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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.