Episode 88 – Unstoppable Neurodiversity Specialist with Khushboo Chabria
Khushboo Chabria describes herself as a “Neurodiversity Specialist and a Transformational Leader”. She comes by this description honestly. However, while she has her own neurodivergent characteristic, (she has been diagnosed as ADHD), she did not discover about her diagnosis until she was 30 years of age. Those of you who have listened to many of our episodes have heard me talk with others who have different characteristics such as ADHD, Autism and even blindness and low vision that were not discovered or properly diagnosed until they became adults. I would suspect in part this is due to our own growing knowledge base about such things. As you will hear from Khushboo, however, increased knowledge does not mean more positive attitudes. As she will explain, while in some quarters we are learning more, we do not spread this education and improved attitudinal advance throughout our culture.
Today, Khushboo works for a not-for-profit agency called Neurodiversity Pathways, (NDP) in the Silicon Valley She will tell us how NDP has created an in-depth program to help Neurodivergent individuals grow to gain and keep employment as well as simply learning how to live meaningful and productive lives.
I believe you will be inspired by Khushboo Chabria. She has lessons all of us can use about how to move forward in life.
About the Guest:
Deeply passionate about diversity and inclusion, Khushboo is a Neurodiversity Specialist and a Transformational Leader, on a mission to advocate for and help provide access to high-quality services for neurodivergent individuals. Khushboo aims to make a meaningful impact in the world through education, empowerment, authentic engagement and unbridled compassion.
With varied experiences in supporting neurodivergent individuals of all ages and their family members, working as a therapist and clinician, studying Organizational Leadership and discovering her own ADHD, Khushboo brings an interesting mix of skills and experiences to this field of work. Khushboo is currently a Program Manager, Career Coach and Program Facilitator at Neurodiversity Pathways (NDP) – a social impact program under the Goodwill of Silicon Valley focused on educating and supporting neurodivergent individuals to help launch their career and supporting organizations to integrate ND employees into the workplace through belonging and intentional empowerment. The tagline is “Inclusion for Abilities and Acceptance of Differences” and NDP is on a mission to inspire and improve the intentional inclusion of neurodistinct individuals in the workplace. Khushboo also sits on the board of Peaces of Me Foundation and is involved in consulting and speaking on the topics of Neurodiversity, DEIB, Transformational Leadership, Psychological Safety, Cultural Competency, Mental Health + Employee Wellbeing as well as Coaching.
I believe in diversity in who we are, but also in how we see the world.
Social Media Links/Websites:
Personal Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/khushboochabria/
Connect with Neurodiversity Pathways:
Neurodiversity is Normal website:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Hi there and welcome to unstoppable mindset. It is late in August when we’re recording this getting near the end of what they call the dog days. Speaking of dogs Alamo is over here asleep on the floor and quite bored. However, here we are. And our guest today is Khushboo Chabria. And Khushboo is a person who is very much involved in the world of neurodiversity, and providing services for people who are neurodivergent. She has her own things that she has dealt with along the way. And I’m sure that we’ll get into all of that. And she had an adventure last week, which we might get into. If she wants to talk about it and set you went a little so we’ll get there anyway. Welcome to unstoppable mindset. Glad you’re with us.
Khushboo Chabria 02:07
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Michael Hingson 02:09
And you are up in Northern California, right? That’s correct. In the Silicon Valley. What’s the weather up there?
Khushboo Chabria 02:17
It’s really warm right now. It’s hot.
Michael Hingson 02:21
We’re about 96 degrees today. It was 104 yesterday, so
Khushboo Chabria 02:26
yeah, maybe not that hot. Yeah, I
Michael Hingson 02:29
know. But at least neither of us are in Palm Springs or Sacramento.
Khushboo Chabria 02:33
That’s true. That’s true, that would definitely be harder.
Michael Hingson 02:37
Well, let’s start Would you just begin by telling us a little bit about you growing up and all that kind of stuff? And give us a little background like that?
Khushboo Chabria 02:46
Yeah, sure. Um, so I was actually born in India. My mom’s sister had moved to the US in the late 80s. And we had applied for green card when we were little kids. And it wasn’t until I was 10 years old that we got our green card, and I moved here with my family. So my parents and my brother and I, we all moved here in 1999.
Michael Hingson 03:15
Okay, and what was it like moving to obviously, a whole new country and all that what? What motivated your parents to come over here? And what was it like for you growing up in a new country? Yeah,
Khushboo Chabria 03:29
it was honestly very challenging. I was very young. And I was the I was at the kind of time in my life where I was very impressionable. So when we moved to America, my parents, they had to reestablish their careers here. And for the time being, we had stayed with different aunts and uncles, along the way, until my parents could afford their own place. And both my parents worked multiple jobs, in order to make sure that we had everything we needed. They wanted to move to America so that my brother and I would have additional opportunities, and a chance to really succeed at life. So that was, it was a whole American Dream story.
Michael Hingson 04:21
You when you moved here did or did not speak much English.
Khushboo Chabria 04:26
I actually spoke a lot of English because I went to an English school in India. So a lot of people don’t know this, but the British when they had occupied India, took over the school system. So if you went to an English school in India, that means you got a really good education. And I went to a school called St. Mary’s School in Pune, Maharashtra. And I had a little bit of a British accent, actually, when I moved here,
Michael Hingson 04:58
you’ve lost that
Khushboo Chabria 05:01
Yes, it’s gone. It’s been too long.
