Eps 427: Understanding sensory processing & neurodiversity with Natasha Nelsen

Episode 427

My guest today is Natasha Nelsen and I am so honored to be in conversation with her today. 

Natasha breaks down sensory processing disorder, ADHD and other neurodiversity in adolescents and adults. She talks about how parents can support teens during this time of sensory overload, sensory seeking behavior, and executive function challenges. Natasha’s support & educational opportunities for black neurodiverse families and her deep understanding of sensory needs offers insights and understanding for all parents, caregivers and teachers who love and work with neurodiverse youth. 

If you aren’t already following Supernova Momma, you should do so now. Natasha Nelsen is a gem and I am so honored to have her on my podcast this week. 

Guest Description 

Natasha Nelsen is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator(CPDE), highly decorated veteran, nonprofit founder, small business owner and Autistic mother to two autistic Black girls.

Natasha received her certification as a Positive Discipline Educator in the home, classroom, and early childhood education centers from the Positive Discipline Association in the year 2021. 

She created Supernova Momma LLC., a Black and Neurodiverse education resource for positive parenting, reparenting, social and emotional learning, and  Neurodivergence acceptance and support, to help Black and Neurodiverse families break generational curses from systemic racism and ableism and raise children in a mutually loving, empathetic, and respectful environment.

Natasha is currently a 2023-2024 trainee in The Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (GaLEND) program, and Natasha was chosen by The Autistic Self Advocacy Network as its 2022 recipient of the Creating Community Together Award.

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Takeaways from the show

  • Parenting and education for black and neurodiverse families
  • Sensory processing disorder in teenagers
  • Sensory processing disorder and it’s impact on behavior and teen perception
  • Sensory processing disorder and its relationship with other diagnoses.
  • Teenage years and sensory overload
  • Childhood trauma, sensory seeking, and excessive pleasure seeking
  • Sensory seeking behaviors in adolescents
  • Parenting children with ADHD and autism with a focus on sensory issues and executive functioning challenges


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Natasha Nelsen, Casey O'Roarty

Casey O'Roarty 00:04
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together, while parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey O'Reilly. I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead. It's browsable. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real, transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported today as an interviewer and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:27
Right Welcome back everyone. My guest today is Natasha Nelson. Natasha is a certified positive discipline educator, highly decorated veteran, nonprofit founder, small business owner and artistic mother of two artistic black girls. Natasha received her certification as a positive discipline educator in the home classroom and early childhood education centers from the PTA in the year 2021. She created super nova mama, a black and neuro diverse education resource for positive parenting, re parenting, social and emotional learning and neurodivergent acceptance and support to help black and neurodiverse families break generational curses from systematic racism and ableism and raise children in a mutually loving, empathetic and respectful environment. Natasha is currently a 2023 24 trainee in the Georgia leadership education and neuro development and related disabilities program. Whoa. And Natasha was chosen by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network as its 2022 recipient of the creating community together award Natasha is also my friend. I am so inspired by her work and who she is in the world and honored to be in conversation with her today. Hi Natasha. Welcome.

Natasha Nelsen 02:53
Ah, you handsome in gorgeous law. And thank you so much, Casey, for having me.

Casey O'Roarty 02:57
Oh, you're welcome. I mean, reading your bio girl, you are doing so much. And you have two littles and you know life and the world that we live in. For all of you listening, who aren't familiar with Natasha, do yourself a favor and check out her page on Instagram, supernova mama, she is so generous with her real life sharing of what it looks like to really be in the imperfect practice and courageous practice of positive discipline with two young kids, let alone two young kids on the neurodiverse spectrum, what prompted you to share so generously like that over social media? I want to start there.

Natasha Nelsen 03:43
Absolutely. So first off, I do not learn by someone telling me what to do. I do not learn by reading what to do. Because a lot of times our beautiful scripts that we have, are for best case scenario. And nobody tells you what to do when your child goes orange, it's your face. No one tells you what to do when your child is having a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. And you say, Oh, you can put it on your Christmas list, but you can't get it now. And they don't have a concept of what a Christmas list is. And so they just keep screaming, beautiful. No one tells you what to do in those really tough situations. And a lot of times those scripts in the writing don't work out as beautifully in those tough situations. And what I find is, especially in a black and neurodivergent community, people tell you what to do, but they haven't really been in these situations. You aren't a parent who's had 400 years of slavery and then 100 to 200 years plus of Jim Crow and systemic racism and then another 100 years of pretending systemic racism doesn't happen as it invades your schools and your police systems and your laws, and even your environmental science. research as a human, and then be a parent to a child who's having a tantrum, because they really have tantrums because they don't know how to communicate their emotions. But you've never been taught how to communicate and identify your emotions because you are dealing with all that 600 years of that. And so, all those words and those fluff pieces and no scripts and those ideas, they sound amazing, and they are amazing on paper. But there isn't really visual examples of how that looks in real time in bad situations. And so I felt like parenting advice. For one I don't like the word parenting expert, but parent, even educators were very much being kind of whitewashed in essence, for one, but then also to they were living in professionalism of this is how you perfectly do it to make sure that your child is going to perfectly respond, and that just doesn't happen. And so I was like, well, there's no real life, in any race videos of it going wrong and what you're doing it goes wrong, and you made a mistake in what you do when you make a mistake. And so I said, why not? And then we really don't have that in the black community, because we don't even have a lot of examples of conscious parenting, positive parenting, positive discipline in the black community. And so a lot of times when I'm telling parents, you know, that spanking and yelling, you know, do a lot of detrimental things to you. They say, okay, you don't want me to spanking you, but what should I do? And so I said, Okay, I'll give examples of what to do. So,

