Welcome to this first episode of Season Nine of the Mother’s Quest Podcast with a returning and special guest, my own son Ryan Neale.

I first sat down to record an episode with Ryan in 2017, on his 13th birthday, after we embarked on a milestone hike, using the ascent and descent at our local Sugarloaf Peak to pack up the lessons of his first 13 years of life and my first 13 years of motherhood. 

At that time, Ryan knew he wanted to close out his teenage years the same way he began them. So this past March, in what felt like the blink of an eye, his 20th birthday approached and Ryan returned from college so we could set out on the trail again.

Though the path was familiar, we soon recognized just how much we each had grown, maturing through heartache and triumph in our own ways.

We knew we would want to record our reflections from the hike again in a special recording studio and with the support of someone who might help us go even deeper. The answer to our quest appeared in the form of Tricia Creason-Valencia, co-founder of PowerHouse, and who Ryan and I have been partnering with on a new initiative, the Autism Storytelling Project.

It therefore also felt right to invite Tricia to dedicate this episode. Listen in for her beautiful dedication. You’ll also hear her voice toward the end of our conversation, asking us each a question that brought us both to tears. 

Along with some tears, there were many moments of insight and even some laughter, as we share about this 20 year milestone in both of our lives, the lessons we’ve learned about our neurodivergent identities especially, and about the exciting chapters unfolding for us.

It was a gift to experience this and also to share it with you. Ryan and I both hope this conversation inspires you to find your unique way to mark the milestones in your life, to reflect mindfully with your children, and to give yourselves opportunities to see one another, champion one another, and to grow alongside one another.

About Ryan Neale

Ryan Neale is a neurodivergent sophomore at UCLA, planning to double major in Communication and Disability Studies with a minor in Film Studies. He is part of the College Scholars Program at UCLA and recently was selected as part of the 2023 Chancellor’s Leadership Program cohort. He is passionate about neurodiversity advocacy and sharing his own experiences to pave the way for others. He is currently a staff member at the Bruin Resource Center, where he is a student lead on a new campus-wide neurodiversity initiative, the Bruin Neurodiversity Collective, to make UCLA more inclusive for students like him. This summer, he served on staff for the Stanford Neurodiversity Project – Research, Education, and Advocacy Camp for high schoolers wanting to create neurodiversity advocacy projects. He was also a speaker at the 2021 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit and has been a guest host on the Mother’s Quest Podcast. Ryan was diagnosed with autism at the age of 18 months old and also identifies with ADHD and anxiety.

Connect with Ryan

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • The origins of our first milestone hike and why it was important to Ryan to end his teenage years in the same way he began them. 
  • Ryan’s grappling with his autistic identity, and how his desire to be “normal” over his teenage years was like navigating a “toxic ex.” 
  • Our growth and learning journey as a spiral, inviting us to revisit similar challenges but with new levels of self-awareness and knowledge. 
  • How Ryan’s perception of autism shifted over time, from internalized ableism and heavy masking toward self-acceptance and more authenticity.. 
  • My diagnosis of ADHD just before my 50th birthday and how my own perceptions of neurodiversity have shifted. 
  • The ways that both of us used our voices to highlight gaps in support for neurodivergent students at UCLA and how that led to Ryan co-founding The Bruin Neurodiversity Collective. 
  • Ryan’s first quarter at UCLA crash and burn and how writing his story about that experience for Business Insider was a turning point. 
  • How Ryan putting himself out there and experiencing rejection after rejection ultimately led him to the greatest gift of all. 
  • The letter of acknowledgment I wrote for Ryan about all the qualities I see in him. I read through tears but am so glad I persevered and could share it with him (and you!)
  • The power of mother and son sharing and growing alongside one another. 

This Episode Dedicated by: Tricia Creason-Valencia and The Autism Storytelling Project

Tricia Creason-Valencia is a dynamic force in the world of filmmaking, education & community building. Through the art of storytelling, Tricia weaves her own raw narrative of mothering, making movies, resilience and rediscovery. As an Emmy-Nominated Director/Producer, Motivational Speaker and Co-Founder of PowerHouse, she pioneers the way for women, people of color and youth to amplify their voices and claim their power through creative expression. She believes, deep in her soul, that truth-telling fosters empathy and connection, serving as a catalyst for social change.

About The Autism Storytelling Project

The Autism Storytelling Project empowers young autistic people who aspire to tell authentic autistic stories through creative expression by awarding unrestricted grants. The goal of the project is to expand understanding about autism by elevating stories about the personal experiences of autistic young people ages 16-25 in Santa Clara County, CA. All forms of art and creative expression are welcome, but the story must focus on the artist’s lived experience as an autistic person, or on autism as a whole. Connect with the Autism Storytelling Project:

About PowerHouse 

PowerHouse is a creative co-working space for women+ entrepreneurs, video and podcasting production studio and venue for professional development & creativity workshops committed to amplifying women’s voices. PowerHouse is a women & minority-owned social entrepreneurship venture in the heart of downtown San Jose founded by Farran Tabrizi and Tricia Creason-Valencia.

Other Related Episodes and Resources: 

Mother’s Quest May Gift Guide – Gift Yourselves and the Mothers You Love Beyond Mother’s Day!

Put yourself on your priority list and choose something special for yourself this Mother’s Day. Take a peek inside the Mother’s Quest Gift Guide at some of my favorite things I’ve curated for you. 

Mother’s Quest is a podcast for moms who are ready to live a truly E.P.I.C. life.

Join in for intimate conversations with a diverse group of inspiring mothers as they share how they are living an E.P.I.C. life, Engaging mindfully with their children (E), Passionately and Purposefully making a difference beyond their family (P), Investing in themselves (I), and Connecting to a strong support network (C).

In celebration of our recent 100th episode, we invite you to help us spread the word by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Help us reach 100 reviews to honor our 100th episode milestone of the Mother’s Quest Podcast!

You can also support the podcast by making a contribution or joining one of our memberships at our Patron Page on Ko-Fi.com. 

Join our community of mothers to light the way and sustain you on your quest at www.facebook.com/groups/mothersquest