Michael Hingson 05:04
But what you don’t have is, I guess more of a traditional Indian accent having been born and lived there for 10 years.
Khushboo Chabria 05:13
Yeah, I mean, I do speak in Hindi with my mom every day. But when anyone else hears me speaking Hindi, they think I have an American accent. So I feel like I’ve definitely lost the Indian accent. But it comes out every now and then when I’m speaking with my family.
Michael Hingson 05:34
It just always fascinates me to talk with people who have come from another country who have spent a lot of time here, but maybe grew up elsewhere. Some end up retaining an accent, and some don’t. And I’ve always been fascinated by that and never understood how it works out that some do. And some don’t, it must just plain be the listening or just the amount of work they put into what they choose their accent to be.
Khushboo Chabria 06:04
I think it also depends on age. So my brother still has a very much an Indian accent. Because when he moved here, he was 15. And because I was 10, I was still kind of at that age where it was easier for me to assimilate than it was for him.
Michael Hingson 06:23
So you, you, you get right in as it were,
Khushboo Chabria 06:26
yeah, definitely. Oops. So
Michael Hingson 06:29
you came here, you obviously were able to settle in from a language standpoint, and so on. But you say it was a little bit hard when you came, how come?
Khushboo Chabria 06:39
Um, it was challenging, because as I mentioned before, our family was staying with our extended family members. So we would stay at this aunt’s house for six months, and then this uncle’s house for three months. And then this uncle’s house. So I ended up going to several different schools for sixth grade. And after that, my parents had enough, just enough to put a downpayment on a one bedroom apartment. And so when we moved into the apartment, those my parents were working all the time. And so often, I grew up in the apartment with my brother. And it was many times it was we were on our own. And it was a long time before my parents had established themselves enough in their careers that we had a more comfortable lifestyle.
Michael Hingson 07:37
What kind of career should they have? What did they do?
Khushboo Chabria 07:39
So my dad, he actually ended up going and getting a real estate license and is a broker. And full time for his job. He works at FedEx. And my mother, she took night classes at a school and got a certification and accounting. And then she basically became an accountant. And she worked for companies before. But now she manages the accounts for several different businesses from home.
Michael Hingson 08:15
Wow. That’s still that’s pretty cool. And then it shows the typical work ethic. I see, oftentimes, from people who move here from elsewhere, they’re going to work hard, they’re going to do whatever they need to do, to be able to establish themselves and care for families and so on. And I think that’s personally so cool. My parents grew up here. And were born here. But still, they very much had that kind of an attitude. And they worked very hard to make sure that my brother and I also kept that same kind of attitude. And I, I don’t think that that’s a bad thing at all. And I think that we all can work pretty hard at trying to succeed, and we can do it in a good way.
Khushboo Chabria 09:03
Definitely. It was really important to learn that too.
Michael Hingson 09:07
Yeah, I agree. How long after you moved here? Did you guys finally get your own apartment?
Khushboo Chabria 09:13
Um, it must have been about what to say nine months or nine to 12 months before we did. Wow. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 09:25
For a 10 year old kid. That is a long time not to be able to put down roots somewhere and call someplace home.
Khushboo Chabria 09:34
Yeah. And you know, when I started in the public school system, I started first and a middle school. And then I ended up in an elementary school and then I ended up in a junior high. So it was a lot of switching around as well in between different school systems and trying to kind of figure out what where I fit into this whole education piece too?
Michael Hingson 10:03
Well, what was it like growing up just physically and so on? I know you have said that you, you have ADHD is something that you live with, when did you discover that?
Khushboo Chabria 10:16
I didn’t discover that until I was 30 years old. So, you know, growing up, I was always a busy child, my mom had enrolled me and lots and lots of different classes when I was in India. So I was learning dance, I was learning singing, I was learning art, I was learning ceramics, I had a lot of different things that I was involved in, and my parents had a lot of structure in our lives. So I didn’t for a long time even know that I had this different brain and that I actually struggled with ADHD. Even after I graduated college and started working in the field of behavior analysis, I didn’t know that I had ADHD. And then at some point, when I became a board certified behavior analyst, and I actually move forward in my career, I went from being a therapist that spent 100% of my time with clients, to now becoming a clinician that spent 90% of my time with spreadsheets and 10% of my time fighting with insurance companies. And with all of that, I got further and further away from the clients, and further and further away from solving problems in real time, to just being behind the screen. And that’s when my ADHD really started to show up.
Michael Hingson 11:54
So what made you finally realize that ADHD was part of your life.
Khushboo Chabria 11:59
Um, you know, to be honest, at first, I was just burned out, I was a burnt out clinician with a huge caseload, I was driving all over the Bay Area all day long. And I ended up in a clinic, and I got, I got diagnosed with depression. And I first got misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, because that’s something that a lot of people confuse, especially in regards to ADHD. And then I got a therapist who started to recognize that all the things that I was discussing in our sessions, all the areas of my life that I felt anxious and depressed about, were areas that are related to executive functioning, and ADHD. So she was, she was bright enough and keen enough to notice that, and to suggest that I be tested for ADHD, which is when they started the actual diagnosis process.
