, and I’m ecstatic to see such an amazingly brilliant show do just that.

    Sandra Postma

    A Plea to Make Room for Chronic Illness Stories in Popular Culture

    “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” — Maya Angelou I never saw myself reflected on TV or in books. A chubby small-town girl who liked to read and write didn’t really get much airtime on TV. Still doesn’t. Not to mention if that girl develops a chronic illness. And then another. And another. As more minorities speak up and rightfully demand their stories be told, I want to speak out for people with disabilities and chronic illness to plead for the same. It might be difficult to tell a compelling story about characters who spend much of their time in their homes, yet their stories must still be told. Our stories. Because we deserve to be seen and others need to see us. Because being seen helps validate our existence. Because others seeing people like us helps their understanding of us. Because our stories being told can help form policies. Because our stories being told can help others going through the same type of story feel less alone. Because our stories being told helps us feel seen, appreciated, part of society, and loved. Because we are so much more than our illness. We don’t just write about our illness, we write about love, about fantasy and futuristic worlds, about joy and about heartbreak, and so much more. Storytelling from all kinds of perspectives and about all kinds of people from all types of backgrounds enriches the human experience. Not just for people part of those groups, but also – or even more so – for those who have no experience with such an existence. Empathy and compassion are what make us human. To reach empathy and to be compassionate means to understand that other people live under different circumstances than you and to accept those people without judgment or assumptions. Having their — our — stories told helps with that. I feel so strongly about this that I’ve made it my job. I help fellow spoonies feel worthy of telling their stories and help them write fiction, because I feel the power and impact of both seeing yourself and not seeing yourself in the stories we consume. Encountering people with illness in popular culture helps other people see us as fellow humans. It helps them understand us. It prevents them from judging us when we have to cancel at the last minute. It will help people not to judge us when we have to take the one empty seat on a train because we cannot stand for long despite being “young.” It will help politicians understand that even though we are ill we want to be — should be — part of society just as much as anybody else, and being a part of storytelling culture is such a huge part of that. It is vital to have those stories told, or written, by the people who live the experience. As long as there is no level playing field in the arts, this needs to be the way to achieve it. Plus, those living it bring insight into the story that abled people could never bring to the table. And so I will continue to push for the stories of those disabled and ill to be told. I push for people with illness and disability to be able to play their part in telling those stories. So hopefully one day we can look back and realize that we no longer tell the story of illness, but the story of human beings who are also ill. Until that day comes, I will continue to fight for the position of people with chronic illness and disability, and other minorities, in life itself, but also in art and in popular culture. We belong to humanity, thus we should also belong to its cultural expression.

    Community Voices

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    Erin Paterson

    'Virgin River' Features Character With Huntington's Disease

    “Do you feel the representation of Huntington’s disease (HD) is accurate on ‘Virgin River’?” a close friend asked me today. As I sat in my living room, drinking my morning coffee and scrolling through Instagram, I thought about her question. Funnily enough, I had just finished watching the series, so the timing of her question was perfect. “Virgin River” is a show on Netflix and one of the characters was revealed to have Huntington’s disease in season four. In the show, we see him hiding his diagnosis from those around him. We also see him struggling to navigate the dating world. Is it really fair to get involved in a relationship when you know your future includes a terminal illness? Situations such as these are often the cause of a tremendous amount of emotional strife and can leave people from the HD community feeling isolated and misunderstood. Young people, especially, are faced with many moral dilemmas about how to live their lives, struggling to find acceptable solutions to questions that have no right answer. People are able to go through genetic testing to find out if they have inherited Huntington’s disease, but even that causes problems as people try to decide if they want to know what their future holds. It often consumes people’s lives. People who have decided not to go through genetic testing often live their lives in constant doubt, looking for symptoms of Huntington’s disease, wondering if every twitch of the foot or angry outburst is the start of the disease. Worried they are going to follow the same path their parent took. Caring for their loved ones who have HD, afraid that the same things are going to happen to themselves one day. People who test gene positive (meaning they inherited the gene and will get the disease one day) are suffering long before they have their first physical symptoms. It is mentally challenging living with the knowledge that you will get this terminal illness. People often experience anxiety and depression. They struggle to answer questions like, is it OK to have children knowing there is a 50% chance I could pass along the disease? Will people treat me differently if I tell them? How can I accept that I will need care from others when I get sick? People who test gene negative often feel like outsiders within their own community. They are still there to be caregivers, but somehow they are not able to grieve all they have lost because they are meant to be “the strong ones.” After testing gene negative, some people feel terrified of their futures because a life shadowed by Huntington’s disease was all they have ever known, and they can have a hard time imagining a new future for themselves. People are impacted by Huntington’s disease in so many different ways. I am certainly glad that “Virgin River” picked up on some of the sociological nuances of the disease. We are so often focused on the symptoms that you can see, such as chorea, but the fact of the matter is this disease impacts people’s lives long before that. I look forward to watching the next season of the show to see how this story develops and how the community of Virgin River embraces a young man impacted by Huntington’s disease. There are so many questions about his diagnosis that have not been answered and so many directions that story could go. No matter what happens in this particular storyline, I am incredibly grateful that the show put a spotlight on this rare disease. Not only are they raising awareness for Huntington’s disease, but they are also helping the people in the HD community feel supported and seen.