Casey O'Roarty 06:38
yes, well, and I think that is what has always drawn me towards you, because it is so messy and talking about so when Natasha is talking about the script. So any of you that have been through a positive discipline class, you know, we love those role plays. And I do it with my clients and with my participants. And it's always, not always but typically a contrasting experience, right? Here's one way to do it that evokes disconnection and distrust and you know, all the things we don't want. And then there's this other way to do it, which creates a different experience. And I always end with, and magically, all you got to do is tweak your language and everything works out well. And we have a laugh, right? Because in my world, it's teenagers and teenagers are on a mission like toddlers around autonomy, sovereignty, belonging, you know, and belonging separate from us. And so, yeah, so I love how transparent you are around your experience, especially as a parent educator, as a leader in the space. And I know for myself that I could not be a leader, a parent educator in this space, and pretend that, you know, this shit doesn't hit the fan over here. So yeah. And the feedback as I'm sure you're getting this feedback, too, is people love it. They're so grateful. I think it's such a more hopeful possibility minded tone, when it's like, oh, I don't have to do this perfectly. I just get to set my compass in a new direction, and it's gonna be messy.

Natasha Nelsen 08:19
Mm hmm. Absolutely. And being our state to live in which your experiences you know, you're not going to have that other experience. Because you're not that parent and your child isn't that child and your house isn't that house and your culture isn't that culture. And so being open to what your experience is gonna look like with positive discipline, especially for my parents, who maybe never experienced any type of positive discipline in their life and grew up with a lot of different traumas, different oppressions, and you're trying to do something new, yours is not gonna look like the house with three generations of positive discipline, because they've had a lot of different changes and adapting that you haven't had and that's okay.

Casey O'Roarty 09:01
Yeah, the healing process happens over time over generations, for sure. And you know, that instinct of our conditioning is such a powerful thing to get over and to shift and expand from and I have clients too, that are like in their head, really understand and appreciate the context and the concepts of, you know, parenting with positive discipline and moving in the direction of, for me, it's like I just say it's super relationship centered with our teenagers. And yet, all of this extra baggage can be so hard to wade through especially in the moment, right and we all have it's subjective and we all have our own stuff that we're like, whoa, like the shooting from the hip moments of oh, I would just journaled about this for like an hour this morning. Like course. That's a wound for me. And so when somebody in my life shows up a certain way, or I'm actually even noticing, like, I kind of tend to do a little sabotaging of my own experience, because I'm familiar with this experience of rejection and unworthiness. I mean, it's not like completely a runaway train that I have no control over. But I'm noticing like, Ooh, there's still more to learn about in my own body, and how that affects everything in my relationships.

Natasha Nelsen 10:28
Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. Honestly, that's just a part of it. I tell my parents all the time, you know, we're constantly growing constantly. And so that continuum of change, you know what I mean? So you can think that you're in there, you're good, okay, I'm getting this positive discipline thing down. It's great. And the next thing you know, your child gets a new set of friends who want them to go and do all these. To talk about you are a fish out of water and consciously on? Yeah, absolutely.

Casey O'Roarty 11:06
Yeah, for sure. So back in 2022, Julieta, and I, you all remember, Julieta, my partner, we interviewed our favorite colleagues in the positive discipline worlds, we call the pDTV. And you are one of them. And what I didn't expect from that interview, I didn't realize was going to happen was how schooled, we felt in the end around sensory processing, like you brought this conversation of sensory processing to that interview. And it felt like a master class. And the reason I wanted to have you on today was I want to talk more about sensory processing through the lens of the teen years, because I feel like, you know, on one hand, some of us make it to the teen years. And the whole sensory processing piece is something we've learned about and worked with. And you know, we knew our kids, the tags didn't feel good, or they're always moving, or whatever it looked like for our kids. And so we come in with some knowledge. And I feel like maybe, and you'll have to correct me if I'm wrong. I wonder one, can sensory processing disorder manifest more through adolescence? Can it go under the radar for a while? And then the idea then being how can we, this is where we're going with this conversation, everyone? How can we be ever more aware of our own teens experience so that we're not day in at the tip of the iceberg and being pissed about behavior? When ultimately what's happening for them is, you know, some sensory stuff. So a lot, I'm so excited. What does sensory processing disorder mean? And how does it show up in kids?