Michael Hingson 13:14
How do they test for ADHD?
Khushboo Chabria 13:17
Well, first, they took all of my notes that they had from the therapist, and they also interviewed my mother to find out what I was like as a child. And then lastly, they had me go through a bunch of different assessments where they were tracking my ability to focus. And these were usually tests on a computer where they showed different images. And I had to press specific keys when certain images popped up. And I did that for hours and hours and hours. And based on what they found, I definitely had ADHD. So I got the official diagnosis. Then I was connected with a cycle analyst who was able to then prescribe medication for me, which I didn’t end up staying on. But that was the beginning.
Michael Hingson 14:13
A lot of it, though, is ultimately recognition. And then once you know it and believe it, then you can really work to understand it and not medications can’t help but a lot of times it’s more what you do internally that makes a difference.
Khushboo Chabria 14:32
Exactly. That’s true.
Michael Hingson 14:35
So for you, you, you finally got diagnosed with that. But by that time you had been very much involved in a lot of psychology oriented kinds of things, which do you like better being a clinician or actually practicing and being in front of clients?
Khushboo Chabria 14:55
You know, to be honest, I think the field had completely changed. inch by the time I graduated with my master’s, because at that point, the Affordable Care Act had passed. And what that what happened with that is all the insurance companies were now in the system. And while that made the services more available to lots and lots of people, it also meant that there was now this huge demand for the services. So I think my experience was the way it was because of the timing of that bill passing, as well as at that point, the need that was there for more service providers in this field. But that being said, I think that it was, it’s much more reinforcing for me to engage with people, rather than engaging with spreadsheets. And as someone who has ADHD, since the time I was diagnosed, and all the years that I continued to struggle with ADHD, I have learned that I work best in an environment where I’m constantly solving novel problems, that are allowing me to research different kinds of things. And also to use everything in my toolbox to solve problems. And any problem that has a fast response in terms of solving it is one, that’s the most reinforcing to me.
Michael Hingson 16:36
So does that translate today into you, looking at cases from kind of the outside or working more with people and being in front of them,
Khushboo Chabria 16:46
I think it’s a little bit of both. Now, I would say that the most amazing part of my career is the coaching. And what the coaching allows me to do is to work with neurodivergent people with all kinds of different backgrounds. Because that makes it so that one day, I might be researching how to get a marketing internship. And the next day, I might be understanding how I should help my coachee brand themselves as a musician. And then maybe the third day, I’m working with someone who has a computer science background. And so I’m working with a lot of different skill sets and a lot of different abilities. And the great thing about what I get to do now is that it is fully aligned with how I work best. And that I get to continue solving novel problems. I get to continue teaching, I get to continue engaging with organizations on increasing the awareness of neurodiversity. So I get to solve these issues, and improve that awareness for neurodiversity in a lot of different ways that are very much in line with how I work best.
Michael Hingson 18:05
So what are the star diversity take in obviously ADHD would be a factor. What other kinds of things fall under that category?
Khushboo Chabria 18:15
Yeah, definitely. So ADHD is a big one. Autism is a big one. Dyslexia, dyscalculia. dyspraxia, bipolar disorder, as well as Tourette’s
Michael Hingson 18:30
are all considered part of neurodiversity, or neuro divergent world.
Khushboo Chabria 18:36
Yeah, and neurodiversity as an umbrella term, just to explain what it is. You know, just like when, you know, you see any people we see, we say that, you know, people have different height, people have different hair color, people have different eye color. And just like how there’s so much variability in humans, in terms how we present physically, the same way, our brains have just as much variability. So the term neuro diversity is to describe the natural variability in people’s brains and behavior functioning.
Michael Hingson 19:15
When you talk about neurodiversity. Do people try to create some sort of box and fit everyone into it? Or do people generally recognize that it is a really broad category that takes in a lot of stuff?
Khushboo Chabria 19:29
I think different people have different ways of looking at it. You know, there are companies that instead of having specific groups for neurodiversity, we’ll put everything in an ability group, which is about including anyone with any kind of disability, whether it’s invisible or visible. In terms of neurodiversity. A lot of people know the main ones to be autism, dyslexia and ADHD. But we’re still learning so much about bipolar does over and about to rats. And so there’s a lot of understanding that still needs to happen around neurodiversity. There’s still a lot of stigma there, there’s still a lot of people who aren’t really aware of what this term means. So I would say that people have different levels of understanding about this. But I think it’s all kind of related, right? I mean, if we have different ways of processing information from the world, then we all kind of have a different way of going about it. And when we say neuro divergent, we’re talking about one person who may or may not have one of those labels. When we say neuro diverse, we’re talking about everyone, because everybody’s in that umbrella of having a brain that’s unique and processing information in a unique way, and making sense of the world in a unique way. So it depends, I guess that’s the answer to the question.
Michael Hingson 21:06
No, it does. And I could make the case that we’re all part of a neuro divergent world in a way, and I think that’s what you’re saying. But there, there are specific kinds of categories that mostly we deal with when we talk about neurodiversity. I’m a little bit familiar with Tourette’s, but can you define that a little bit? Yeah,
Khushboo Chabria 21:27
definitely. Um, Tourette’s has to do with basically, it has to do with just kind of its has to do with tics and involuntary repetitive movements. So in terms of how that relates to neurodiversity, we’re just talking about individuals who have different behaviors, whether that sounds, whether that’s saying the same words in the same way, or having physical behavioral differences that are stereotypical, well,
Michael Hingson 22:02
how was it for you grew up? Well, not growing up so much, but being in the workplace and not being diagnosed with ADHD and so on? That had to be quite a challenge?
