Neuroverse s01e03: Wesley Jackson Wade and the Black ADHD Experience3 min read

Wesley Jackson Wade

“My ADHD is an accelerant to my black experience.”

Wesley Jackson Wade is a mental health and substance abuse counselor, and career counselor to Autistic students.

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Host: Magnus Hedemark

Guest: Wesley Jackson Wade

Show notes:

  • We talk a little bit about the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by four Minneapolis police officers. The shadow of this is hanging over everyone right now. While it’s only now part of the national conversation (and the world conversation), this has been the reality for black Americans for over 400 years. While we’re always going to strive to share voices from diverse backgrounds, we thought it was especially important right now to elevate black voices in the Neuroverse in particular.
  • Wes works as a career counselor at the NCSU Career Development Center
  • He leads Students Moving Forward for autistic students.
  • He also moonlights as a counselor for mental health, career advice, and substance abuse needs in his private practiceAnd he’s working on his PhD.
  • Students Moving Forward is about to enter its fourth year.
  • SMF was co-founded with Dana Thomas, an advisor at NCSU, to help out two openly autistic students at NCSU.
  • Initiatives to support a community need to be informed and advised by members of the community they serve.
  • “Embrace the suck.” – Military saying that means “To consciously accept or appreciate something that is extremely unpleasant but unavoidable.”
  • There are systemic neurotypical barriers, a type of systemic injustice, that impede all autistic people. But that factor is magnified for black autistic students.
  • KimberlĂ© Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality”.
  • Angela Davis really did a lot to build on this.
  • Patricia Hill Collins did even more to push intersectionality and black feminist thought.
  • Autistic students of any race had to work really hard just to get into college. But a black student who is autistic knows a lot about resilience and overcoming systemic barriers. 
  • #AutismAtWork should really be #AutisticAtWork
  • Dr. Jamie Pearson is doing a lot of amazing work with families who have an autistic BIPOC child. But her work is not well known. It’s another place where black lives don’t matter as much as they should. #BlackLivesMatter
  • Very, very few are helping young autistic adults transition out of childhood supports and into professional career opportunities and more independent living.
  • Nancy Forsythe at University of Maryland has been very helpful in advising on the formation of Students Moving Forward.
  • People checking in on their black friends are appreciated. But it’s awkward when it comes from white folks who have in the past habitually contributed to racist microaggressions.
  • The shooting of Trayvon Martin flipped a switch in Wes. He saw in Trayvon someone a lot like himself.
  • Unconscious bias of tests with long-form answers may select against success of students with ADHD.
  • There is a history of unjust experimentation on the black population. TuskegeeNorth Carolina Eugenics Board (forced sterilization). But poor white people were often a part of this, too. Why hasn’t the current level of movement happened before?
  • “My ADHD is an accelerant to my black experience.” Double-triple-quadruple for black women.
  • Wes recommends the book “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society” by Dr. Carl Hart.