Popcorn Reading Anxiety

Picture this: Elementary school students are taking turns reading paragraphs from a book aloud. At the end of each paragraph, the current reader shouts the word “popcorn!” followed by the name of the next reader they selected. There was no system, it was a completely random way to read a book and it made me feel terrible.   

Anxiety wasn’t in my young vocabulary, but Popcorn Reading forcibly introduced us. “POPCORN!…. KATHLEEN!” was my nightmare. 

I wasn’t naturally shy, but rather, I dreaded the social embarrassment that came with stumbling over my words. While my peers bumbled through their paragraphs, I secretly practiced the section that followed theirs in fear that I was called next. I aimed to grasp the rhythm of the words, appropriate tone, and to strategically pick the person to call on after me – a person who was also often overlooked. Naturally, I struggled with reading comprehension and despite my efforts to prepare, I was rarely chosen to read. 

This seemingly simple classroom exercise significantly influenced my life’s trajectory. I began to hack interpersonal communication wherever possible, not recognizing my distinct cognitive processes at the time. I was masking. 

Today, I consider myself a master storyteller, dedicating my career to effective communication:

  • Training top medical professionals on speaking with the media to get their point across.
  • Collaborating with government leaders to reach constituents with the right messages.
  • Educating national businesses on best practices to communicate with their audiences.

I always knew I was neurodiverse. Not only because I know my brain works differently but I also cry every day. I’m not ashamed, I love it because it’s self regulating and soothing. I’m convinced that if anyone else felt or thought as deeply as I did, they would also be crying every day. 

I look just like anyone else. But, as it turns out, neurodiverse people also look like anyone else. We can work in many different occupations. We are single or we’re married. We might like math or we really really REALLY hate math. We might be of any race and religion. We might even be you. One of the reasons for the increase of autistic diagnoses in recent years is because of an increase of recognition of autism in general by doctors and the general public. Many were not diagnosed as being on the spectrum until well into adulthood, this is especially true of women. 

I’m Kathleen, a neurodivergent woman, with pathological demand avoidance ADHD and the highly sensitive profile of Autism. I’m a business owner, home owner, dedicated pet parent, and proud member of the Spectrum Linx team running our social platforms. I have a passion for highlighting the voices of the neurodivergent community. Everyone has a story just waiting to be told and there is nothing holding us back from growing stronger in the community here online.  

Just don’t yell popcorn and then my name.

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