    An Interview With Dani Bowman From 'Love on the Spectrum'

    Dani Bowman is an animator and founder of Danimation Entertainment, a company that teaches animation to youth on the autism spectrum. Dani was one of the stars of the U.S. version of “Love on the Spectrum,” a Netflix reality dating show about autistic people who are looking for love. The show was in the Netflix Top 10 for two weeks following its May 18, 2022 premiere and introduced tens of millions of viewers to Dani and her ambition to change society’s perceptions about what people on the spectrum can accomplish. The Mighty’s senior editor Karin Willison sat down with Dani to find out more about her passion for animation, her experiences as an entrepreneur on the autism spectrum, and what she has been up to since “Love on the Spectrum.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Karin Willison: What made you decide to appear on “Love on the Spectrum”? And how did you find out about it or get a chance to be on there? Dani Bowman: The director, Cian O’Clery, reached out to me. He saw me in the documentary “Dani 101” and thought I would be a good fit for the show. I have been busy with my animation work for so long that it’s hard to find the time to date or find the right fit. Because the guys I meet on or off the spectrum always say they could handle me being busy, but then they realize, oh, yeah, she’s really busy. I don’t have time to “hang out.” The only time I have free is when I am doing something that relates to animation, like going to animation events, the screenings, the conventions, and so on. And if the guy that I meet is not interested in animation, then it’s really difficult to relate. I do try to like their interests. But I have a lot of phobias, too. I don’t like scary stuff like horror films or serious action films, except for superhero movies. I really like documentaries and nature films. I also don’t like amusement parks or picky eaters, because I am a foodie. So you see, it’s really hard to find someone on my own. That is why I was really excited when I was approached by Cian O’Clery and he said that the show would help me find a date. Karin Willison: So how much did the show reflect what all actually went on? What didn’t we get to see? I’m really curious about that. Dani Bowman: The series did reflect a lot because it scans for the issues I have when it comes to dating. However, after seeing myself on the show, I realized I came across as only caring about animation. I do love animation because it’s my life, but there’s way more to me than that. And I also learned lots of lessons that I never really thought about before. Because everyone that I dated before, I knew well before I dated. But I didn’t really understand blind dates. I thought I should act the same as a regular date. And usually, when I go on a date, I give them a kiss at the end. However, on a blind date, it’s not a good idea for me to do that. I realized I need to get to know the person better, otherwise, I could get into situations that may not work out so well. Karin Willison: So was that one of the lessons you learned from the show? What else have you learned from being on the show? Dani Bowman: Don’t express [love] or kiss on the first date until you get to know someone. And most importantly, I have to set my boundaries from the very beginning. Karin Willison: What advice would you give to other people on the spectrum about dating, based on either what you learned from the show or otherwise? Dani Bowman: Get to know the person first, make sure they understand and respect your boundaries. And most importantly, just be yourself. Karin Willison: How has being on the show on the show changed your life? It doesn’t have to be about dating. Did it grow your social media following? Did you have other unexpected benefits or changes from being on the show? Dani Bowman: Yeah, my social media really skyrocketed. “Love on the Spectrum” was in the top 10 most streamed TV shows on Netflix for two weeks, which is so incredible. And now they’re nominated for three Emmy Awards. Karin Willison: From watching you on the show, I realized that you love animation. It’s everything to you. And I’m very curious, why does it mean so much to you? Dani Bowman: It’s what I have known since I was a kid. It’s my way of communication because I was nonverbal until I was almost 6. Animation showed me how to communicate because of my autism. I couldn’t look at people’s faces. But I could look at the faces of animated characters and study their expressions. I find it the most creative medium of storytelling, because animation brings my imagination to life and helps me express myself. Karin Willison: That totally makes sense. I’m curious, what is your favorite animated movie or show of all time and why? Dani Bowman: Oh, wow. That’s a hard one because I have so many. I will share three. One is my childhood favorite series, “Pokemon.” Ash Ketchum is a character that I could relate to because he had amazing adventures. Ash Ketchum is actually based on the creator Satoshi Taraji, which I thought was really amazing. The second would be “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” because I can relate to the character Twilight Sparkle as she learns about the importance of friendships. And the last example is the Netflix show “Kid Cosmic” because the main character reminds me of my childhood and how I acted and felt so different. Not only did I walk in the shoes of one of my animation idols Craig McCracken, but the whole trilogy is definitely a hero’s journey, a philosophical lesson of what it means to be a hero. According to Kid, heroes help, not hurt. Heroes care and look out for each other. And heroes make sacrifices. The beauty of each show is how the stories are based on the creators’ real-life experiences. Karin Willison: Who are your favorite neurodivergent animated characters, either characters that are specifically