Understood’s experts are leaders in the field of education, disability inclusion, and learning and thinking differences. They help provide proven, vetted information that empowers the 1 in 5 people in the U.S. who learn and think differently. In the new “Understood Expert Spotlight'' series, experts share more about their work and why they’re motivated to empower the 1 in 5.
This first spotlight features Amanda Morin, Director of Thought Leadership and Expertise at Understood. Amanda is an author, parent advocate, and mom to kids who learn differently. She worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. In her thought leadership role at Understood, she leads efforts to build internal knowledge about learning and thinking differences, works toward establishing Understood as an authority in the field, and ensures that the organization’s work is evidence-based and reflects unique expertise and innovative perspectives.
Below, Amanda offers insight on her work, advice for the 1 in 5, and more.
Understood: The Understood team is working to shape the world for difference so that everyone can thrive. What is your advice for the 1 in 5 community when it comes to not only accepting their differences, but thriving because of them?
Amanda: This is a difficult question to answer because everyone's journey is different. I know what it means to me to accept my own neurodiversity and to thrive with it, but it's hard to give blanket advice to the 1 in 5 because I don't know their personal situation. But I can say this: It's important to remember that you control the narrative of your own story. What do you love about yourself? What do you think people get wrong about you and what do you wish they knew instead?
I often share my own experience of having sensory issues, anxiety, and OCD as a way to encourage other people to feel more comfortable. To me difference is just part of the human experience. Celebrating and telling the world who you are isn’t shameful, it’s brave and a way to normalize the fact that there isn't one "right" way to live in the world. The more we talk about difference as something to be expected, the more we can expect people to embrace it.
Understood: What is the most exciting thing that you’re working on right now?
Amanda: So many things! I have the absolute joy of being able to work cross-functionally and see how the varied work across the organization ladders up to impact. When you’re deep in your daily work, it’s sometimes hard to remember or see that it all fits together and is going to make a difference in the lives of real people. Understood’s mission is so aligned to how the external world is beginning to think about difference. Societally, we’re in a moment of great change, and it’s exciting to me to see neurodiversity and difference become part of broader, mainstream conversations. I’m thrilled to work to help us become a leader and facilitator of some of those conversations.
Understood: Can you tell us the name of a person or organization you admire when it comes to shaping the world for difference? What makes them stand out?
Amanda: Oh, no! I have to choose just one? If so, I’d have to say it’s Judy Heumann. She’s a rock star and pioneer around looking at disability rights as civil rights. She has quite truly changed the landscape, both through decades of activism and, most recently, with the film “Crip Camp.” I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Judy interact in less formal ways, too, and she’s also incredibly down to earth and funny, which makes it even easier to admire her and the work she does.