Neurodivergence on screen

Why we need more neurodivergent women on screen

Winter – and specifically the holidays – is the perfect time to hunker down in front of a movie or two. And while it’s great to zone out and not think too much about plot holes and inconsistencies, sometimes certain aspects of a film can really stand out. Like the representation, or lack thereof, of neurodivergence in movies. And more specifically, neurodivergent women on screen.

neurodivergent women on screen

How often is neurodivergence portrayed solely from a male perspective? Women are impacted by autism, ADHD, and other neurodivergent conditions, but can you think of a major Hollywood star portraying such a character or co-staring alongside one? There are some, for sure, such as Sigourney Weaver who played a person with autism (or an autistic person, depending on your preference for person-first terminology or not) in 2007’s Snow Cake. However they tend to be more independent, less mainstream movies. 

Sigourney Weaver Snow Cake
Sigourney Weaver plays an autistic woman in Snow Cake and is one of the few instances of a neurodivergent women on screen

Now if you were asked to name a male neurodivergent character in a movie or series, it wouldn’t be difficult to come up with a few examples: Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Jim Parson’s portrayal of Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory or Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnold “Arnie” Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. So why so few female representations? Why are there so few neurodivergent women on screen? Is it because men are three or four times more likely to be diagnosed than women? Are women diagnosed less because they tend to mask their symptoms in order to fit in with society? And if so, why?

Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic man in Rain Man won many accolades

Let’s break it down.

In the first place, we have to take into account that the majority of research carried out on neurodivergent people have used men as subjects. This means that ‘typical’ neurodivergent symptoms in men may not present themselves in the same way in women. Take ADHD for example. In men, it can present as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor concentration, while in women or girls, ADHD could show as problems with organization, attention, or time management. Studies have shown the autism also presents in different ways between the sexes. Unfortunately, to date, there has been little research done on the intersection of gender identity and neurodivergence, so that is something to bear in mind. Neurodivergence, as it relates to intersectionality, will be an exciting and necessary area of research within the subject of representation and inclusion.

The pressure to mask

Meanwhile, many studies have shown that girls and women tend to be more empathic than men, but could it be that this comes from societal conditioning? Girls are expected to show more empathy, while ‘boys will be boys’, right? The pressure to fit in and not exhibit neurodivergent behavior means that many women experience high levels of stress and also either get diagnosed later – or not at all.

If neurodivergent girls and women saw themselves portrayed on screen, then perhaps the pressure to mask would ease. And they might seek a diagnosis which would help them navigate society so much more easily. Though, representation alone isn’t enough. The normalization of neurodivergence, and not neurodivergence as the focus of the character’s quirky, odd, or annoying nature, is the goal.

There are signs that things are changing. In 2020, the series Everything’s Gonna Be Ok was released, which features an autistic girl as one of its main characters. And there is a sense that movies and series are willing to be more inclusive nowadays. For example, here’s a great must-watch list where neurodivergent characters are generally portrayed in an accurate and positive way. And if you’re really after a Christmas-themed neurodivergent movie, then there’s always Hallmark’s Our Christmas Journey to check out.

Remember to reach out to me if you need support navigating a new diagnosis, or you just need some guidance on neurodivergence in general.


Why acceptance should become the cornerstone for all teams

“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”

UN – Declaration of Principles on Tolerance

Nov 16 marks the UN’s international day for tolerance. Set up back in 1996, its aim has been to recognize the diversity of people and to encourage acceptance of different cultures and ways of being human.

hands reaching together to convey acceptance
Ikigai coaching is a powerful way of encouraging acceptance within teams Photo © Clay Banks on Unsplash

With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, climate change forcing more migration to the global north, and a general, worldwide economic crisis, there has never been a more urgent time to tackle racism and discrimination.