autistic or neurodivergent, or they’re coded to be, or reminiscent of a neurodiverse person to you? Dani Bowman: I don’t know if Kid Cosmic counts as a neurodivergent character, but he does display some autistic traits, which I could relate to. However, there’s another neurodivergent animated character that I discovered. Have you seen the LGBTQ animated series “Dead End: Paranormal Park”? I love Norma. She’s such a character. And the most fun part is she’s based on the creator’s experience. Hamish Steele is on the autism spectrum. Karin Willison: Yes, I love that show! Dani Bowman: I don’t know if the actress of Norma from “Dead End” is on the spectrum. But I am amazed at how the creator of the show carefully chose the great voice cast to make the story feel relatable. That’s the beauty of how creators make the right choices for any representation. Barney, for example, is a trans male character voiced by an actual trans man. Authentic LGBTQ and neurodivergent representation in animation are so important. Karin Willison: What about in the industry in general, in terms of representation? You just said that Hamish, who created that show, is on the spectrum, so that’s great. Are there other well-known creators who are on the spectrum, especially if they’re open about it? Dani Bowman: Yes, of course. Jorge R. Gutierrez is the creator of the Nickelodeon show “El Tigre,” the feature film “Book of Life,” and the Netflix miniseries “Maya and the Three.” It’s been really incredible to get to meet him a couple of times. He is openly autistic, which is amazing, and he also has a son on the spectrum. Karin Willison: What about opportunities for your students? Is the animation industry looking to expand representation on the employment side? Dani Bowman: I am not sure if the studios are actively recruiting autistic candidates, though, I have met a few that have worked at major studios before. That is the reason why our mission at Danimation is that we entertain, educate, elevate, and empower people on the autism spectrum to transition their animation hobbies into an actual career that can bring their voices to life. Karin Willison: How does it feel to be able to work with others on the spectrum in your classes? How does it feel to be a teacher and a mentor? Dani Bowman: I feel so proud when the students develop their animation, leadership skills, and work ethics. I know how it feels to be left out, because we are underestimated in the workforce. I show my students that they can do whatever they want in life, not just animation. It’s amazing to show the world what we are capable of. It makes everything worthwhile. Karin Willison: What advice would you give to people on the spectrum, and people with disabilities in general who are thinking about starting a business? Dani Bowman: You’re never too young to start and don’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams. Karin Willison: How have you coped with and grown with your autism? What kinds of things have you used to help yourself or what kind of therapies have you done? Dani Bowman: My aunt has been my life coach for the last 17 years. There weren’t many programs for people with autism back then. So my aunt figured out how to help me to come to the world and not expect the world to come to me. I mean coming out of my shell and being out there. I don’t use any fidget toys or other typical coping mechanisms for a lot of people with autism. I used to, but I kind of grew out of them. I use earplugs occasionally when I’m going out due to loud noises. But that’s about it for me now. Karin Willison: What kind of projects or things have you been doing since the show aired? What has been your focus since then? Dani Bowman: Since the show aired, I just finished a couple of big projects. Last month, I finished editing a live-action short film while I was part of the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge. We made a short film called “Rewilding” for a nonprofit organization called Friends of the LA River. And the second one is “Parker and Boo,” which is an animated short pilot in collaboration with a nonprofit organization that addresses bullying. We’re going to be premiering it at Comic-Con in about two weeks. “Parker and Boo” is about a young girl who experiences anxiety, and she meets a talking dog voiced by the famous Rob Paulsen. It’s a pitch pilot that we are showing at film festivals, hoping one of the major animation studios picks it up. And the third one is I’m going to SIGGRAPH, a convention on new technologies. In addition to all the projects, I have two camps coming up. I’m in the middle of teaching animation to students from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Next week will be in Los Angeles. And then in the last two weeks of August, we’re teaching in person in the UK. I stay busy, I know. Karin Willison: Yeah. It’s amazing though. Is there anything else that you want me to know? Dani Bowman: I’ve got one other project to mention. I just finished the animation sequences for the upcoming live-action feature-length documentary “Schlitzie: One of Us,” about a sideshow performer who appeared in the 1930s Tod Browning film “Freaks.” Karin Willison: Oh yes, I’ve seen “Freaks” and I’m very interested in sideshow history, so I will absolutely want to watch this. Do you know when it’s coming out? Dani Bowman: I’m not sure when it’s coming out. But I was the lead animator. Karin Willison: That’s really cool. I can’t wait to watch it. Congratulations on all these opportunities that you’re having. I’m very happy for you! Dani Bowman: I’ve gotten so many inquiries, new students, and leads since “Love on the Spectrum.” I had to hire more assistants to help with the students. I have about 26 one-on-one students right now and climbing. Karin Willison: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much, it was great chatting with you. Dani Bowman: Great chatting with you, too.