Natasha Nelsen 12:48
So I like to always explain this in layman's terms, so everybody can get it. So right, we're having a any sensory experience. And when I say any, I mean any. So let's go with drinking a cup of tea, right? If I am a neurotypical person, or what you would think of as normal, but what's normal, so if I'm a neurotypical person, and I have a cup of tea, and I drink that tea, it may be you know, some of us like our tea hot, but not too hot. And we like a little bit of maybe a tablespoon or a teaspoon of honey, but not too sweet. And we maybe like some good herbs in there. And you know, I enjoy me some good ginger and different things. So you drink that cup of tea, it's nourishing, it's hot, it's warm, you feel that through your body, great right neurotypical person, if a person has sensory processing disorder, of course, nothing is easy. So they can be on two spectrums. With that experience. They can be a sensory seeker or a sensory avoider. Now, here's how that looks. If I'm a sensory seeker, then my brain, my brain, this is important this is science doesn't get as many signals to it for that experience, as that neurotypical person got. So when I pick up that cup of tea, and I drink, I said, Hey, this tea isn't hot enough. It's cool. There's not enough sugar in here. Did you put any herbs in here, maybe you need to put a full tablespoon. That just No, I need more. I need more. You know what, let's make it hotter. Let's make it more let's put a sticker on it. Because they're seeking more because their brain is not getting as many signals to the brain for that entire experience. The heat, the taste, the so feeling the touch of it, the smell of the herbs and the leaves, they're not getting as much of that experience as a typical person would get and everybody seeks more. Now, you could be on the other end of that spectrum and still have sensory processing disorder. This is where your brain is receiving too many signals for that exact same experience. So when I pick up that cup, oh my gosh, did you try to kill why it's so hot. This is burning? Yeah, you are so heavy with the sugary cheese. You're gonna give me that. Please. Can we I mean a whole other cup. No and How long would you speak this tea bag? Oh my goodness. Because for them that smell that taste, that heat, all of that experience, even not going through their sockets is over whelming to them because they're getting more signals to their brain, then a neurotypical person gets. Now, the reason why this is important is because your senses are how you experience the world. So everybody gets taught the five senses, no touch, you know, taste, you know, smell, you know, sight, you know, hearing, and all of those are affected by sensory processing. So someone can be a sensory seeker or sensory avoider knows, what you don't get taught is about your three internal senses. So you have this internal sense of interoception, since the interoception center is how you know you're thirsty, how you know, you're hungry, how do you know Oh, I have to pee. How you know, your armpits are sweaty, how you know, you're Nash's those signals come to the brain. And the same thing we just talked about with your out external senses is the same thing that happens internally. So a person who has sensory processing order could get too many signals to the brain to where they have to pee every five seconds, even what a drop off drink. Or they can have not as many signals to the brain, what they don't even feel what they have to pee. And so they may really struggle with toileting. Right? You also have your movement sense, which is your vestibular sense. It's why you see people who are always driving fast, they love roller coasters. They love to move and run and jump and you never see them stop moving. And then you have people like me who are terrified of roller coasters who can't even sit on a playground swing, what I feeling a little nauseous when he starts going back and forth. Because they're stupid, or since for me, is avoiding me, I get too many signals to my brain when I have that experience, and it's overwhelming for me. And then your last internal sense that you don't know about is your proprioception sense. So that your sense when you think about balance, when you think about spatial awareness and depth when you think about fine, gross motor, so writing, being able to do two things at one time, like put toothpaste on a brush, turn handle in jars, that's fine, gross motor skills. And again, a person can be sensory seeking or sensory avoiding in that. So for me, I'm very clumsy, I do not have very good spatial awareness and depth perception, I very much bump into things fall downstairs a lot, because I am not getting this many signals to my brain to tell me hey, that thing is right over there. And if you keep moving in that direction, you are gonna hit it. You're not gonna sign. Yeah. So yes. And so all of that is how you experience the world. Right? And so if you're a person who is a sensory avoiding all your senses, think about how much people would think you are a complainer because everything is too loud. Everything is too bright. Everything is too too much, too much. Yeah, you have to go to the bathroom all the time. You're very careful. And you don't like to do anything that's not unsafe. You ask a lot of questions. Other people moving around could be overwhelming to you, you don't like people to touch you. You don't like your clothes to touch you in a specific way. And that can be very much a problem and annoyance for people. And then you have the other end of that spectrum. Well, you're a sensory seeker, you put everything in your mouth, you'd say you want to smell all the things, your clothes are always on crazy. You don't even realize it. You have on two left feet and yellow. Whatever your parents in your face, you're like, Oh, whatever. You need to move and bounce and jump and run and do all the things you'd like deep pressure and giving people Big hugs, and you don't understand body awareness. And the other people might not want that. And you may not feel that you have to pee. So you may really struggle with you know, getting toileting, you may struggle with knowing when you're hungry. And when you do you are ravenous got a whole day without eating out and you're like, Give me food. Yeah. Those things affect your whole life in your whole day. And it becomes really fun during teens because we get puberty.

Casey O'Roarty 19:19
Well, yeah, I mean, I'm listening to you. And I'm just thinking about all of the deeply loving, well intentioned parents dealing with all the extra of the sensory on both ends of the spectrum. And I'm thinking about the wiring of novelty seeking during adolescence and, you know, as listening to you and I wrote that I just wrote typed it out like novelty. I'm like, don't we all wish that we had sensory avoiders when it comes to novelty seeking? Because, you know, teen years, the conversation often revolves around risky behavior and I imagine those signs sensory seekers like you said, they want to drive fast. They want to feel the wind in their hair there. Yes. I'll try that. I'll try that makes me feel good right

Natasha Nelsen 20:09
now. Disconnect. Speaker Yeah, yes

Casey O'Roarty 20:14
and no disconcerning. And again, thinking about, I love you guys, I love you listeners and how well intentioned you are when that fear and desperation shows up and it's like, well, then you're grounded, then you can't do this, then I'm taking this away. And instead of going under the surface, and discovering and helping our kids recognize like, of course you feel like this, of course you want this? And how can we create this and meet this sensory need in a way that won't potentially kill or maim you? Right?

Natasha Nelsen 20:49
And healthy, but still dopamine seeking pleasure. Yeah. And

Casey O'Roarty 20:53
even those avoiders and I hear from parents all the time, uh, you know, they won't try things, or all they do is like you said, complain, and we create this story. That is like a character trait based story, not realizing that there are, like, bigger things happening for our kids. And we put them in this box of, you know, too much complaining, not enough willingness to, you know, put themselves out

Natasha Nelsen 21:24
anything won't go anywhere with us to something new. on vacations, all of those things are probably coming from some sensory avoidance xiety Absolutely.

Casey O'Roarty 21:37
Well, and does sensory processing disorder, does it tend to go hand in hand with other diagnosis? Or can it stand on its own?