Acceptance through ikigai

But how to go about it? Education is an obvious channel. Foundational intercultural, diversity, and inclusion programming and not just check-the-box one-offs—within workplaces and other organizations is another effective way to get people thinking about those around them in a more empathetic and connected way. And I’d also recommend Ikigai coaching. Ikigai-kan, or the feeling of a life worth living, depends on several needs, among which is resonance. According to the mother of ikigai, Kamiya Mieko, and as cited by japanologist, Nicholas Kemp, resonance is “the need to feel that what one is doing connects with one’s surroundings. This need is really about social affiliation, the desire to build and maintain meaningful interpersonal relationships and to be treated by others in an accepting manner.

There’s also an overlap with my ADHD training which is an amazing way of tapping into your feelings of self-worth and personal values with acceptance. Because if you don’t appreciate and accept yourself, it’s going to be all the more challenging to do so with others.

Nov 16 is about tolerance, but I’d like to push it further and propose acceptance. Tolerance sounds like ‘putting up with’ and promotes and us vs them mentality, whereas we should be aiming for a feelings of empathy and acceptance of our differences. Whether they be racial, sexual, or accepting neurodivergent people and those with physical disabilities, our unique human experience is just that: unique. Striving to connect with others to learn about and understand their experience not only helps them feel more included but will also enrich your own understanding of yourself, the world, and all its diverse inhabitants.

Neurodiversity Inclusion Coaching

Advantages to hiring the best Neurodiversity Inclusion Training

October has been ADHD awareness month and, as it draws to a close, it got me thinking about the benefits of neurodiversity inclusion training. Diversity and inclusion initiatives have long tracked the metrics of race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. However neurodiversity metrics haven’t been focused on much at all.

Young people showing Neurodiversity inclusion training benefits
Neurodiversity inclusion training can help a workplace or school redress imbalances and help people with ADHD cope. Photo © Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

The U.S. lifetime prevalence of ADHD in adults aged 18 to 44 years of age is estimated to be 8.1% (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). If we take into account that not everyone with ADHD has received a diagnosis — especially women, as their symptoms present differently from men — then the true figure maybe even higher.  

Neurodiversity inclusion training benefits

So why should neurodiversity inclusion training be a consideration in the workplace or education facility? Isn’t there enough to be working on without throwing in extra complications? Specifically it’s because there’s a very real danger of people with ADHD trying to hide their condition out of shame or a desire to ‘fit in’ if they don’t feel that they’re in a supportive space. And such behavioral modifications can lead to burnout. Or even a nervous breakdown. 

Neurodiversity inclusion training can help a workplace or school redress imbalances and help people with ADHD cope with the stress of working in a neurotypical world. It’s all about building a more inclusive environment for all team members. And the great thing about the training is that all employees and students will benefit from it — as it teaches empathy, communication skills and organizational tips. So why not reach out today to find out more about my personalized sessions that will fit in with your school or workplace? Or just to chat about neurodiversity? I’d love to hear from you. 

Mental Health

Actionable tips to cope with SAD

What are your thoughts on fall? Are you wishing you were still at the beach, or are you looking forward to colorful trees and cozy knitwear? For many people it can be a challenging time as it can mark the onset of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The shorter days and long, long nights mean our bodies sometimes struggle to adjust to receiving less light.

SAD was first mentioned in a paper by psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal in 1984. He used it in relation to a group of people he was studying in Maryland. Since then, it’s been noted around the world in both northern and southern hemispheres- especially in countries and regions furthest away from the Equator.

SAD symptoms and treatments

Although no one is clear on the exact trigger -sometimes it can be genetic, for example- the most obvious cause is a lack of sunlight. It also seems to be about four times more common in women than in men. Those suffering from it find that they can’t handle stressful situations as successfully as before.

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistently low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • lacking in energy and feeling sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and sugary snacks
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive
If you believe you may be suffering from SAD, then your first port of call has to be your doctor. They will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment adapted to your individual requirements.

