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Let’s talk podcasts: Suggestions for kids with learning and thinking differences

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In this episode of In It, Gretchen Vierstra and Rachel Bozek suggest podcasts that are ideal for kids with learning and thinking differences. These shows are also great for any kid. 

Their suggestions include podcasts that:

  • Share fairy tales in fun — and funny — ways

  • Solve kid-friendly mysteries

  • Offer answers to all kinds of questions

  • Talk about current events

Episode transcript

Gretchen: Hello and welcome to "In It," a podcast about the ins and outs... 

Rachel: The ups and downs... 

Gretchen: Of supporting kids who learn and think differently. I'm Gretchen Vierstra.

Rachel: And I'm Rachel Bozek. We're between seasons right now, but we're dropping bonus episodes now and then throughout the summer on topics that we hope will be helpful for you this time of year. 

Gretchen: Today, we're talking about podcasts. Yay!

Rachel: Specifically, kids podcasts that any kid might like and that we think could be especially appealing to kids with learning and thinking differences. 

Gretchen: Now, we're not claiming that we've done a comprehensive review of everything that's out there, but we asked around, talked to friends and colleagues, and we want to tell you about four of them that stood out. 

Rachel: First up is a pod called "Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest." Every episode features the telling of a fairy tale, which sounds fine, but what makes it really excellent is, first off, the host, the writer Adam Gidwitz, who tells the stories in a really down-to-earth kid relatable way. 

Gretchen: And secondly, the setup. Adam narrates these tales to a group of kids who ask questions or crack jokes along the way. 

Rachel: Yeah, I'm not usually into the whole Kids "Say the Darndest Things" idea, but these kids are awesome. 

Gretchen: They are really awesome. The other thing I think is really cool about this podcast is a little warning or notice they put before the storytelling starts. Check this out. 

Clip - Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest: Do you want to hear a grimm fairy tale? Let me help you decide. On a scale of grimm, grimmer, and grimmest, the story I'm going to tell you today is grimmer. It's not very scary, but there are some moments where terrible things happen. These terrible things are weird and not at all realistic. They may or may not involve an army of pigs. But even so, I want to warn you. 

If I get to a part of the story and you start to feel scared or uncomfortable, this is what you could do. You could turn down the volume and count to five, then turn the volume back up. If it still seems like a part you don't want to hear, just turn the volume down and count to five again. You know how much weird and gross and scary you're ready for. You know what you need? 

OK, I'm at the classroom door now. There are kids inside waiting to hear a grimm fairy tale. So, are you coming in? 

Gretchen: So, I think this is such a great message to give kids, especially kids in our community, who might have sensory challenges. And the idea is that you know yourself best and can make good choices about what feels comfortable for you. And if you want to challenge yourself one day and listen to the grimmest story, even if you don't feel you're ready for it, you can. It's really up to you. 

Rachel: Yeah, I really like that. The podcast is appropriate for kids in the 6 to 12 range, though honestly, I think plenty of parents will enjoy it too. I was surprised at how into it I got the first time I listened. 

Gretchen: Yeah, totally. 

Rachel: Before we move on, I do want to give a shout-out to one of our own producers, Ilana Millner, who actually produced and edited all four seasons of this show. 

Gretchen: Amazing work. Ilana. 

Rachel: OK, next up, Gretchen, I think you were going to tell us about another favorite. 

Gretchen: Yes, it's called "Opal Watson: Private Eye." And this one's for lovers of mystery books. It's the story of an 11-year-old who has a mystery-solving business. She's visually impaired, so the story often includes references to her learning about how to manage her vision challenges and getting braver about doing tough things despite her challenges. 

The episodes include a lot of background sounds Opal might be tuned into, like creaking stairs, dripping water. Plus, the actor who plays Opal, Maya Graves, is herself visually impaired. Here's a clip where Opal explains to her cousin one of her strategies for writing her detective notes, so that they're easier for her to see. 

Clip - Opal Watson: Private Eye: I need to record a few notes. Ugh, I forgot. My phone is broken, but I do have my trusty notebook and marker. 

So, why do you use markers instead of a pen? Markers write a little darker so they're easier to see. 

Oh, I get it. But can you hurry up with these notes? This cat is getting pretty fidgety. I think she needs a little box. 

Gretchen: How about you, Rachel? You got one to recommend? 

Rachel: I do, it's called "Brains On," and it's a show where each episode answers a super interesting question that you may have wondered. And they're also really interesting questions for kids. So, the ones that have caught my attention were, why do siblings annoy each other? 