Natasha Nelsen 21:44
So most of the time, as doctors see it right now, it's hand in hand with some of the diagnosis. So you're looking at autism and sensory processing disorder, you're looking at ADHD and sensory processing disorder, you're looking at OCD and sensory processing disorder, however, and PTSD and sensory processing disorder, right away,

Casey O'Roarty 22:05
way, way, way, way, way, way. What was the last one? PTSD? Oh,

Natasha Nelsen 22:10
yeah, yes. But that being said, a lot of people go missing under diagnosed, but I have met people who are like, well, Tosh, I don't show a lot of signs of executive function, or a perception and communication issues. But I definitely have sensory issues. And of course, I'm not a psychologist, and I do what I do, and I don't get as close to people. So it's uncomfortable to say, Well, maybe you should look at a diagnosis. So. But that could very well be right. And they could just have sensory issues. Because we also have to remember that a lot of this stuff has been discovered and been researched fairly recently. Yeah. Also fairly recently included everyone, meaning women, meaning other races besides just white males. But as of right now, according to the science, according to doctors and psychologists, it is something that comes along with other diagnosis.

Casey O'Roarty 23:03
Yeah, and I love and appreciate. And equally, it drives me mad at how things are going to manifest differently in different people. Right? And so interesting and fascinating. And just another reason for us to be in the question of who's my kid, rather than how do I get them to do what I want? Right?

Natasha Nelsen 23:29
What was my kid and what do they need? Yes, they need a lot of times, we'll help you to get to a place that you both want, as opposed to just what you

Casey O'Roarty 23:38
do you think that is it possible to miss sensory issues during the early and elementary years and perhaps have a teen that is, you know, responding to the world with, you know, some sensory stuff?

Natasha Nelsen 23:55
Absolutely. Now, I will say it's a lot easier to find a sensory seeker than it is to find a sensory avoider as a person who wasn't diagnosed until 31. I'm a combination, because nothing is perfect. You guys, I'm so sorry. And so you won't just have a sensory secret child or a sensory awarded child. There's those weirdos like me, who likes to give parents a hard time and be combinations, meaning some senses. I'm a seeker in some senses. I'm an avoider isn't that fun stuff. But the majority for me the majority of senses, I am a sensory avoider. And so I want you to think about children. Think about children. And if you have a child, especially a toddler, who is very serious about hygiene, who is very careful and doesn't like to do any type of risky stuff and listen to you when you say don't go into the road because there's cars and it can be scary. And who asked for other kids to turn down the noise and tonight yeah, Lin who keeps on their shades when you go outside, and who has very particular eating needs that Oh, they're so picky. But you know what, it's okay. You can very easily overlook that fact that that child has sensory issues because you have such a good kid when they're a girl, because that's what girls are supposed to be clean. Yeah, girls are supposed to be quiet. Girls aren't supposed to be rambunctious, they're not supposed to be jumping in bumping around, they need to be somewhere sitting and reading a book. So when you start adding your gender norms and your biases, like we do as humans, because we're humans, to your children, you can absolutely miss a sensory avoiding little girl. And let's go on the other end of that, let's have some fun. You can also absolutely miss a sensory seeking little boy, yeah, because boys will be boys, they're supposed to make messes and put everything in their mouth and not be able to sit still and be rambunctious. And, of course, they put their hoodie on backwards and shoes on wrong, because they're boys and they don't take the time to consider and look at what's going on with them. And you miss those signs, because you're putting a lot of gender specifications on there. And even when they're kind of I don't want to say excessive, but when the signs are kind of hitting you in the face, you'd be like, Oh, no, you know, all kids jump around and can't stop moving. Yeah, but they can sit down for one minute, can sit down for 30 seconds. So we might want to look into this.

Casey O'Roarty 26:35
Man. I mean, I was just talking with my daughter, who's now 20. And we've navigated, you know, anxiety and depression, there was probably some undiagnosed OCD in there as well. And I'm thinking about how she is when the all four of us as a family are together in a public place. I mean, it is like she is wearing the scratchy hast coat. She it's like, we were talking about it yesterday. I'm like, I don't understand why that's such a big deal to you. Like, there's just four of us, you know, and listening to you right now. That'll be a curious conversation to have with her

Natasha Nelsen 27:12
and ask her if there's physical pain, oh, things that I didn't I've never been able to describe the people because I thought I would sound crazy is when I'm overwhelmed sensory wise, but not in a melt down space. But I just know I'm feeling all these people are talking. There's so much stuff going on and so much movement is that I get a little knot in my stomach like painting it because of course the anxiety comes out. Yeah, all this stuff is happening. And it becomes a ball that's in my stomach. And I never was able to really describe or talk to anyone about it because everybody else looks fine. Everybody else was okay if this big crowded, fair, this big crowded concert. And I'm like, Okay, I guess I'm just posting deal with this ball? I don't know. So.

Casey O'Roarty 27:56
So how did it? Can I ask you about being a teenager? So how did it feel when you look back now with the knowledge and understanding of self that you have today? When you look back at teenage Natasha, what were some of the things that from the outside looking in might have looked like mischief making perhaps, or avoidance. But really now you can see where you're, you know, dance with sensory.