    'Craig of the Creek' Show Showcases Black American Sign Language

    Cartoon Network’s Emmy, GLAAD, and Annie nominated show “Craig of the Creek” follows a young boy, Craig, and his friends’ adventures around their favorite creek, and it recently highlighted Black American Sign Language (BASL) in one of their episodes. In the episode, Craig’s friend Jackie speaks in a dialect of sign language, BASL, which is different from American Sign Language (ASL), due to cultural and historical differences which is credited to the segregation of deaf schools.  Jackie communicates with his dad, telling him that he’ll be safe when he’s out, and all of Jackie’s friends communicate to him using BASL throughout the clip and episode. The animation team consulted with Black Deaf Advocates, a deaf support group, for the episode. BASL has recently been talked about more, which some credit to sites like Tik Tok where users like Nakia Smith have spoken about BASL, the key differentiations between BASL and ASL, while teaching others how to sign it. A few of the major components that separate BASL from ASL are: 1. Facial expressions. Facial expressions tend to play a larger role in conversation when it comes to BASL versus ASL. Whereas both dialects utilize facial expressions, in BASL the expressions are a part of the signing itself. 2. Two hands are used instead of one. In BASL, two hands are typically used to sign instead of one hand primarily. 3. BASL utilizes the forehead more versus the lower body. When signing with BASL, many sign placements utilize the forehead , versus solely using the lower parts of the body. All of this is seen in the “Craig of the Creek” episode where Jackie and his father are communicating, along with the rest of his friends. BASL has been overlooked and ignored for generations, and we’re excited to see that it’s finally getting the attention and recognition that it deserves.

