Why Knowing Yourself and Saying No Matters to Neurodivergent Individuals

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

The ability to say “no” and honor your limits is a beautifully powerful skill that we can all benefit from. In a productivity-focused culture where today’s 40-hour work week is roughly equivalent to a 160-hour work week in 1950’s time (read more in Devon Price’s Laziness Does Not Exist), it’s easy to ignore our limits and put pressure on ourselves to perform at an otherworldly capacity.

While life requires all of us to push ourselves at times, it is impossible to work at 100% capacity 100% of the time. And by saying no, or deciding where to strategically place your energy, you leave yourself with the bandwidth and energy needed to be more effective and consistent in the activities that are priorities to you.

This is definitely not the first time you’ve heard these ideas. However, today I’d like to focus on why saying no and honoring your limits can be especially important for neurodivergent individuals.

Neurodiversity is the natural brain diversity that exists within the human population, similar to other forms of human diversity. The terms “neurodivergent,” “neurominority,” or “neurovariant” typically refer to individuals with a brain makeup that falls outside of the statistical majority of human neurotypes. Being a neurominority is not a problem, nor is it something to overcome. However, being a minority often means having to function within a world that is generally not designed by or for you.

Because of this, neurodivergent individuals are often implicitly or explicitly taught to modify their thoughts and actions to better fit their environment. Instead of being able to honor their individual needs and boundaries, they are frequently asked to push themselves beyond their limits. While every person—neurodivergent or not—must operate outside their comfort zone at times, for neurodivergent individuals it can become a default way of life. This is exhausting and can result in burnout.

During intake sessions with new clients, I make it a point to clarify that I’m not here to “cure” ADHD, autism, or a learning disability. I’m here to help reduce, and also cope with, the disconnect between the client, their environment, and the activities they are being asked to regularly manage. Together we find ways to make the environment better fit the individual and their needs, and then (and only then) we will implement strategies for navigating the remaining barriers to reaching their goals.

And in order to make the environment better fit the individual, each client needs to figure out what works for them and, most importantly, what does NOT work for them. For some neurodivergent folk, it can be truly ground-breaking to ask themselves, “What about my environment or current activities is not working for me? What can I start to say ‘no’ to?” It’s an important step in learning more about yourself and how your brain works, and what is sustainable for you (not someone else).

This can be hard, especially if your productivity or ability to “keep up” with others has become a pattern—or even a part of your identity. Learning to say no and to let go of not only what others regularly ask of you, but also what you have become accustomed to asking of yourself, takes time, patience, and practice.

Remember, you wouldn’t begrudge a cactus for wilting if it were asked to constantly absorb more water than its capacity, or if it didn’t get the amount of sun it required. And once you provide that cactus with the specific and appropriate external conditions, it will be able to flourish and show the world all the unique beauty it has to offer.

All of this is much easier said than done, but one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being able to join clients as they learn how to work with their brains, accept their specific way of being in the world, and start to say no to the rest.

To read more on this topic:

If your child, teen, or young adult needs support in this realm, complete our online Intake Form to learn more about NESCA’s Executive Function and Real-life Skills Coaching.


About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.


To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form


NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Thinking About Autism and Neurodiversity

By | NESCA Notes 2018

By: Nancy Roosa, Psy.D. 
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

On December 2, 2017, several of NESCA’s clinical staff had the honor of speaking at The Daniel W. Rosenn Annual AANE Connections Conference with Temple Grandin. Talks included:

We were pleased to be able to share our expertise with more than 500 parents, professionals, and adults with autism. Furthermore, we enjoyed the opportunity to hear Dr. Temple Grandin speak about neurodiversity and the many contributions of neurodiverse individuals to our daily lives. As such, I wanted to share a bit about this topic with you.

Thinking About Autism and Neurodiversity

Without the particular contributions made by people on the spectrum, Temple Grandin says, “we’d still be living in caves and using our social skills to tell each other jokes by firelight.” Dr. Grandin gave an inspiring talk as the keynote speaker at the Autism/Asperger Network’s (AANE) annual conference. One of the main points of her presentation was that anyone capable of making grand and significant contributions to society has to see the world a bit differently. From Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, revolutionary advances have been made by these unique, creative — but not always well socialized — individuals. In her case, she had remarkable visualization skills and a unique ability to see how cattle interact with their environment, allowing her to design more humane systems for transporting them in slaughterhouses without creating additional, unnecessary stress. Dr. Grandin’s drawings and sketches in the book Thinking in Pictures are truly remarkable.

John Elder Robison made a similar point in his book Switched On (2016) when he talks about his particular gifts in building electronic circuits for musicians. He describes how he could simply intuit how to build circuits to create a particular sound and how he knew immediately if some part of a complex stereo system was not working well. He came to realize that other engineers worked in a more methodical manner, which led him to wonder if his brain is wired differently. Where the neural connections that process social skills might be under-developed in his brain, he suspects he had  stronger connections between his math, sound and visual processing areas, which led to his successful career as an audio engineer for some of the country’s best rock bands – including designing flaming guitars for the band KISS.

In his book, Mr. Robison wondered if he would have traded his gifts to be more “neurotypical” — if he had had that choice. He recounts being very lonely in middle school and high school, but ponders the relative costs and benefits, both to himself personally as well as society. As he writes: “The world is full of friendly people with no technical skills. The few of us who see into machines like others see into humans are singularly uncommon and we’re valued for that.” These are the type of people who make revolutionary advances. He asks ‘if we could make autistic children more neurotypical, should we?’ “Should we trade friends in 7th grade for designing a working spaceship at age 25?”

This is an important point for those of us who work with, live with and/or love people on the spectrum. In our desire to help them lead more “normal” lives, and avoid the pain of being different, we have to also appreciate their differences, since that difference may be the very thing that leads them to a uniquely satisfying life, and perhaps to invent the next new thing that makes all of our lives better.

To learn more about Temple Grandin, John Elder Robison and Neurodiversity, visit the following links:

About the Author:

Nancy Roosa, Psy.D. has been engaged in providing neuropsychological evaluations for children since 1997. She enjoys working with a range of children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders, as well as children with attentional issues, executive function deficits, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, or other social, emotional or behavioral problems. Her evaluations are particularly appropriate for children with complex profiles and those whose presentations do not fit neatly into any one diagnostic box. As part of this process, Dr. Roosa is frequently engaged in school visits, IEP Team Meetings, home observations and phone consultations with collateral providers. Dr. Roosa has also consulted with several area schools, either about individual children or about programmatic concerns. She speaks to parent or school groups, upon request.