Natasha Nelsen 28:24
So I didn't have a close friend. I never had a close friend. I didn't understand. Like, I watch TV shows. And I thought oh, that's really cool. I wish I could have that thing. But I didn't have close friends. I had a lot of associates, people who knew me from being the Smart kid or the book reader or the girl who sells school supplies and candy or will do your homework for somebody. I was trying to make money at any kind of way. I was very important. For Nouriel, yes, but no, I didn't have a close friend. I read books so much the only time I ever got in trouble at school. I snuck I want to say it was a Jane Austen book, but I snuck a book inside my Spanish book to read lower class and got in school suspicion. I used to read so much that I would fall in ditches because I would read while I was walking like I would run across the street and just be reading and so much so that we lived in a really bad neighborhood but I'm going to talk like you all understand you may not understand so there were drug dealers who used to live on our blocks but they knew my mom and so they would look out for me plus I was just people have good and bad and so the little girl who was gonna date everyone knew was gonna get out of the hood because she was always reading was kind of like a cherish beautiful thing to face. They give me money to take to school or to take the church and they looked out for me. So I literally had to been pulled out of a ditch by a drug dealer because I fell in reading a book while watching Except I have never, and I still struggle with it like to touch. Yeah, it's very true. I overthink touch with people, like even my friends who I know. And I see I'm very careful about where I put my hands when I hug them, and how long the hug is and pulling back from the hug. I'm just very aware of how when when people touch me and how and when I touch them, I overthink it every time. And I'm not just talking about strangers. I'm talking about my mother when I hug her and how I hug her. I think about and calculate and overthink.

Casey O'Roarty 30:39
Oh my gosh. People like me must be such a nightmare for you. Because I am like full body like I'm pressing my whole body against you I'm hanging on. The longer I hang on is just an indication of how excited I am to see you we met.

Natasha Nelsen 30:55
And it's so funny. Like when I had my daughter Paris who was a sensory seeker. I remember when I went to the therapist, I said sometimes I think she's trying to climb into me. She hugs me, and then she's still moving. So I'm like, Are you trying to get closer Are you gotta climb into me? Oh my gosh. So I really overthink those things. I was off to myself. I was constantly in books. And then of course, I was dealing with all the things that happened with a rough childhood of being in poverty. But I was raising children without an issue of raising children at 10. And nobody looked at this and said, Hey, she is staying at home, making meals helping with homework at 10 with five other children. And doesn't seem to have a problem with it. Right?

Casey O'Roarty 31:48
Right. A 10 year old shouldn't be calm, cool and collect with Yeah, parenting five younger siblings. Yes, yeah. So I

Natasha Nelsen 31:57
had six eventually. But I started at 10 Yes, siblings, and then cousins, and then you know, and on and on and on. So it was just so many things that I look back now. And I'm like, even when I look at pictures, I'm like, there are so many obvious signs that we just didn't understand and know that. Yeah, what a big one. And I'm gonna make you all uncomfortable. But we're talking about teens. So we're gonna get into that I was an excessive. And when I say excessive, I do mean excessive masturbator. It started very early. For me it started I want to say between seven and nine years old. And it wasn't sexual to me. I had some experience where I rode on a horse and a horse didn't have the saddle. And it was a lot of rubbing. And I was like, I saw rainbows on a horse. So did I associated it with the horse. And I was like, I want to ride horses all the time.

Casey O'Roarty 32:49
We all want to ride horses all the time.

Natasha Nelsen 32:52
And of course, with my background, my family that was not a possible, I was trying to recreate that. And then I figured out how to do that on my own. And for me a non excessive masturbator. Now we're talking a Georgia education system. So when I was in seventh grade, we had sex ed and it was that whole don't have sex, or you're gonna get STDs and die. So they show you all the STDs on different genitalia. And then they give you a glove, and they put a little Vaseline on the glove and they have you shake the hands of all the children in there and put the glove under a microscope so you can see all the cooties you get from people when you just,

Casey O'Roarty 33:29
we didn't have that activity that might have been more useful actually, for me.

Natasha Nelsen 33:37
And then we got like pledges that we were not going to have sex until we were married at our sex education public school class. So once I started understanding that it was a sexual act, I became ashamed of it. So I was only doing it in the bathroom when I had to take a bath. But it was excessive. It was like five, six times a day, regularly all throughout my childhood because for my interoception I am a sensory seeker. So I am that person who one drink and I have to pee every five seconds, who feels when their armpits are sweating, who feels nausea, immediately who's thirsty and drinks a lot of water I am that person. And that person sensory seeks pleasure all the time in that area. And so once it became connected to that I became really ashamed of it but I stopped I just kept going with it. And eventually I want to say like maybe 16 1516 My mom figured it out. And she gave me this whole she wasn't super religious, but she had a religious background. So she gave me this whole talk about her fear was that it was going to lead to being with boys and doing things. I was like not even looking at boys. I don't even think they would know how to do it really hard to figure the SAS right

Casey O'Roarty 34:56
and horse over here. The boys The oh, by the way, they wouldn't even know how to get you there and succeed anyway, so better to keep it to yourself that

Natasha Nelsen 35:07
is possibly I wasn't really attracted or thinking about Boy Yeah. Even with the sex ed classes and all of that different stuff, until maybe like 1617. But before the boys were just idiots and boys and I didn't really think of them like that. And it wasn't like I wasn't in a house that they were afraid to talk about proper sex education, like, you know, were things but they were still talking about sex and relationships and people and different things like that. So it wasn't like it was blind to me. I was reading loose May Alcott and and of Green Gables. I was so lost in books. At that time books were my special interest, and I fixated and I was there I was in a book all the time counting money, Crisco, Harry Potter there. Yeah, so I didn't really look up from my books until maybe about 16. Yeah, but throughout that process of puberty, because my interoception sense is seeking certain things were very different for me, like periods, my period has certain areas where I don't have issues and in other areas where I am very much aware and discussing and terrified of my period. So having the idea of I didn't have cramps as bad like I could feel on the cramps for coming out, be able to get medicine way before they were coming like days before they would actually come through my period was coming. But the actual excretion of you know, our menstrual cycles and stuff, I told my mom one time and she looked at me so weird, I insane and gowns, I can feel every drop of blood that leaves my body, not exaggerating, every drip, every drop, I can seal and it's uncomfortable. And I'm looking around to see if anybody else knows because I feel like I can smell it and hear it. And so everybody else has to hear it right. And so having that situation and then having the cleanup and the touch and the smell, I am avoider with smell smells come to me from a mile away. And so I'm like, I can smell this. Other people can smell this right. And so then I have even more anxiety and I'm nervous, and I'm scared. And so that was just an overwhelming feeling for me.