Khushboo Chabria 22:13
Yeah, definitely. Um, you know, to be honest, one of the biggest things that I found out right off the bat was that when I had a lot of different cases, and different deadlines, and different things that I needed to accomplish in my job, I really struggled with keeping control over everything that was going on. And as a clinician, you know, there was a lot of things that I was responsible for I was responsible for training all the staff that was on my cases, I was responsible for keeping track of all the materials that were needed. On every case, I was responsible for parent training, I was responsible for scheduling meetings, I was responsible for completing reports, I was responsible for staying connected to insurance companies. And with all of those different things, I had a really hard time with managing all my responsibilities. And in the beginning, you know, it was just a write up about being more punctual and being more timely to meetings. Then it became about making sure that all my reports are complete, then it was about making sure that my reports had all the feedback taken into consideration. And throughout every single step of it, I was feeling more and more disheartened about where I was and how I was working. And it really made me question, you know, is something wrong with me? Why is it that everyone else is able to do all this without any issues, but when it comes to me, here, I am struggling so much. And I was really depressed. I, I thought I was depressed, and I thought I was burnt out. And in trying to get treatment for that I ended up finding out I had ADHD.
Michael Hingson 24:22
Did other supervisors or colleagues see kind of all the stress and the things that were going on? Or were you able to kind of hide it?
Khushboo Chabria 24:30
A lot of people were able to see the stress and to be honest, for the longest time, despite being in a field that was there to support children with neurodiverse conditions. I found myself in a workplace that was very toxic. And I was basically just told, Well, you need to meet your billable hours and maybe you need to do this or maybe you need to do Under planning, but nobody was sitting down and telling me how to go about doing that, or what steps I needed to take to get the support I needed. And not a single person in that office had identified what I was dealing with as something that could be related to ADHD. Instead, I was just being told that I wasn’t working hard enough, or I wasn’t working fast enough, or I wasn’t being organized enough. And I took all of that to heart. For a long time, it took me a long time to unlearn those messages. Because I kept beating myself up over the simple things. And I felt like I wasn’t a good employee. And I felt at times that I was being discriminated against. But I realized now looking back at it all, that I made a lot of mistakes as well. And I should have known how to ask for that support early on. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So there’s a lot of thinking that’s gone behind everything that happened then. But looking back at it, now I’m able to see all the different sides of that equation.
Michael Hingson 26:15
When did you start in the workforce?
Khushboo Chabria 26:17
I started in the workforce in 20. I would say 2007.
Michael Hingson 26:26
Okay, so you Where were you in school at that time?
Khushboo Chabria 26:33
At that time, I was in community college, okay. And I was working at a daycare center with a whole bunch of children. And I was also working as a campus activities coordinator at our school.
Michael Hingson 26:50
So that was 15 years ago. Do you see that there has been a lot of change in dealing with ADHD and and neuro diversity. And I don’t mean, just talking about a real substantive change, that would nowadays make a difference. If you were starting out today, as opposed to what happened to you 15 years ago? Um, is it different? Yeah,
Khushboo Chabria 27:23
I think the way that we do work with children who are neurodiverse has changed a lot. Like the way that things are done. Now the way that treatment is carried out, is very neurodiversity affirming, which means that it’s not really about fixing anything, it’s about really understanding what are the challenges that this individual is facing? And how can we support them such that they can live fulfilling independent lives without having to depend on other people. And so a lot of what I did before, was in regards to teaching skills. So I might be teaching a two year old how to make eye contact, I might be teaching a five year old how to tie their shoelaces. I taught everything from toilet training, to how to make a purchase at the store, how to start a conversation with someone how to speak, a lot of my clients were nonverbal when I was in the field. So that whole space has changed a lot. In regards to working and working conditions. I don’t know if there have been a lot of changes in how we provide care, and how we provide support to people who are providing that care. And I think that as a society, we need to do a better job of supporting the people who are providing health care to the disability population. Yeah, and we could do a lot better with that. Right?
Michael Hingson 29:08
Oh, no doubt about it. I was thinking, though, of how you described your work situation is you needed to work harder, you needed to work better, and so on. Do you think those attitudes in the workforce toward people who may be experiencing the same thing that you experience? Do you think that those kinds of conditions have changed much?
Khushboo Chabria 29:35
I think they have to some degree, but I wouldn’t say all across the board. And what I’ve mean when I say that is because even now, when people have disclosed their neurodiversity to their employer, there are times where people are just saying, Well, you know, I understand that you’re struggling with a XYZ, but this work needs to be completed. So this idea of kind of painting this color on somebody who’s a little bit differently, who works differently, who thinks differently, who processes information differently, I think we still have these assumptions that we make about people and those assumptions of, oh, this person’s just lazy, or this person’s just not doing it, or this person’s just not the right fit. And as soon as we start using that terminology, we’ve now made assumptions before trying to understand what it is that that person might be struggling with. Right? Oh,
Michael Hingson 30:46
I agree. And it sounds like that, even with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And now 32 years ago, and 31 years ago, actually being enacted and going into law, it hasn’t made a lot of difference in these kinds of things, because we just haven’t really dealt with the educational aspect of it yet.