    'Say Yes to the Dress' Features a Blind Bride

    Shaela said yes to the dress! If you are like me and you can’t stop watching TLC’s hit show, “Say Yes to the Dress,” then you know you’ve seen hundreds of different types of brides over the years. What I saw for the first time while catching up on old episodes a few nights ago, was a blind bride featured. Shaela Warkentin was a bride on the 20th season of “Say Yes to the Dress.” She explained how at 15, she was in an accident with a driver under the influence that ultimately left her disabled and without her vision. Due to her accident, she lost friends and a lot of people due to the new communication barrier, as she described it. She was hoping things would return back to the way they were prior to the accident, but they didn’t. She had a personal pessimistic outlook on love, “Because I mean, who wants to be with someone who can’t see? But then, I met Tyler.” She met her fiancé while in college and the rest was history. He proposed on the beach and soon after she jumped into bridal mode. She describes what matters to her in a wedding dress – textiles and feel . That and she wanted a little bit of shimmer where it’s not too plain but not too much. Her bridal assistant, Lisa, jumped on it. Her first dress was a shimmery A-Line dress with a lace bodice, plunging sweetheart neckline, and spaghetti straps. Her entourage for the most part loved it, but her mom had her small reservations. She felt good in it and was excited, but it wasn’t the dress for her. Dress number two was a dress from Randy’s line (as can be expected with this show). She liked the dress and the sequins, and while it felt good it still felt off, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Personally, I could tell very quickly this wasn’t the dress for her but maybe that’s my background in working bridal boutiques and events that made it obvious. It was romantic, but it wasn’t sexy, and that’s what she wanted. She physically felt dress number three before putting it on. “It’s so detailed and I love that about it.” She was beaming as she walked out, which competed with the radiant smiles of the people she brought. “Do you love it?” Her entourage asked. She replied, “It’s everything.” She loved the different fabrics and textures, and it felt the best in the midsection. “It’s interesting because I’ve had such a hard time describing what it is I want, but when I have this dress on me, I feel that exact feeling that I can’t describe.” Randy Fenoli agreed that she felt beautiful and her fiancé would love it. Everyone was in agreement when a veil was put on her head. This was her dress. Shaela said yes to the dress eagerly. In the past, the show featured the “bionic model” Rebekah Marine onto the show, a disabled woman with a high-tech prosthetic that mimics muscle movements. This isn’t their first time featuring a disabled bride, and hopefully, it won’t be the last. Congrats to Shaela and we can’t wait to see her wedding day play out!

    Why Michael Scott From 'The Office' Is Perfect ADHD Representation

    Once I read, “If you don’t know a Michael Scott, you are the Michael Scott.” I wanted to ignore it, but then I realized I actually don’t know any Michael Scotts around me. Scared, I texted all of my friends asking them and the answer was unanimous – I was the Michael Scott from “The Office” out of my friend group. While this isn’t horrible, it definitely didn’t make me happy because Michael is known to get into some “shenanigans” due to his chatty, impulsive, and almost childlike nature. It didn’t make me feel great that the one character that everyone made fun of because of how out-of-touch they were with the world is the one character that made me say, “Oh, I feel seen.” As I grew I learned about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and how most of the traits that can cause me trouble in life stem from that one disorder. From my forgetfulness to my issues with object permanence, all the way to the fact that I don’t know how to shut my mouth… all points lead to ADHD . Knowing I was living with this condition and how heavily I related to Michael Scott, I then realized that he is basically the poster-perfect image of ADHD. Every trait that I could think of, he exemplifies, which felt like a double-edged sword because those same traits tend to be the source of tension for what feels like 90% of the plot. The same traits that make the other characters roll their eyes, want to ignore him, or even hate him, are the traits that are known to come with ADHD whether it’s inattentive or hyperactive type. A few key examples: 1. Michael’s tangential thinking In the episode “The Search,” Michael goes missing and no one quite knows where to find him. Traditional and sequential thinking doesn’t help the team when it comes to figuring out exactly where he went or how he’s moving. It took another (seemingly) ADHD character, Holly Flax, to figure out his more lateral thinking methods, which were based completely on tangential moves and dare I say, a little forgetfulness. He’d see a sign-up sheet or sign and that immediately because the next thing he focused on versus maintaining the same goal throughout the plot (which was to get back to Dunder Mifflin). 2. Michael’s hyperfixations “When I discovered YouTube, I didn’t work for five days,” is a literal quote that Michael says. It’s very easy for him to interact with one thing and make it his whole personality for a stretch of time in the same way I make baking my entire personality once every five years. Another great example was when he came back from Jamaica (the tan all over, Jan all over line will forever be one of my favorite lines from this show) and he came with steel drums, and wouldn’t let that bit go for almost the entire episode. I think we can also count his creation of “Threat Level Midnight,” a self-produced movie that he and all the rest of the cast starred in as a hyperfixation as well. 3. Michael’s sensitivity to rejection (rejection-sensitive dysphoria) Michael is a very sensitive person, and with that comes a heightened sensitivity to rejection. For example, the entirety of the “Sweeney Todd” episode, he’s fixated on how he wasn’t contacted to be in the show and it basically rips him apart. Also, when Holly was dating someone else, he literally destroyed the sentimental toy that her boyfriend had gotten her. That sounds like RSD to me. At first, seeing your condition unintentionally (and unofficially) be the butt of the jokes hurt, but that’s before I really started paying attention to Michael’s connections with other people. I saw how loved he was regardless of his eccentricity at times, and how he still managed to find love, friends, and success. I think so often it’s easy to feel like ADHD can hold you back, but quite frankly, Michael Scott is (in my opinion) one of the most positive, well-rounded representations of ADHD out there. He shows it can be as much a blessing and a superpower as it can be a curse. The glass isn’t half full or half empty, it just is, and if he’s able to “have it all,” with all of those traits , why can’t I?  