Casey O'Roarty 37:23
It's so interesting how this is just one other place in the human experience that is so layered and becomes so compounded by how others respond to us, or the popular culture perception or, you know, where the neighborhoods were brought up. And like all of it, there's so many layers, and it's so interesting. So thinking about teens, yes. So that was your experience. Thank you so much for sharing. You said you have a lot of sibs, and you're the oldest. So my guess is you have a lot of nieces and nephews that you get to be in relationship with that are probably in adolescence, and other people in your life. So where are some places for you? In seeing? Perhaps that sensory seeking behavior that you're in your mind because of what you know, and because of what you do, you're wondering, like, Okay, I see Mom and Dad freaking out about that. But I'm thinking this kid probably has some sensory seeking stuff going on.

Natasha Nelsen 38:27
So this is great, because me and my husband do this all the time. My husband does it way more than me so much so that I had to like calm him down because he was trying to get everybody tests. But we definitely see it, we see it so much. So the biggest one is parents, but it's so hard because parents don't let kids be kids like just regular, everyday parent on the street. If a kid is jumping, moving, bouncing their steel stop setting, just hold my hand and walk regularly, like so parents

Casey O'Roarty 38:57
also have sensory they're on the spectrum too, right?

Natasha Nelsen 39:02
and that is one of my biggest challenges when I'm helping my neurodiverse families is the parents having sensory avoidance and the child being a sensory secret those combinations go through it. Okay. Some of the big signs that a lot of people don't know are always the fun ones for me. So I was a child who was a sensory avoider, but I did walk on my toes and it always just like I was bouncing, right? And, of course, once you get to like middle school, you get to wear heels. So I was like, Okay, well, I can wear heels now. So I don't look like I bounce as much. But when I wear black shoes, I bounce. I bounce because I'm walking on my tiptoes. That's a big sign. No one notices. Everybody just thinks oh, that child is buoyant and happy with life. It is definitely a sign. Another great sign for sensory that I find is like I said the child who does not care about their appearance and I'm not just saying like, you know, because teens Yeah, I'm not just talking about spanking not taking a bath I'm saying their hair is in their face, and you're like, there's no way you can see through the veins that are going on there don't seem to have a problem with it, I'm talking, they come and they literally have their pants on backwards and you're like, you don't feel you don't see. That's have sensory issues, their shoes not even done or halfway on their feet, and they're just fine. They're not seeing any issue. That could be some sensory issues there. When they were young, they put everything in their mouth, you said, oh, all kids put everything in the mouth. But then you started noticing other kids had stopped and your child was still putting everything in the mouth. Or even if they're like me, because I realized very clearly the other kids had stopped putting things in their mouth. And so I found the things that I could put in my mouth that people wouldn't make such a big stink about. And so you start sucking your fingers, or you start being the kid that always has crunchy foods, like nuts, and corn chips, and different things like that, that have a texture, that crunchy and it makes that big loud noise. So looking at sensory seekers, right, if you have the person who always needs the hoodie on, and not just because they're trying to hide because sometimes things are just trying to hide. Yeah. But even when they're in safe places they have that hoodie on, and they have that hoodie over their head, they want pressure on their body, that pretty is giving them added pressure to their body. They're seeking that pressure, right? So those hoodie, kids, if you're having a problem with the hoodie, give them some compression shirts, they help but also realize that that could be a sensory seeking moment there. Right? Like we talked about earlier, the reason I was telling my mom that I could feel every drop is because I hated pads, because I could feel every drop, and I was trying to advocate for me to get tampons. My mom, like I said she wasn't as religious but came from a deeply religious background. And she was like no tampons, because that just leads to sex. And I was like, I just don't want to. So let's Yes, about this, when a child is explaining something to you, and it sounds exaggerated or ridiculous. Realize that everyone experiences the world differently. And so they may be experiencing that experience in a exaggerated way. Just because you don't feel that that doesn't mean they don't feel that listen to their words, because I was a very vivid descriptor. Like when I said, I looked at what Bob did it, I said, I feel every. And she looked at me like oh my god, here we go extra extra read all about it. But I was dead serious, because that's how I experienced that experience.

