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ADHD Isn't Just for Kids: New Documentary Highlights TV, Social Media Influencers Neurodiverse Journey

Oct 25, 2022 05:00AM ● By Stephanie Sabin

Overcoming obstacles and challenges, social media influencer Penn Holderness along with his wife, Kim, ran through a tunnel to become the 33rd winner of The Amazing Race.

Holderness, a former TV news anchor, is also known for his silly music videos, vlogs and skits which have over a billion views and 4.5 million followers online. But did you also know he is also a neurodivergent individual?

Neurodiversity is a non-medical term that describes “people whose brain differences affect how their brain works. The possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities, and other conditions” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at the age of 23, Holderness shares how he embraces his differences and lives with neurodiversity on the program “A World of Difference.”

Holderness is now comfortable sharing his struggles with neurodiversity and has created many videos to show his tips for success.

“Kind of the genesis of our first ADHD video that we did was trying to show people that I have this, and it is okay. It is a stigma. And I think it starts largely with the name,” says Holderness in “A World of Difference: Embracing Neurodiversity.” “It is a terrible name that includes three negative words.”

“A World of Difference”, an award-winning program created by America’s first accredited college dedicated to educating students who learn differently, Beacon College may have the answers. According to their webpage, the show celebrates and supports families who are navigating the journey of learning. Episodes examine neurodiversity issues through conversations with experts, viewer Q&As, and interviews with successful adults who overcame learning differences.

Families of neurodivergent children can use programs and resources, such as “A World of Difference,” to encourage differences, support needs and prepare our children to become successful adults.

“This partnership opens the door for important conversations about neurodiversity in our homes, community, and beyond,” said Darryl E. Owens, creator and host of “A World of Difference” and Beacon College’s associate vice president of communications and engagement. “Having our program on WUCF’s airwaves will bring greater visibility to issues neurodivergent individuals face and allow us to conduct an open dialogue about topics that are not talked about enough, or sometimes even unacknowledged.”

“A World of Difference” currently covers topics and showcases real people living through example. Neurodivergent families can learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, workforce diversity, helping students succeed, and boosting self-esteem, empowerment, and friendship.

The show is one tool for neurodivergent families to feel less alone and find comfort with others who may have similar experiences.

In addition to Holderness, the program showcases other neurodiverse social media influencers who express their uniqueness, embrace their differences and talk about their successes.

Anouk Vitte, an Instagram influencer stated “by sharing my drawings through social media, I hope to be able to create a space where people like me can feel alone. Where we can find community and connect through experiences.”

Australian sociologist Judy Singer who coined the phrase, neurodiversity in the 1990s proposes that we are all neurodiverse because no two humans on the planet are the same. Brain development and thought processes are different for everyone.

As parents, we should learn to embrace diversity and individualism.

“It [neurodivergency] is not something you should be ashamed of and something you should hide from,” explains Holderness. “It is something that if you understand and are open about it and tell your loved ones about it, the amount of grace that they will give you and patience is more limitless than you think.”

Remember, each person will experience life differently. Some things you can do to aid neurodivergent individuals include patience, understanding, and listening to your child for cues. Learn which communication style is best for your child. Encourage them to try new things and watch to see how your child reacts and processes. Avoid “labeling.” Show respect for all people and “normalize” differences.

Full of positivity and embracing his differences, Holderness states, “If you can see someone who’s using [neurodivergency] positively for their job and putting this content out, then hopefully it gives people a little bit of hope that they can do that too if they find kind of where to implement their superpower.”

“A World of Difference” can be viewed online or streamed through the PBS video app.


Additional notes:

Neurodivergent children have interesting ways of navigating through the world. They see life through a slightly different lens and can need a bit more time to process. A study by the National Library of Medicine, states that up to 15-20% of people have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or another learning disability.

According to Neurodiversity Hub which connects individuals, parents, educators, and employers around one in five people are neurodivergent.

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