Fall leaves to illustrate SAD
Trying to get outside every morning for a walk has been show to help alleviate SAD symptoms. Photo by Nadine Redlich on Unsplash
Common treatments include the use of light boxes, exercise, and vitamin D supplementation. A way to kill three birds with one stone is to get yourself outside for a walk as the sun comes up. Even if it’s a gray day, you’ll still get some valuable rays on your skin to help with vitamin D absorption, while moving your body will release those coveted endorphins to help shift the winter blues. 
“Anything that gets you out, that gets you physically active, is going to be good psychotherapy and stave off winter problems.”
― Jon Krakauer, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains
tuning into the benefits of ikigai and ibasho
I can’t help thinking about how ikigai could also help those with SAD. By connecting your sense of purpose and what makes life worth living for you, there’s a stronger chance of feeling a greater connection to yourself.
Take a moment to enjoy your tea or coffee in the morning, for example. Or take a small step towards a life’s goal (writing that novel, planning that journey, or training for that marathon.) Any of these actions can go a long way during those moments of darkness. 
Similarly, I think that ibasho can also help with SAD. It’s another Japanese concept which aspires to strengthen one’s sense of belonging and community. Focused around taking advantage of Elders’ knowledge and wisdom, it aims to help the community at large. By connecting with where and with whom you feel you can truly be yourself, you have more probability of grounding yourself. Which is a wonderful compliment to whatever your doctor might suggest.

Additionally, a great way to keep a record of how you’re feeling and tap into a supportive, online community is through the 29k app. Developed by psychologists, it’s a free tool that can be used to track how you’re feeling, work on meditation techniques and help manage stress. 

The app is also useful for neurodivergent people and, of course, feel free to reach out to me for help on any of the issues raised in this post. 


Prioritizing rest: Why vacation and downtime are crucial for your wellbeing and productivity

‘Rest isn’t just sleeping one night’ – Jeff Cooper, ADD/ADHD & Attention Coach

Nothing is more evocative of summer for me than thinking back to childhood moments of sand castle building. Digging for that just-right moist sand to create the perfect sculpture. Or long, laughter-filled days at the swimming pool with friends and family.

Yet re-creating those carefree days are a struggle. Disconnecting from my to-do list to be in the moment with my kids and family is easier said than done. Whether it’s due to ADHD or just the pressures of modern life is unclear, but I know I’m not alone in this problem. And prioritizing rest is so important from a health and productivity perspective – which is why I go back to my ikigai training to remember just how to recharge my batteries.

Prioritzing rest and relaxation can be a source of guilt for those with ADHD
Prioritzing rest and relaxation can be a source of guilt for those with ADHD. Photo: © Jeremy McKnight/Unsplash 

A great starting point for inspiration is neuroscientist Ken Mogi’s Five Pillars of Ikigai. 

The first is Starting Small. Ken Mogi likes to use the example of Anime and Manga businesses, which were set up by fans on a small scale. Their enthusiasm and passion for the genre was obvious in the work they produced, and so their businesses thrived. Moving the concept to vacation time, if you’re struggling with the concept of prioritizing rest, then why not at least go for a walk in a park? Take in some nature and stop to smell the roses. People with ADHD often struggle with guilt when taking time off – so maybe just “start small” and schedule a few hours of leisure time. Let go of the stresses of to-do lists and other commitments, and spend time doing something you enjoy. 

The second is Be In The Here And Now. Be spontaneous and carefree. Tap into your inner child and let go. Remember what it was like to run towards the shore, the wind whipping your hair, the smell and taste of the salty air and the sand beneath your feet. Or if the beach isn’t your thing then head to the mountains and enjoy the majesty of nature. Those of us with ADHD have an especially hard time with this, so a recommendation of mine is to try to schedule a walking mindfulness meditation into your day.  Even if it’s just five minutes, put away your phone and earbuds and tune into how the different parts of your feet feel as they hit the earth and what the city sounds, smells, and looks like as you enjoy your stroll.  Chances are, you’ll notice things you’d never noticed before.

prioritizing rest by walking
Try a walking mindfulness meditation to help disconnect from your to-do list. Photo: © Jon Flobrant/Unsplash 

Ken Mogi’s third pillar is Harmony and Sustainability. This is about being mindful of how your actions affect those around you and the society at large. From a vacation perspective, this could include being respectful of local cultures and the local environment. You’ll get so much more out of your vacation if you take the time to talk to local people, find out about more about the local history, and be mindful of any environmental impact your trip could have. This can be especially challenging for those of us who struggle with executive functions because ADHD negatively impacts working memory, planning, and prioritizing. The trick is to go back to the first pillar of ikigai and start small and build up from there.