Khushboo Chabria 31:11
Right? Yeah. I think you know, the problem is really with the stigma we have in society about people who are different, anyone who’s another, right? It’s very easy to say, Oh, this is just not working out, instead of approaching that person and saying, Hey, I noticed that in our last interaction, this is what happened. Is there something that I’m seeing that’s confusing you? Or can you talk to me about what’s going on, so I can help, right? And that moment, where you have the chance to question somebody, to understand that better before you judge them. That is something that we as a society just need to be better at, we need to be better managers, we need to be better educators, we need to be better leaders. And that comes with not trying to just rush things along and thinking that someone is going to be exactly the perfect candidate. But instead saying, You know what this is a human being. And the way that they might think, or work might be different than the way I think and work. So before I put them in a box, it’s important to show that curiosity and that compassion to learn more about that person.
Michael Hingson 32:41
And I think you hit it on the head when you talk about curiosity very much. How do we get people to be more curious to be more open to ask why and why not? As opposed to just assuming? Yeah, definitely. That’s a real general question. I really,
Khushboo Chabria 33:05
ya know, you know, and our presentations at neurodiversity pathways, we have this terminology called compassionate curiosity. And what that is, is that when you have a moment where something doesn’t make sense, or someone’s behavior is just not adding up to what you know about them. Or if some interaction happened, that leaves you feeling confused. Before you jump to, I can’t believe this person hasn’t gotten this to me. If we could all take a moment to say, Hey, I haven’t heard from you. I just wanted to follow up is everything. Okay? Right. That’s a really great way that we can sort of foster that kind of a culture, which capitalizes on empathy and understanding versus judgment and expectations. But that being said, to change that, I think that begins with increasing awareness. Right. So in the work that we do with neurodiversity pathways, the first thing we do when any company engages with us, and they say, We want to hire people with autism, or we want to hire neurodivergent people. The first thing we say to them is, there’s no point in bringing anyone into your organization, unless and until you’re able to foster a culture of inclusion, and a culture of understanding and awareness that’s built around neurodiversity because as someone who is responsible for placing neurodivergent people into organizations, I know that if I place somebody in an organization that is not supportive neurodivergent talent, then that person is, forget, thrive or succeed, that person is not even going to be able to retain that position.
Michael Hingson 35:10
Do you hear people often say, Oh, we don’t need to do that, because I’m certainly open. I’m glad to bring somebody in. Who is who has autism? Or who is neuro divergent in some way? Do you? Do you see that a lot? Or do people get it and then tend to be open to say, how do we really make that happen?
Khushboo Chabria 35:31
I would say probably a few years ago, there was a lot less awareness about neurodiversity. And I know that probably with every client that we engage with, they’re at different levels of understanding about it. And maybe some of them have received trainings from other sources. But that being said, I think that there are definitely some companies who do try to rush these things. None of those are companies that we’ve engaged with. But the ones who try to rush into these diversity and inclusion efforts are usually the ones that fail. Because without that understanding, and that real culture of inclusion, and that culture of psychological safety, it’s just kind of a recipe for disaster, when you have people who don’t understand how to work with that population,
Michael Hingson 36:28
and don’t really want to take the time to do it. Right.
Khushboo Chabria 36:32
Michael Hingson 36:34
Well, how did you get involved in being interested in disabilities, and well, neurodiversity, and so on, because that clearly had to happen a long time before you were diagnosed with ADHD. So how did all that happen?
Khushboo Chabria 36:47
Yeah, definitely. Um, you know, so when I was in college, at UC San Diego, I had a major human development. And I was actually pre med at the time, because I thought that I wanted to go into medicine. And after I graduated from college, it was actually right when we had had our first sort of economic collapse as a country. And so there were still not a lot of jobs, I thought I wanted to do PhD programs in social psychology. And I had started applying to graduate programs all over the country in that degree. And it wasn’t until I started working in the field of behavior analysis, that I felt I had kind of found a home. So growing up, I had a cousin, who had Global Developmental Delay, previously known as Mr. And I grew up with him. And I had always had a really special bond with them, I was very close to him. And I also had another cousin who grew up with schizophrenia. So I grew up kind of seeing how that had affected him. And when I graduated college, I needed a job, I applied to a part time job as a behavior therapist. And I worked for a very small company in Oakland, California. And my first client was an eight year old, nonverbal, autistic boy from Ethiopia. And he was the most beautiful child I had ever seen in my entire life. And I just fell in love with him. And within a few months of working with them, he started speaking his first words. And the first sentence he ever spoke was, I want more cookies. And that was it. I think that as soon as he started speaking, I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be helping this population. And I wanted to work with neurodivergent people. And it started out with working with children. But when that client spoke his first words, I felt like the trajectory of my life had changed. And I decided to rescind all my applications for social psych. I reset for my GRE exams, and I reapplied to grad schools in behavior analysis. That’s kind of what started the journey in that direction. And then obviously, as we spoke about before, when I was finally a clinician, I found out I had ADHD. i At that point, had worked for a school district. I had worked as an assessor. I had started a social skills group, I had tried to start a parent training program. I had done a lot of other things before I found neurodiversity pathways. Well,
Michael Hingson 39:59
the big Question, of course is did you give him more cookies?