    5 TV and Movie Characters Who Have ADHD or Are ADHD-Coded

    Growing up, I loved watching TV. In fact, it’s the only thing I did most days. It’s not shocking that I’ve made my living engaging with, writing about, and creating media. I found the immersive worlds spoke to me in ways I couldn’t understand. Hyperactive characters that loved being funny and would maybe cut people off every now and then always made me feel seen. Little did I know I was living with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and these characters (whether intentionally or unintentionally) showed all the same traits I lived with. If you watch a lot of TV, then you may recognize some of these characters who were poster examples for ADHD. 1. Beast Boy, “Teen Titans” Beast Boy was a hyperactive, super funny, super distractible, and impulsive character who had a couple of episodes where his hijinks were the source of conflict for the plot. Oftentimes he’d stop listening to the conversation, zone out, and ask people to repeat themselves. In every single way, I see all of the “typical” traits of ADHD in him. 2. Jacob Hill, “Abbott Elementary” Jacob Hill is a very talkative and tangential conversationalist , which tends to be a running gag in the series. That little voice that is supposed to tell someone “Hey, maybe you should stop talking,” clearly doesn’t exist for him. His speech patterns remind me of your “average” ADHD’er, like me. 3. Tigger, “Winnie The Pooh” Hyperactivity is the name of the game for Tigger. He’s always bouncing from place to place (similarly to how I’m always bouncing my leg) and seems to have no energy in sight. It reminds me of when I simply can’t turn my brain off, and I need some form of stimulation to keep moving and going. Tigger really puts the “H” in ADHD. 4. Anna, “Frozen” Princess (or queen depending on which movie) Anna is another chatterbox. Anna is a quirky character that I personally adore, but a lot of her “quirks” really just seem like “ADHD” traits . Also, between you and I, she’s also the poster child for chronically lonely kids with unresolved abandonment issues, but y’know, that’s another story for another day. 5. Michael Scott, “The Office” My absolute favorite example because wow. He proudly showcases every trait that I can think of when it comes to ADHD — impulsivity, hyperfixations, chattiness, and everything else listed above. For example, one of my favorite moments…the George Foreman grill moment. What I love about all of these characters is how loved they are by the people around them. While sometimes their personalities and traits can get them into trouble, it’s never held against them in any negative way and it usually just brings their community closer. It really goes to show that just because you live with ADHD doesn’t mean you aren’t lovable or even “annoying” to the people that matter.