Fourth is Releasing Yourself. Accept who you are. Ken sees this as the ultimate goal for societal harmony. If we love and accept who we are, we’re more likely to accept other people. We can become better versions of ourselves if we no longer constantly compare ourselves to others. Those who aren’t comfortable with themselves tend to be more reactive and angry.  Our experiences, preferences, and personality traits are unique, and we should celebrate them. Embrace your neurodivergence!

Ken’s great tip for achieving this seemingly impossible goal is to aim to meet new people all the time. And then see how you are reflected back to yourself through them. Use them as the mirror that reflects your true self. And what better time to do this than on vacation? Especially if you’re in a different culture than where you regularly live. By meeting people from different places, you can discover more about yourself and gain a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. 

And finally, the fifth pillar is taking  Joy In The Little Things. Whether that’s your first cup of Joe in the morning or taking a walk as the sun comes up. Anything that will give you a little hit of dopamine to get your day off to a great start. On vacation, maybe try something new – a local drink or a yoga session on the beach. 

The real trick is to incorporate these practices after your vacation. Everyone must prioritize rest and downtime, and this is especially important if you live with ADHD.  Remember to take joy in the little things in life – like curiously observing a butterfly or listening to a child sing. Be in the here and now. Accept yourself. Enjoy meeting new people and seeing yourself in their eyes. Live in harmony with your environment and society. But don’t feel like you have to do this all at once! Take baby steps, start small, and you’ll soon see how powerful living your ikigai can be. Most importantly, focus on prioritizing rest. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Feel free to reach out for a free consultation with me to find out more about how ikigai can have a positive impact on your life.

Inclusion facilitation

Create connection: be the glue that supports your team

One of my passions is helping people to create connection. Whether it’s in my role as an ikigai-centered ADHD coach or as an Intercultural and Inclusion coach. I strive to demonstrate that it’s our differences that make us stronger as a team. From a business perspective, if a company is to perform well, its team members need to feel included. My aim is to help teams accept and embrace the differences that they may have within them. Then leverage those differences for a more dynamic, effective, and productive working environment. Because when we feel seen, heard, and valued we can achieve so much more. 

From a business perspective, if a company is to perform well, its employees need to feel included. Photo: ©  Jason Goodman on Unsplash

My modus operandi is to help organizations become self-aware of their identities, their biases, and those potential limiting beliefs that might be impeding optimal working systems. Biases are a normal and natural part of the human condition. Therefore by working on where they come from or just by recognizing that they’re there, it’s possible to shift one’s perspective about how we see others. Through a series of exercises and workshops, and through a willingness to be vulnerable and challenge long-held beliefs and systems, we’re able to build bridges between differing ways of understanding, allowing us to accept them. And celebrate them!

Diversity and Inclusion Leverage

One of my roles includes teaching in IE’s Executive Education Program, where I facilitate intercultural communication seminars for young, emerging executives in Latin America. Furthermore, I introduce students from IE Business School’s Masters in Management to the idea of leveraging of diversity and inclusion. And, also through the IE Business School, I offer a course through Coursera on Diversity with Inclusion in Organizations  

The course draws on Dr. Kathryn Sorrell’s insightful Intercultural Praxis Model

This course, which I co-teach with Itziar Vizcaino Toscano, draws on Dr. Kathryn Sorrell’s insightful Intercultural Praxis Model, which is based on the six “ports of entry” of Inquiry, Framing, Positioning, Dialogue, Reflection, and Action. 

