I’m honored to bring you this special part two with dyslexic writer, award winning author, entrepreneur and activist Jonathan Mooney, this time interviewed by my neurodivergent college freshman son, Ryan Neale.

If you haven’t yet listened to part one for a full exploration of Jonathan’s E.P.I.C. life journey, I encourage you to go to that episode next. This episode, inspired by part one, was Ryan’s opportunity, just before he left for college, to ask Jonathan for wisdom and guidance about how to flourish at a university while being neurodivergent. What unfolded was that and so much more.

In this episode, I passed the microphone completely to Ryan, sat back and listened to him and Jonathan uncover how we can all learn and live outside the lines and stop faking normal. I invite you to listen to this conversation with the same sense of curiosity and trust. I hope you will arrive at the end as Ryan, Jonathan and I all did, personally transformed by the experience.  

About Jonathan Mooney:

Jonathan Mooney is a dyslexic writer and activist who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old.

He is a graduate of Brown University and holds an honors degree in English Literature. At Brown, he became the co-founder of Project Eye-To-Eye, a widely duplicated mentoring program for disabled students. He is also a winner of the prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate studies in creative writing and education and was a national finalist for the Rhodes scholarship.

Jonathan Mooney’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, HBO, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. A nationally recognized advocate for neurological and physical diversity, he’s been speaking across the nation about neurological and physical diversity for two decades, inspiring those who live with differences and calling for change.

He has published three books: The Short Bus, Learning Outside the Lines, and Normal Sucks.

Connect with Jonathan:

Jonathan’s Books Mentioned in this Episode:

About Ryan Neale:

Ryan Neale is a neurodivergent UCLA Freshman from San Mateo, California. His parents discovered he was differently wired when he was 18 months old but he has been in mainstream education for his academic career, with most people around him not knowing about some of the struggles that he faces.

His experiences masking his neuro differences have given him a unique perspective on many of the struggles neurodiverse people face, such as public stigma, internalized ableism, and the ever-present desire to fit in. As he has begun advocating more for his needs, he has high hopes to use his perspective and communication skills to increase public understanding of neurodiversity, and hopefully create a more inclusive society for everyone.

In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, coaching youth sports, roughhousing with his little brother, and diving headfirst into his many fantasy special interests. He is thrilled to have participated in the 2022 Stanford Neurodiversity Summit on a K-12 student panel. You can listen to the panel here.

Connect with Ryan: 

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • How Ryan got introduced to Jonathan and his book Normal Sucks 
  • Jonathan’s invitation to Ryan to lean into his “badassness” 
  • How Jonathan transcended the obstacles in his path as a neurodivergent young adult with ADHD and dyslexia on his way to Brown College
  • The biggest barrier for Jonathan on his path: the internalized messages that he was stupid, lazy, crazy
  • The key question Jonathan says we should be asking instead of “how smart are you?”
  • How and why an F on an English final became an inflection point for Jonathan in his advocacy journey  
  • How neurodiverse students can survive and thrive in a flawed system   
  • The importance of meta-cognition
  • Why we should reframe our language from “diagnosis” to “assessment” that identifies both the challenges and strengths of being neurodiverse.
  • The importance of seeking out people in your life that can help you build self-knowledge and find the good in you
  • What Ryan and Jonathan think Batman has to teach neurodiverse students
  • The negative impact of trying to pass or mask as “normal” and what helped Jonathan move from shame to pride in his own journey   
  • Jonathan’s message to “find your crew” and do something to contribute and make the world better
  • The commitment Ryan is making as he embarks on his college journey

Resources and Topics Mentioned:


Related Podcast Episodes: Listen to these Next

This Episode’s Challenge: 

Jonathan challenges us to not ask yourself, “are you going to be successful?” but instead,  to hold yourself accountable to be successful in the right way. 

He wants us to stop hiding and be out and proud of our differences that make us special. This way, we can give to the community with purpose, pride, and passion.

This Episode is dedicated by Cindy McCormick:

Some people are lucky enough to have a career doing EXACTLY what they were born to do – Cindy is one of them. She loves running Cindy McCormick College Advising (CMCA,) but more importantly, she thrives on guiding high school students along their paths to college. She received her B.A., teaching credential, and Masters in Education from UCLA; instructional writing certification from UC Santa Barbara; and college counseling certificate from UC San Diego. With the highest standards in education, training, and ethics, she believes in getting to know her students thoroughly while relentlessly researching schools to ultimately guide kids to their best fit college homes.

Before college advising, Cindy taught school in both Westchester County, NY and Southern California, and then specialized as a college application and essay writing instructor. She also served as a PTA President and a team manager of a global top-ranked STEM student team for ten years.  

As a mother of five children, Gifted And Talented educator, autism specialist, and Spanish bilingual instructor, Cindy embraces diverse abilities, perspectives and backgrounds. Her wide variety of experiences allow her to bond with all kinds of teenage personalities and interests; she delights in getting to know each student, motivating and coaching them, and ultimately customizing their unique college plans.

In her downtime, she loves spending time with her family of 6 men, running marathons in beautiful places, and cuddling her Goldendoodle, Ollie.

Connect with Cindy: 


Our Fall Virtual Milestone Hike Is Here!

Ready to press pause and set YOUR course for an intentional new school year?

Our kids have had new beginnings… now it’s time for us!

Sign up today for the fall Mother’s Quest Virtual Milestone Hike and a powerful interactive experience like none other.

Intrigued? Check out the links below for more info and to register for one of two upcoming dates: 

Tuesday Sept 27 – https://mailchi.mp/mothersquest/septvirtualhike22 

Saturday Oct. 1st – https://mailchi.mp/mothersquest/octvirtualhike22 

It’s Pay from the Heart to make it accessible to anyone who wants to come. Hope to see you there!

P.S. Have a friend who would like to join? Invite them along. Always better to hike with a friend

Mother’s Quest Circle: Next Chapter Edition

Registration is now open for the Mother’s Quest Virtual Circle!

I’m facilitating a Mother’s Quest Virtual Circle in November for moms like me who have children going off to their next chapter (whether that is college, trade school, travel or the workforce) 

Our children’s next chapter is a window of opportunity for us to invest in ourselves in new ways. Doing it in community with like-minded mothers is always powerful.

Click here to register https://mothersquest.com/virtualcircle-nextchapter/

Much appreciation,

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).

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

Episode #5: Live your E.P.I.C. Life to Help Your Children Thrive