Casey O'Roarty 42:40
Yeah, well, and this just leads right into this phrase that I love from the invitation to change community, which is a community that works with families with loved ones with substance use disorder, which is behavior makes sense, right? behavior makes sense. Or in positive discipline, we talk about the behavior seeing is a solution to a problem you don't know about. And I'm thinking about the kids in the hoodie and the hair. Like what a great little solution to the world around them being overwhelming, right? Yes,

Natasha Nelsen 43:12
they can question so we'd like compression when we're overwhelmed. Sensory why? Yeah, question helps us to forget when I was in labor with both children, but I specifically remember it with parents because at that time, I didn't know I was autistic. I didn't know about sensory processing. But my midwife and doula recommended pressure to get me through the labor because I wanted a natural birth. Because, as you all know, I was also currently you don't but Casey does. I was also quarantine EU as a parent, my band, so I wanted a natural squatting birth. And so they did pressure points. Whenever I would go through one of the contractions, my husband pushing my hips with deep pressure, and my Doula would cushion my bat and some kind of way, I don't know how to explain it, it allows for that contraction to pass without it being the overwhelming backbreaking pain that everyone described. And so think about there are my daughter has what we call a body sock. And it's literally like she can put it all over her body and be in complete compression. And so she usually puts it on when she comes home from school. If you're overwhelmed, sensory wise, it kind of just blocks out the world. And all you focus on is the pressure all over your body. Yes,

Casey O'Roarty 44:23
I think Instagram thinks I want one of those because I keep seeing ads for them. So how can we bring this sensory conversation to our kids? And my guess is, you know, if the behavior has gotten to a point where it is looking like risky behavior, or like deeply avoidant behavior, where it's on one of the ends of the spectrum, and we want to have a conversation with our teens and help educate them, but also just be curious about their experience with some language that we can use that has the potential to draw fourth, some information about how they are experiencing the world through their senses. What are some takeaways for parents?

Natasha Nelsen 45:08
I love this because that was the first thing I was gonna say is you're going to need some curiosity questions, but you might want some very specific curiosity questions, right? So when we talked about curiosity questions in the first place, a lot of times people just do the What were you trying to do? You know, what did you think? Were you thinking? What were you thinking? What did you feel? But I always go a little deeper with curiosity questions, when we're talking about a child who may be nerd divergent, and trying to give them a little bit more of specific direct questions, right. So maybe talk about the experience that you noticed them having a hard time in and being specific. So let's say your child really seems to always have some type of misbehavior, because that's usually when people connect, when you all go to events crowded event, and you finally pinpointed it. And you're like, Okay, last time when we went to the school Fall Festival, you know, how are you feeling? What were you feeling? Were you feeling any feelings in your body? Were you feeling any feelings? In your mind? What was going on that had you so upset? You know, so, a lot of times, I always go to somatic first thing I do when I'm talking to my parents who is minimal speaking. So it's a little more elementary, but we'll get into it, as I say, Is your body hurting? Or are your feelings hurting? Which one, she'll say the body, and she'll point to wherever it is, or she'll say feelings, and then I'll talk, we'll go to our posters on our wall and figure out what feelings but it's the same thing. But you're just going to not make your child feel like they're being condescended to. So you're going to talk to that teenager in a more relatable language. Yeah, but it's, you know, when we were at the Fall Festival, were you selling something in your body that just made you uncomfortable or painful? Or were you just feeling something in your feelings that you just didn't want to be there? How are you feeling? Because to be honest, as long as they don't have SSD, which is something I have, where you confuse your feelings with your pain, if you're able to figure out where their pain is, like in their stomach, that could be stress and anxiety. Or if they were feeling very sweaty, they can tell you that, or if there was a certain noise that was really rounding off and hurting your ears and your ears hurt, they can tell you that, and you can start somatically, figuring out that there might be some sensory issues, if they're saying it was so bright, or if they're saying it was so loud, or they were saying there's so many people and we couldn't move. Yeah, those type of things, let you know what was happening there. And then if they're not saying anything, somatically if they're saying how they feel, they felt worried, they felt scared, they felt nervous, those words that they're using, will give you an idea of what's going on there. So asking direct questions. Yeah, just, we don't really do when we're drawing forth, we try to make them open questions, right? But you're gonna be wanting to look for more direct questions when you're trying to figure it out. So you're gonna have to pinpoint an area figured out the problem. The problem is my child, every time we go to a big event, my child hasn't missed behavior. Right. Okay. So now let's get specific. When's the last time this happened? Kind of like how we do our parents helping parents, right? So you go to a specific time that that happened, when I do parents helping parents in my classes, I add on a bit. So before we go to the mistaken goal chart we look at is this sensory is executive functioning, or is this communication? And so we go to those first, right, so we talk about sensory and we look at, you know, what the body was feeling and what's going on? We talked about executive functioning, you know, was this an issue of lateness? Was this the issue of not being able to communicate what other people for communication, right? Was this an issue of perceiving something differently than what actually happened? Which I can finish up with RST? Because that's going to be really important for this whole conversation, especially when we're talking about teams. But you're looking at those things before you even get to the mistaken goal chart. Because if I'm trying to think this is a power issue, but this is a sensory issue, I'm not gonna fix it, right. It may be like a power issue, my child be may be demanding to go and saying no, and I may be saying yes, and I think, Oh, I'm in a power struggle, but my child could be saying no, because they can't function in their ears are hurting and it's too much for them. So

Casey O'Roarty 49:32
yeah, and I love the mistaken goal chart and listeners, I'm gonna put the link I did a whole little playlist of belief buying behavior podcasts that I'll put in the show notes. And if I don't, and you're looking for them, send me an email to remind me that I said that out loud. But yes, so I often with my daughter, go, I'm guessing is on the spectrum there as well, somewhere. I often would mistake her behavior for revenge. Yep. because her discomfort with the sensory experience looked like rejection and hurtful behavior towards me is how I experienced it. And then, you know, we'd get into like the whole conversation of Why are you treating me like this, I haven't done you know anything versus, hey, what's going on right now for you, because this is an indicator that there is a certain level of discomfort for her. And so when we can tap into that, we get a lot farther than being in the back and forth. And I'm also thinking too, with teens, like, if there's an indicator that and you're wondering, like, God, I wonder if this is a thing. You know, another great place to start. I really like setting the context and being specific, but also, I think, with teens, saying, like, oh, my gosh, I learned something today while I was listening to this podcast, and I just kept thinking about you, and I want to share about it with you, and see if it makes sense to you and share with them about what Natasha is talking about, you know, those three internal senses, right, and how they're experiencing the world. It's so respectful, right? I just find it. It's just such a respectful move to be like, I want to understand your experience, versus why you keep doing this thing. And so I just really wanted to highlight that. Okay, tell us about the other acronym you just said to

Natasha Nelsen 51:24
Absolutely. I'll get into that. But I actually want to affirm you because

Casey O'Roarty 51:29
I love affirmation. Yeah.