Intercultural Praxis Model

My own personal experiences have led me to work within the niches of ADHD coaching and inclusion facilitation and coaching. And I’m more and more struck by how all these areas are related – although at first glance they may seem quite different. The Intercultural Praxis Model is a great demonstration of this. From its recommendation to reflect on your own identity and experiences to working out how they have shaped you, through to its focus on framing. Because intentional framing is all about zooming out from your individual experience and shifting your perspective. This helps you to see what relations of power are at play in certain situations. My course uses Dr Sorrell’s insights to help companies build bridges and create connection within their teams.

Be the glue that supports your team’s connection. Photo: ©  Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Another common thread that runs through my coaching and inclusion facilitation is my training as an ikigai facilitator. The strategies I’ve learned as an ikigai coach and an ADHD parent coach are so powerful and widely applicable that they can be applied just as effectively for parents with neurodivergent kids as for companies navigating challenging dynamics. As a matter of fact, I’ve currently taken on clients from the US, Hong Kong, and Turkey who are relocating to Spain. And I’ll be using the ikigai concept, along with ADHD parent coaching practices, to really support these families adapt to a new culture. Furthermore I’ll help the process be as smooth as possible by leaning into their values, identifying and fulfilling their roles. So this will help to create connection with their community at home and their community in their new destination. 

a beautiful goal

Bottom line, creating connection is a beautiful and worthwhile goal. Helping people see differences as desirable and valuable rather than a source of friction can bring about remarkable benefits. Book a discovery call today to find out how your company can benefit from my intercultural coaching sessions. Be the glue that supports your team’s connection.


What does the concept of ikigai really mean and why it’s so crucial in inclusion and ADHD coaching


Suzanne McCullagh

Suzanne McCullagh

Parent Coaching

Creating Connection: How Coaching Can Help Parents of Kids with ADHD

June 1 marks Global Parents Day and seems the perfect time to talk about the role of parent coaching in helping children with executive function challenges. In a world geared to those who aren’t on any kind of spectrum, it can be frustrating for children with ADHD to navigate the complexities of school and social relationships. And heart-breaking for parents to witness their struggles. So, how can coaching help parents help their children? There are myriad ways, but let’s first look at what particular needs such children have.

Parental Coaching
Parent coaching can offer incredible support for your child while building a greater sense of connection within the family. Photo by Mike Scheid on Unsplash
Diagnosis Is key

Although each child with ADHD is impacted differently, there are certain behavioral patterns such as impulsivity and struggling to follow rules that are common in most cases. I’d like to highlight here, though, that girls are often underdiagnosed, as their symptoms are less obvious. They’re more likely to be disorganized, forget to hand homework in, or ‘be in their own world.’ Girls are often more susceptible to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression – especially if their ADHD has not been diagnosed.

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou

This is why it’s not only crucial for your family to get a clear diagnosis for your child, and also to undergo parent training, so you can best support your kid with the challenges ahead. ADHD parent coaching is proving to be an invaluable goal-focused tool that has helped countless parents succeed in supporting their child with ADHD and creating and maintaining connection within the family. Coaching also supports parents in new situations and often targets techniques involving planning, time management, and organizing.   

As a certified parent coach, I can help improve the communication between your family members and promote a harmonious family life!
THE ZunZÚn Coaching Program

As a certified parent coach, I can help your family life be more harmonious – with a greater sense of connection and enjoyment.  You’ll learn to support your child and let go of your frustrations. Meanwhile, you’ll see an increase in cooperation, the strengthening of communication between all the members of the family, and the general promotion of healthy life skills. 

Although my The Zunzún coaching program is designed for families with children who have problems with executive function, in reality, *any* family can benefit from my courses. Let’s face it, parenting is tough! Every stage of childhood development has its challenges and sometimes a helping hand can completely improve the family dynamic, stopping the constant arguments and tension, and lead the way to a more harmonious family relationship. So, reach out today for a free consultation, and start taking steps toward a more connected family life!