    Monika Sudakov

    The Deep End: Why Teal Swan's Cult Is Dangerous to Survivors of Abuse

    You don’t have to heal from trauma alone. Our Trauma Survivors newsletter curates the best stories and tips from others on the path to recovery. Subscribe here. When I first began watching “The Deep End” on Hulu, I had no clue who Teal Swan was or why this documentary had been made. Within five minutes of the first episode beginning, I was yelling at my phone in horror, “That’s not OK.” As the episode unfolded, it felt as though I was witnessing a real-life version of the series “Nine Perfect Strangers” on steroids and I needed to know more. Who exactly was Teal Swan? Where did she come from? And how did she become as infamous as she has? That’s exactly what I have spent the past three weeks discovering. Who is Teal Swan? Teal Swan is a spiritual teacher who has amassed millions of followers by producing hypnotic videos on topics ranging from healing from trauma to reincarnation to cryptocurrency. Her message of healing those who are suffering through her Completion Process has made her an almost Christ-like figure to her devotees, who worship her in a way that appears to verge on obsession. Members of the Teal Tribe swear that she has powers, abilities, and knowledge beyond those of anyone else on this planet and they resonate with her honesty and willingness to tackle difficult subjects like suicide and satanic abuse. Individuals spend hours watching her videos, studying her books, and will spend thousands of dollars to attend one of her retreats in Utah or her healing center in Costa Rica. Her critics, however, are alarmed by her questionable techniques and manipulation of those who are the most vulnerable by using very sophisticated content curation acutely honed in on finding algorithms that attract individuals to her when she knows they can be easily swayed. For example, one of her most watched videos on suicide targets those who might type in a search for “I want to kill myself.” This has led many of her detractors to dub her the “Suicide Catalyst” and to create counter content trying to expose her as a fraud and cult leader. On the surface, Teal is strikingly beautiful. Piercing aqua eyes, long brunette hair, and a lilting voice that has a trance-inducing quality to it make her an imposing charismatic presence to be sure. Some of her spiritual teachings are twists on teachings from other more mainstream philosophies repackaged in a way that is perhaps more accessible to those who aren’t well versed in various spiritual dogmas. And she is brutally honest about her own traumatic past, which engenders a high level of trust quickly among those seeking solace from their own suffering. Swan also claims to possess supernatural abilities including ESP, the ability to read minds, the ability to see inside people’s bodies and diagnose them with illness, the ability to see sounds, and a complete understanding of the Akashic Records — a compendium of every word, thought, and action of every being past, present, and future. She presents herself as an almost godlike all-knowing all-seeing being who, she purports, is part human and part extraterrestrial — a member of the panel of Arcturian beings who exist in a sixth dimensional, non-physical plane. She asserts that if there is anyone who is superior to her on this planet, she hasn’t met them and therefore nobody should question her authority. Her mission in her own words… to be more spiritually influential than the pope. Teal states that she discovered her special abilities as a child and that her behavior not only scared her parents, but isolated her from other children who were restricted from playing with her. She was taken to all kinds of specialists who diagnosed her with every possible psychiatric condition under the sun ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder to borderline personality disorder. She states that no treatment or medication helped her, at which point, in their desperation, her parents entrusted an alternative medicine veterinarian who insisted he could mentor her. According to Teal, this man sexually assaulted her, drugged her, and made her participate in satanic rituals. She had numerous suicide attempts and hospitalizations until she was able to escape and begin her healing process. Here is where there has been a lot of curiosity and skepticism. Swan’s therapist during this era was Barbara Snow, a central figure in what became known as the Satanic Panic of the late 1980s and early 1990s and who has been accused of utilizing questionable therapeutic techniques leading to what has come to be known as false memory syndrome.  The basis of many of Swan’s allegations of abuse fit the exact narrative that many survivors of this era were essentially brainwashed to believe, creating some controversy about the legitimacy of her claims. What is the Completion Process? At the center of the world of Teal Swan is her “expertise in human suffering.” The anecdote to this suffering is the Completion Process. Her basic philosophy is that if people can identify their trauma and work with it to process it, they can heal their suffering. In and of itself this sounds like a not entirely problematic idea. However, Teal is not a trained professional, and while she consistently demonizes traditional psychology, she utilizes language and even some techniques that are adopted from traditional psychological modalities. It’s a mishmash that reminds me a bit of the Nexium cult ESP protocol and the Scientology Auditing process. The irony of all of this is that Teal’s ultimate desire is for her Completion Process to be adopted by mainstream psychology and become the gold standard for the treatment of trauma. The whole thing is perplexing. There are numerous red flags within this process, the first one being “Channeling” those who are both living and dead to determine the source of a person’s pain using other participants who act out narratives involving possible abuse or other trauma that the individual may or may not have any recollection of. It’s very much akin to the ways in which a therapist can make suggestions to a vulnerable client, thereby convincing them of abuse that never occurred, which is manipulative and emotionally abusive and can cause a deleterious ripple effect in terms of that person’s relationships. A second red flag is the insistence on re-experiencing traumatic experiences to heal them without the containment of a highly trained mental