Khushboo Chabria 40:03
Of course we did. Definitely
Michael Hingson 40:07
reward good behavior.
Khushboo Chabria 40:09
Yeah, he just it was amazing because as soon as he started speaking, just like babies do, he started babbling as well. And he would wake his mom up early in the morning and Babble Babble Babble for hours to her trying to communicate and everything that we pointed to and labeled for him was a word he picked up immediately. So it was a transformative case.
Michael Hingson 40:38
That is so cool. And do you? Do you hear anything about him nowadays?
Khushboo Chabria 40:46
Yeah, actually, I’m still in touch with his mom. And he just graduated high school a year ago. So he’s starting in community college.
Michael Hingson 40:56
How old is he?
Khushboo Chabria 40:57
He is now 19 years old.
Michael Hingson 41:00
Wow. That’s so cool.
Khushboo Chabria 41:04
Isn’t that amazing?
Michael Hingson 41:05
It is. It’s wonderful. Well, that’s what doing good work like that. And being thorough is all
Khushboo Chabria 41:11
about. Exactly, exactly.
Michael Hingson 41:14
So for you, having eventually been diagnosed with ADHD that that certainly had to give you a great amount of well, relief on one hand, but then also, it gave you the ability to really sit back and look at your options and decide how you go forward. What kind of tools did you end up then starting to use that maybe you didn’t use so much before tools that help you be more productive and deal with what you had to deal with?
Khushboo Chabria 41:46
Yeah. So at first, I had therapy, which is what I had started out with, and I had continued. At some point, I had also tried meds, but I found out that the meds were just too difficult on my body, and I couldn’t handle staying on those. So I had to find other strategies. And some of those strategies were things like using a Google calendar using more reminders, planning ahead, having more of a morning routine, really building healthy habits around eating, sleeping hygiene and meditation so that I had a better handle on things, and also had to learn coping and resilience strategies for when things did not go my way. A lot of these tools and strategies got solidified when I joined neurodiversity pathways. And we actually used all this information to create the curriculum for our students who were going into the workplace. But for the time being, when I first gotten diagnosed, I started reading about things online. And I found people who were sharing strategies, on websites and on LinkedIn and on social media. And I slowly started piecing together the things that worked best for me, the things that were the most instrumental. In the beginning, were buying a habit calendar. And having a morning routine. With those two things, I was really able to get started. Then with the executive functioning, I started planning out reminders for things that I had do weeks in advance so that I was more on top of getting my tasks completed. And as I learned more and more about ADHD, I recognize that most of the things that I struggled with in regards to executive functioning, they weren’t necessarily related specifically to cognitive differences, but they were more related to the emotional and behavioral aspects of executive functioning. So the anxiety of having to start a task that I’ve never done before, or just the fear of not getting it correct, that would just paralyze me from even beginning on the task. Those were the things that I needed tools around the most and that’s where therapy came into play.
Michael Hingson 44:26
Do you still deal with therapy today?
Khushboo Chabria 44:29
I, I have been on and off therapy. I’m currently on a lookout for therapists. So if anyone’s listening, I’m looking for one and I’m on many waitlist. The therapists in my area are all booked up because of COVID. And so there’s been a little bit of challenge with that. But since the diagnosis, I have tried individual therapy. I’ve worked with different kinds of therapists so it was really important to me to try to find someone who was a South Asian therapist, because I felt like there were a lot of things that someone with a South Asian background would understand that someone who doesn’t have that background would have a lot of difficulty in regard to cultural competency. In addition, I’ve also tried group therapy. And I’ve also done a workshop on ADHD that helped with learning how to be more organized. And with better planning.
Michael Hingson 45:34
You mentioned meditation, how does that play into what you do? And in your own progress in psyche? Yeah,
Khushboo Chabria 45:43
definitely, I think, you know, meditation is one of those things that a lot of people throw around. And it’s kind of like, you know, the pop psychology thing to talk about, right? Like, let’s all do mindfulness and meditation. And for me, because my mind is constantly racing at 100 miles per hour, what meditation and mindfulness practices allow me to do is to steal my mind, and to really focus on my breathing, and to really sort of observe the things that are making me anxious, without starting to act upon them right away. And so when I meditate, it’s, that’s my time to steal my mind of all the racing thoughts, to take account of the things that I’m anxious about. And instead of jumping on them, just observing them, reflecting on them, and noticing them before I can actually start to begin what it is that I want to do. And that single moment of clarity is enough for me to kind of be in a better headspace, so that I can tackle all the tasks on my to do list,
Michael Hingson 47:06
show what happens when you do that.
Khushboo Chabria 47:10
I think that it helps me relax, it helps me focus. It helps me prioritize on the things that I need to get done. And it allows me to have some breathing room to really plan things out in a way that doesn’t take over my entire life. But instead, it helps me remember what things I have to do, what things I need to do, and what things I want to do. And as soon as I have that division and that clarity, in my mind, I’m better able to tackle the things I need to get done.
Michael Hingson 47:51
Cool. Well, you’ve mentioned neurodiversity pathways many times. And so we should get to that. Tell me about that. What led you to finding it, what it is, and so on?