Suzanne McCullagh

Suzanne McCullagh


Celebrating the intersectional identities of people who are neurodivergent and part of the LGBTQ+ community

“So here it is. My friends call me he, or they. The government and most of my family call me she. The media calls me she, because I don’t trust them enough to request that they do anything else. My lovers call me sweetheart. Or baby. Somewhere in all of that I find myself.”

Ivan Coyote, Writer and LGBT advocate

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. As a neurodiverse coach, this has a special resonance with me as I’m aware of the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ people and neurodivergence. Some, such as Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disabled and queer policy advocate, attorney, and expert, have argued that this is because neurodivergent people are already questioning so-called ‘norms’. So they’re not afraid of being true to themselves and embracing a non-conforming gender identity or sexuality.  

LGBTQ+ community
By embracing our uniqueness, we make room for discoveries. © Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

A study in 2021 by the UK’s Cambridge University found that adults and adolescents with autism are approximately eight times more likely to identify as asexual and ‘other’ sexuality than their non-autistic peers. Elizabeth Weir, a PhD candidate at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, and the lead researcher of the study said: “Understanding the intersectional identities of autistic individuals who are asexual, bisexual, homosexual, or ‘other’ sexuality is key. It is particularly important that healthcare providers and educators use language that is affirming and accepting of all sexual orientations and gender identities when providing sexual education and sexual health screening checks to autistic and non-autistic people alike.” (Link to study)

So on this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia let’s remember that people who are neurodivergent and who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community face the discrimination for living outside society’s norms. Acceptance of sexuality, gender identity, and neurodivergence is crucial for the well-being of those involved and is also imperative to society as a whole. And in terms of work cultures, employing people who actively question norms is a effective way to spark innovation through the generation of new ideas and new methods. So let’s celebrate differences because by embracing our uniqueness, we make room for discoveries.  


Suzanne McCullagh

Suzanne McCullagh

Mental Health

How to uncover the real you with neurodiverse coaching

If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.” – Russell Wilson
It’s easy to imagine that widespread mental health issues are a relatively modern occurrence – linked to excessive time on social media and screens perhaps –  but mental health month was actually established in the US back in 1949! And, for many years now, it is marked during the month of May worldwide.
This important initiative encourages people to open up about how they’re feeling and to lift the stigma that surrounds talking about mental health. And, of course, mental health issues are varied in type and extremity – everyone’s experience is unique. Which is why it is so important to find someone who can help you navigate your neurodiversity.

Why neurodiverse coaching matters

As a neurodiverse coach I help people discover their strengths and lean into them. I’m adamant that experiencing mental health issues should not be seen as a weakness in any way. It’s hard to fit into a neurotypical world and try to mask our differences in order to be accepted. Moreover I can also help with hacks to mitigate any perceived weakness that may be part of the neurodiverse experience.  I support you to make the most out of yourself.
Ariadne Ferro neurodiverse coach
As a neurodiverse coach I aim to help people discover their strengths and lean into them

How Ikigai can bring out the best in you

What makes me unique as a certified coach is my knowledge of the Japanese concept of Ikigai. This is all about identifying your reason to get up in the morning (and doesn’t need to relate to work!). In other words, it’s about slowing down and letting go of the Western concept of doing everything at high speed. Stopping to smell the roses.

A fundamental part of this process is discovering what our values are – and learning to live by them:

• Find your community and play a role in it.
• Give back to those less fortunate.
• Be grateful for all you do have.
• Spending time with people who inspire you is also crucial.

These are all steps on the way to figuring out what gives your life meaning. 

And as your coach I can help you dig deep into these areas, guiding you to pinpoint your personal passions and giving your life a real sense of purpose. My aim is to help you find your Ibashoyour place where you can feel like you – so you no longer have to mask or cover your true self.

This May make mental health YOUR priority and uncover the real you


Suzanne McCullagh

Suzanne McCullagh