health professional. There is some controversy even within the trauma therapy world as to whether or not this kind of treatment is necessary or if it does more harm than good by re-traumatizing an individual over and over again. But doing so within the context of a retreat setting and with other members of the group is extremely dangerous to both the person experiencing the memory and the individual holding space for them. A history of trauma does not an expert in healing make. Training in how to keep someone safe and grounded in reality is crucial for this kind of work to be done without potentially harming them. The third red flag is the fixation on her followers recognizing that their own families are the enemy and that estrangement is necessary to heal. This might sound rich coming from someone who has written extensively about her own estrangement from her parents, however, it’s not clear to me that in every instance this is necessary or healthy for those seeking Teal’s guidance. Several of the participants shown appear to be very conflicted about what they are being told about their families of origin versus what they recall to be the truth. Again, there’s likely a percentage of those who did experience abuse and neglect warranting some disconnection, but this is more the rule rather than the exception, which warrants some skepticism. And finally, the incorporation of ritualistic practices involving toxic substances like frog poison or forcing people underwater over and over again until they feel like they are drowning to get them to submit seems extremely dangerous, potentially deadly if not carefully administered, and even tortuous. Inducing a trauma response in someone under duress seems like an abusive way to get them to submit to manipulation and capitulation. As an aside… let me state that for something called the Completion Process, the process appears to be remarkably incomplete. The goal seems to be consistent work, not some kind of resolution or closure, and it’s one of the chief complaints of many who have left the tribe. They felt like they were stuck in some kind of trauma loop, feeling their mental health deteriorate rather than feeling like addressing their trauma was helping them in any meaningful way. Is Teal Swan dangerous? Here’s the weird part of this documentary series. Teal is very aware of the allegations against her that she is somehow encouraging and perhaps culpable in the suicide of several of her followers and that she is operating a cult. She adamantly denies these allegations and is quite concerned with how this negative PR is affecting her “business.” So as part of the documentary, she hires a private investigator to act as a third-party independent analyst to determine if she is indeed in any way guilty of any of the allegations against her. And I’m not sure she was prepared for the ultimate outcome. After conducting numerous interviews and poring through extensive documentation, this investigator determines that while Teal’s approach to talking about suicide, which involves encouraging followers to actively envision their death, is dangerous, there isn’t legally a way that a direct line can be drawn between someone following through on their suicidal thoughts and her videos or teachings, however irresponsible they might be. A number of suicide experts acknowledge being horrified by the flippant way she speaks about death without acknowledging the mental state of the person on the other end of the screen. But that isn’t enough to warrant the removal of the content from YouTube. And several followers do state that having somewhere to turn where they didn’t feel alone actually saved their lives. As to whether or not Teal is operating a cult? The investigator says… maybe. Most of her reasoning behind this has to do with how she treats her inner circle. These are the volunteers who have given up their lives to live with Teal, committing themselves to her mission and doing so without any compensation. The inner circle are expected to swear to a contract of “Non-Negotiables,” many of which the private investigator deems illegal. These include: “You can’t put your own family first.” “Teal comes first.” “If Teal wants you there, she gets you.” “The priority of the entire community is whatever is in the best interest of Teal.” “You can’t have personal boundaries that in any way can affect Teal.” And more… Basically, if you want to have a normal life, don’t join the inner circle. If you say you aren’t in alignment with any of this, you will be kicked out. This is what happens when Teal’s business partner Blake’s wife has a falling-out with Teal. She says that she’s afraid of Teal and doesn’t believe that Teal is doing what’s best for the people seeking out her help. It’s all about protecting Teal’s image. In the final scene of the last episode, we see Teal dealing with the fallout of losing her right-hand man. Her solution? More rules. She comes to the conclusion that her inner circle cannot have partners unless those partners agree to the non-negotiables and that having children within her inner circle would be incompatible with her work. The bottom line? It is my opinion that Teal Swan is a self-aggrandizing, power-hungry, fame-seeking bully hiding behind the veil of an enlightened spiritual teacher. Contrary to her belief, I’m not questioning her because she’s a woman, strong, or pretty. I’m questioning her because witnessing the ways in which she antagonizes and patronizes anyone who dares to question her authority is deeply disturbing to me. She’s mean-spirited and belittling and she has zero capacity for self-reflection. This is a recipe for disaster for those that get sucked into her inner circle. As for her followers? I see a lot of desperate people who are hurting and seeking out something that will put them out of their pain. You can’t fault them for believing that this woman has the answers they are looking for. Community is a powerful incentive for those who feel isolated in their suffering. The Teal Tribe of followers offers a sense of belonging, even if you are skeptical of the woman who leads it. It’s a cautionary tale for all of us to be much more discriminating about the content we consume on social media. As we have seen far too often of late, fear and desperation can make someone incredibly vulnerable to exploitation, misinformation, and indoctrination by power-hungry predators who are savvy enough to manipulate the algorithms in place across social media platforms.