Khushboo Chabria 48:04
Sure. So actually, when I decided to pivot to neurodiversity, in 2020, it was because at that point, I had tried to work in the field of behavior analysis for years, and continued to struggle and fail at that endeavor. And the reason being that I just didn’t feel like the field was aligned with what I wanted to do. And I needed to figure out a different thing that I could take or a different path that I could take going forward with my career. So in the beginning of 2020, shortly before COVID, I had just left a position as a behavior specialist at a school district, where I was helping to support a class of students that were under the IDI category or emotionally disturbed. And at that point, I had decided that I wanted to shift away from all of the behavioral stuff and focus more on neurodiversity, because I wanted to be neurodiversity affirming in my career, and I wanted to be working with adults and I wanted to expand my skill set. And I didn’t feel like my previous work was aligned with me anymore. So I ended up hiring a career coach. And this was in January of 2020. And he was someone who had a completely different background than me, but he was very good at learning what was awesome about me and what my strengths were, and how I could best showcase those strengths to the world. So together you him and I started our research into neurodiversity. And we learned a lot about how the field works. And then I started networking. And it’s kind of ironic that I started with a career coach, because now I am a career coach to neurodivergent people. But in my networking, I ended up meeting someone named Jessica Lee, who has a neurodiversity program in Southern California. And she told me that I should speak to Ranga Rahman, who is the program director of neurodiversity pathways, and we set up a networking call, I opened up to him and honestly shared with him about everything that I had faced and where I was with my career, and what it is that I wanted to do. And to be honest with you, Michael, I cried to him. And 20 minutes later, he sent me a job description and said, I can only hire you as a volunteer for now. But you will get the work experience that you need in this space. And if at any point, you get another job, you’re welcome to leave. But this would be a great starting place for you. And we will be happy to have you on the team. So that’s how I came on to neurodiversity pathways. And when I joined the team, we have lost all our funding due to COVID. And we had to basically build our program from the ground up. So at the time, me Ranga, and a small group of volunteers work together to build our first online course. And that was growth mindset. And we went from building one course to three courses, to five courses, to 10 courses to 14 courses. And what our career launch program is now is a 14 course program training program called Career Readiness Training, followed by six months of one on one coaching. The entire program is called Career launch programs. And it is aimed at neurodivergent individuals who have a two or four year college degree and those who are unemployed or underemployed, in relation to their strengths, their qualifications and their interest. And it’s focused on those who are really motivated to get a job and be good at it. And those who need the motivation and drive to get to their goals.
Michael Hingson 52:41
Well, overall, what is neuro diversity pathways as an organization, what what does it do? How do you start? Tell us a little more about that, if you would?
Khushboo Chabria 52:52
Yeah, definitely. So Rhonda J. Rahman, who’s our program director, was actually responsible for starting a lot of coalition building around neurodiversity at Stanford University. And when he left Stanford, he joined goodwill, and started neurodiversity pathways, which used to be known as expandability. Colon autism advantage. And then after about two years, they rebranded themselves to not just focus on autism, but to be focused on the full neurodiversity umbrella, which is when they became neurodiversity pathways. We’ve been around since 2017. And we are a social impact program under the mission services umbrella at the goodwill of Silicon Valley. So we Oh, go ahead. Go ahead. I was gonna say we work on two sides. On one side, we work with individuals, which is the career launch program, which I was just telling you about. And on the organization side, we have workplace inclusion services, where we train companies on neuro Diversity Awareness, and we provide business process consultation. And we provide coaching and we provide half day and full day workshops to train companies on how to work with neurodivergent people. So those are the two ways in which we support
Michael Hingson 54:26
do you work on both sides of the company or mainly in the work?
Khushboo Chabria 54:31
I work on both sides. So on the individual side, I teach all the job development courses. And I do a lot of the coaching that we do with our students to get them placed into jobs. And on the organizational side and part of all the presentations and the consulting that we do with companies that want to hire neurodivergent people.
Michael Hingson 54:56
Are there other kinds of career launch programs around the country? Similar to what neurodiversity pathways does, or yeah,
Khushboo Chabria 55:05
there are, but there are many different kinds. And they’re offering many different kinds of services. But I would like to say that there isn’t a single program in the country that as in depth as ours, that has a 10 month commitment to neurodivergent individuals, where we teach everything from personal effectiveness to workplace competency skills, and job development. And a two week workplace experience, followed by six months of coaching,
Michael Hingson 55:38
is the program free to people who need it.
Khushboo Chabria 55:41
The program is free to anyone who is connected to any DLR office in California. However, if you live in a different state, if you live in a different country, we’re willing and able to work with any local service providers or government agencies in order to get you the funding that you need to cover the costs of the program.
Michael Hingson 56:08
So you get funding from the Department of Rehabilitation now, for example. So there is funding, unlike there was at the beginning of the COVID time.
Khushboo Chabria 56:19
Yeah, so actually, I was only I was a volunteer for a part of the time. And then I was my manager pushed for me to become a contractor. And then I became a full time employee. So I have been a full time employee for a little bit. And we have gotten the program off the ground. So when we were building the courses, we did several test runs. We had our official first cohort launched in spring of this year, which went from March 1 to July 1. And we are now recruiting for our fall program, which begins on September 13.