Natasha Nelsen 51:31
where does revenge usually come from? It comes from us not feeling validated and counted. And if no one's noticing my sensory issues, if people keep putting me in places, sensory issues are being ignored. I don't feel like I count and I don't feel validated. So maybe I do need to lash out. Ooh, so cute. in the right place, but

Casey O'Roarty 51:52
well, for sure. Yes, we have some dance steps. Well, yeah, we've kind of moved on. But yeah, that was a big one for me with my daughter specifically for sure. Yes, thank you.

Natasha Nelsen 52:02
And that's what happens with a lot of neurodiverse. And because you know, the family, someone may not be neurodivergent. And the child is, and they don't understand sensory, they don't understand executive functioning. And so a lot of times when the child is having those meltdowns, when the child is going out, it is kind of revenge because my needs are being ignored. You don't understand my needs, so you're not validating them. And I don't feel like I count. And that leads right to the RFP. So rejection sensitivity. dysphoria, right?

Casey O'Roarty 52:33
Yeah. Yeah. Dr. Lockhart was on talking about ADHD. And she was the first person that turned me on to this. Yes.

Natasha Nelsen 52:40
So ADHD, autism, OCD, because they all have sensory issues. And they all can come with executive functioning issues. And so our kids who are always complaining, as we talked about, because they're overwhelmed, sensory wise, are our children who are always seeking and so they can't sit their butts down. And they're always trying to get in dopamine, and they have horrible impulse control, and they're always in something right? What do they hear all the time? Is it positive affirmations?

Casey O'Roarty 53:10
Now, sit down, be quiet, knock it off, calm down. After? Yeah.

Natasha Nelsen 53:17
After a while, they start to internalize. And they start getting a bit of rejection sensitivity dysphoria to where any rejection, real or perceived any tz any criticism, any feeling of disappointing their friends or family. Any feeling of disappointing themselves and not meaning a gold standard that they set for themselves is overwhelming. And they react in ways that we would think are exaggerated or absolutely not to standard and not acceptable. But it's because as a child, as a person, as a team, you hear constantly What's wrong with you. Yeah, yes. And over and over again. I'm a positive discipline educator. I'm an autistic woman. I'm an autistic advocate in a leadership disability training. As of right now, that is amazing. And I still have moments where I have to like, Oh, my goodness, Tasha, and go apologize to my daughter, because she steps in the door. And I'm like, no, no, no, don't jump around. Please take off your shoes. First. Take off your shoes. Okay, where do we go? You know where we go. And it just sounds constantly, especially when you're rushing like a critique to that child who may be you know, maybe can't focus to do one task to the next and who struggle because they're overwhelmed, sensory wise, and they get distracted by things. And all they're hearing is criticism. And after a while, it breaks them down. And so any little criticism, even unasked, like this is a mistake and it's okay to make mistakes because you made a mistake is overwhelming. I don't know why are you always picking on me moment because it's just overflowing for them?

Casey O'Roarty 54:56
Oh my gosh, we could do a whole show on that. Actually. Yeah, and I'm looking at the time and I want to respect your day. There is so much here, Natasha, thank you so much. It's very on brand of you to be so generous with your time and your knowledge. Where can people find you and follow your work? I did mention it at the top. But let's just say it out loud again, where can people find you?

Natasha Nelsen 55:19
So my website is supernova mama.com. You can also follow me on Instagram, that supernova underscore, Mama, M O M Ma. Or if you want real me, I always say if you want parenting, and you want the beautiful magazine, Natasha, then you can go to Instagram. If you want real me, I'm still giving parenting but I'm also a human being who has ideas and likes and jokes. And that's on Twitter. And that's

Casey O'Roarty 55:50
I'll make sure the links to all those places are in the show notes. And my final question that I asked all of my guests Natasha, considering who you are and what you do in the world, what does joyful courage mean to you?

Natasha Nelsen 56:03
Oh, my goodness. So I am reading a book as a part of my training now. And it talks about the foundation of courage being vulnerability, right, and being able to rumble with the vulnerability in order to build your courage, right. So for me right now, especially, especially where my life is, it's been being joyful in the privilege of rumbling with my vulnerability, and what I'm doing and getting my diagnosis and helping to treat myself and advocating for my children and learning how to give this to other families just rumbling with the vulnerability that that puts me in and realizing that that's a privilege. Ah,

Casey O'Roarty 56:47
yes, please send the link to that book. I love the language of rumbling with the vulnerability thank you so much for hanging out with me this was beyond amazing and I just really appreciate you and all that you are in the world. Thank you so much.

Natasha Nelsen 57:02
Thank you for having me. You know I love you. Everyone always says there's no parenting experts after the children turns six or seven. I'm like well, if you're looking for teens, I have someone for you.

Casey O'Roarty 57:14
Thank you so much. Absolutely.

Casey O'Roarty 57:23
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at podshaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at BS for audible.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace

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