The Problem with Overcoming: Learning to Value Your Differences

with NCLD Young Adult Leadership Council Alumni

The Problem with Overcoming: Learning to Value Your Differences

Episode 22, Season 3 | June 21, 2023

Show Notes

People with learning disabilities and mental health challenges are often implicitly or explicitly taught to overcome their differences. Try harder, push through, fix and succeed. These messages of normalization can lead to shame, a desire to hide our true selves, decreased likelihood of success and increased mental health challenges.

Today’s podcast episode was first aired live and is sponsored by The Schwab Learning Center at CHC and the National Council for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). Hosted by our very own Natalie Tamburello and featuring NCLD Young Adult Leadership Council alumni––Misha Nicholas, Rachelle Johnson and Stevie Mays––we are excited to share their candid conversation with those of you who missed it. Hear their unique journeys and learn how each learned to embrace their differences as proud parts of their identity rather than deficiencies to overcome.

Presented by CHC’s Voices of Compassion Podcast in partnership with NCLD. Sponsored by The Schwab Learning Center at CHC.

Guest Info
Misha Nicholas headshot

Misha Nicholas is a neurodivergent activist that wants to make the world a better place for everyone in her path. She currently works for the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants as a Designer and has experience in neurodivergence advocacy, environmental research, policy analysis, and global communications. Growing up, she didn't understand her neurodivergence, however, now, she has turned her pain into power. Most recently, she won a competition as a United People Global leader finalist representing North America, has participated as a mentor for the Hack for Earth Youth Hackathon for COP27, and was a reader for the U.S. Department of State's Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Rachelle Johnson headshot

Rachelle Johnson is a dyslexic with ADHD and anxiety working to create a world where learning disabled people are understood and supported so that they may reach their highest potential. Rachelle is currently a developmental psychology PhD student at Florida State University, funded as an IES Predoctoral Fellow at the Florida Center for Reading Research. There she researches predictors of individual differences in children’s reading development, particularly among students with learning disabilities. Lately, much of Rachelle's research has been focused on understanding the surrounding environment and emotions children experience while reading. In addition to her research, for the past 9 years she has been engaged in learning disability activism and policy efforts. Currently, she serves on the Young Adult Leadership Council and the Board of Directors for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Stevie Mays headshot

Stevie Mays is a disability justice activist who has worked with and for disabled people their whole career. They started in therapy with autistic children, focusing on floor play and social skills. While in undergraduate, their four years as a therapist and four summers as a camp counselor, Stevie values playfulness as a virtue in work with everyone. They worked two years as a research assistant in Consta Columbia’s lab studying teaching groups of parents a social skills toolkit to play and communicate with their pre-K autistic child. They had an internship with the National Association of Councils of Developmental Disabilities which began their career in advocacy. They have had the opportunity to co-launch National Council for Learning Disabilities mental health and learning disabilities campaigns as well as participate in a variety of conferences and podcasts on this topic. They currently work with EasterSeals providing free to families respite support services to Navy Families with children with disabilities. Stevie is interested in expanding their knowledge of adaptive technologies and works as Teacher at Reach Every Voice's Weekend Institute providing educational and social space for non-speaking autistic typers.

Natalie Tamburello headshot

Natalie is a learning disability and education equity advocate and empowerment expert, with expertise in student voice, post-secondary transitions to college and/or work, social-emotional development, community building, workshop facilitation and public speaking.


Natalie Tamburello is on the Community Connections Team at CHC. As a lifelong advocate, Natalie has served a number of non-profit organizations supporting students who learn differently throughout her career, including: Learning Ally, Understood, The National Center for Learning Disabilities and Parents Education Network.


Natalie received her BA in Psychology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. During her time at Whitman, she worked at both the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford and BrainLENS at the University of California – San Francisco, doing research on dyslexia and related social-emotional issues such as motivation, advocacy, self-awareness, growth mindset, grit and stereotype threat. She then completed a M.Phil in Education at the University of Cambridge in England, focusing on leadership within the LD/ADHD community and the emerging learning rights movement.

Presented by CHC’s Voices of Compassion Podcast


National Center for Learning Disabilities


CHC Schwab Learning Center