Michael Hingson 57:00
How can organizations and people support or help what you’re doing and neurodiversity pathways in the Korean lunch program.
Khushboo Chabria 57:09
There are so many different ways. So if you actually go to our website, you can make a donation to our mission. You can also sponsor the education of a student if you’re interested in that you can hire us to come speak to your work groups, to your community groups, to your team, to your organization, about neurodiversity, you can also sign up to be a volunteer coach to help support one of our students while they’re working, or look looking for jobs. So there are lots of different ways we host two neurodiversity awareness sessions that are free to anyone in the world online. And those are offered two times a month, you can sign up on our website when you click on awareness sessions, and go to individual and click on the Google Form there. Additionally, if you want to hire us for Neuro Diversity Awareness, or to help hire neurodiverse people into your company, we’re happy to speak to you about that as well.
Michael Hingson 58:19
In it all operates under the umbrella of goodwill of Silicon Valley’s 501 C three tax status, or do you have your own?
Khushboo Chabria 58:28
We’re all under the goodwill and
Michael Hingson 58:32
it makes sense. Well, so what do you do when you’re not working?
Khushboo Chabria 58:37
Um, to be honest, lately, I’ve been mostly just working. But I’m also working on my dissertation, which is kind of related to work.
Michael Hingson 58:49
Congratulations. So you’re working toward a PhD?
Khushboo Chabria 58:52
Yeah, it’s actually an EDD in organizational leadership.
Michael Hingson 58:57
Okay. Where, what what?
Khushboo Chabria 59:01
So I’m going to UMass global, which used to formally be known as Brandman University, under the Chapman umbrella. And I am getting my degree in organizational leadership. So I’m going to abd right now, which is all but dissertation, which means I have completed my coursework, but I haven’t completed my dissertation yet. And so I am completing that now. My dissertation is going to be looking at the lived experience of colleagues of neurodivergent employees.
Michael Hingson 59:40
When do you think you’ll get to defend it and become a doctor?
Khushboo Chabria 59:46
Well, to be honest with you, Michael, with my ADHD, I only have until August of next year to defend so I have to get it done by August of next year. Or school. Yeah, I do much better. They have deadlines. So when they told me I had a year left, I wish they had emailed me that, that actual email a few years prior, so I could have been scared enough to just get it done. But here we are towards the end of it outside of my dissertation. I am learning Tarot. So I’m moonlighting as a tarot reader. And I do a lot of different networking things. And I’m part of social groups, and I do speaking engagements. And I spend a lot of time with friends and family and I travel as well. Where have you traveled? I’ve traveled to a lot of places in Asia. So I’ve traveled to the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau. I’ve also traveled a little bit in Europe. So I’ve traveled to Spain and to France. But I’m hoping to increase that once things settle down with COVID.
Michael Hingson 1:01:11
Yeah. Hopefully that will happen sometime in the near future, or at least in the future, but it’s so unpredictable still.
Khushboo Chabria 1:01:20
Michael Hingson 1:01:23
Well, this has been a heck of a lot of fun. And I’ve learned a lot I appreciate all that you have had to say. So you haven’t written any books or anything yet, your thesis is probably going to be your first major project.
Khushboo Chabria 1:01:37
Yes, definitely. I have been published as a poet and a couple of books, but that’s not related to this.
Michael Hingson 1:01:45
Okay. Well, it’s, it’s great that you’re doing some writing. And that is always exciting to do. Well, if people want to learn more about you, or reach out, if they want to explore neurodiversity pathways, and so on, if you would tell us all about how to contact you and how to learn about the program and so on.
Khushboo Chabria 1:02:05
Yeah, definitely. So when this podcast is published, I know you’re going to be posting some links on our website, and all of those other things. But if you go to ndpathways.org. That is our website, all our information is there, our contact information is there as well. You can reach out to me directly, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m happy to answer any questions that you have. And to be able to help you in any way that I
Michael Hingson 1:02:36
can. How do people connect with you on LinkedIn,
Khushboo Chabria 1:02:40
my LinkedIn profile will also be linked to this podcast, but it is actually just linked in.com and my U R L, let me just pull it up is linkedin.com backslash Khushboo Chabria, which is K h u s h B for boy, o o C a b r i a. And that’s my full name after the LinkedIn and the backslash.
Michael Hingson 1:03:18
Khushboo. Thank you very much for being here. And I think it’s always fun when we get to learn more and new and different things. And we get to explore new ideas, at least to some of us. They’re new, but explore ideas and even picking up new things. Even though we may have heard some of it before. There’s always new stuff. So thank you for bringing that to all of us.
Khushboo Chabria 1:03:46
Thank you so much for having me, Michael, I appreciate you.
Michael Hingson 1:03:49
Well, I appreciate you being here. And I hope you enjoyed this out there, please reach out to Khushboo. And also, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you thought about this. You can reach me at Michaelhi at accessibe.com or go to www dot Michael hingson.com/podcast. We also really would appreciate a five star review from you wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Please do that. Your support is what makes this worthwhile and possible and we love to hear the things you have to say. So we appreciate you doing that. And we hope that you’ll be here again next weekend Khushboo you thank you for once more for being here with us today.
Khushboo Chabria 1:04:35
Thank you so much for having
Michael Hingson 1:04:41
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.