Gretchen: Good question. 

Rachel: Right? Do dogs know they're dogs? 

Gretchen: Another good question. 

Rachel: Good question. Are UFOs real? 

Gretchen: Oh, gosh. 

Rachel: So, I haven't listened to that one yet, so I'll get back to you. And how can you tell when food is expired? So, like, all of these things have been conversations in my house recently, so, you know, very useful. 

But the one that I want to talk about is called "What is ADHD?" And it's just a lovely coincidence that there is an episode answering that question. And I found this episode to include some really straightforward info that could totally help kids, especially those who are newly diagnosed, understand ADHD. 

But also could be helpful for kids who don't have it and just hear about it because their sibling has it, or somebody at school has it and they're like, "What is that?" I think this could really give them some helpful perspective. And my favorite thing is that at one point in the episode, a few kids with ADHD join in and talk about their own experiences. Here's a clip. 

Clip - Brains On!: My name is Dolan and I'm from Crossfield. I first learned I had ADHD last year. To help myself focus, I take a deep breath. 

Hi, my name is Amelia and I live in South Korea. I first learned I had ADHD when I was about 10 or 11. To help myself focus, I like to play with slime, sing, and play with fidget toys. ADHD makes my brain feel like a motor. It's always on, making me really active. 

My name is Noah and I'm from Middletown, Connecticut. When I first learned I had ADHD I was four. And I also take this pill that helps me focus. And ADHD makes my brain feel like the part that helps you focus is really rusty. 

My name is Davis. I am nine years old and I am from Lawrence, Kansas. I first learned I had ADHD when I was in therapy at the age of five. To help myself focus, I take medicine. ADHD makes my brain feel like there's so much going on in my head that I can't focus. Also, when I see something exciting, I can't stop thinking about it. 

Rachel: I just love how honest and real those kids are. And you know, it might take a lot for them to talk about their experiences, but I think it'll be great for other kids to get to hear that. 

Gretchen: I agree. OK, we've got one more recommendation. And for this one we have strong-armed our producer Julie to join in on the fun. Julie, unmute yourself and tell us what you've got. 

Julie:  OK. So, this is a news podcast called "KidNuz." It comes out daily except for weekends, and each episode is short, like 5 to 7 minutes, and it covers 5 to 6 news items. Everything from like sports to foreign affairs to domestic affairs, pop culture, science, like all over the place. 

So, I guess, just to give you a sense of the range of topics, one episode I listened to talked about why there's been a rash of like, whales bumping into boats lately. There was something about hot dogs, and what city do people eat the most hot dogs? There is reference to the former president's hush money trial, stuff about astronomy. So really wide-ranging. There's a lot of information, but it's not overwhelming. It goes fast, but not crazy fast. There's not a lot of distraction and not like bells and whistles. So I think it's accessible. 

And then here's one other cool thing is that at the end of each episode, they have a short quiz. They ask questions about most of the news items, and it's challenging, but it's not too hard. And I think that's kind of a great tool for maybe kids who have attention issues, kind of incentive to really pay attention because at the end you can see what you remember. Let's listen to a clip of just one news item so you can get a sense of how they cover stuff. 

Clip - KidNuz: The calendar still says spring. But for those on the West Coast of the U.S., mother nature is screaming summer! A high-pressure heat dome has parked itself over the region, trapping air and warming it well above normal. In California, southern Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada today, the mercury is expected to soar to 110 degrees. 

Tomorrow in Death Valley, the hottest place in the world, the mercury could hit 120. And by Friday, temps will rise and records will fall in parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Colorado. 

Gretchen: After listening to that clip and to your description of this, Julie, I got to say that maybe I should just listen to "KidNuz" for the news, because sounds really fun and informative and I'm just going to get my daily dose and then take a quiz. 

Rachel: And also, not to put you on the spot, but why are whales bumping into boats? 

Julie: It's a really, it's very cute. They say that it's kind of like teenagers, they get into fads, like it's just a fad. 

Rachel: Oh! 

Julie: Like one whale did it and then they're all like, "Oh, I wanna try that." 

Rachel: Like they're dabbing? 

Julie: It's going to pass. Exactly. 

Gretchen: Oh my goodness. 

Julie: I know. 

Gretchen: Well, I can imagine my kids liking that. 

Julie: Same. 

Rachel: Yes. Me too. I think these were some really fun suggestions. And I'm going to check out a few of the ones that I haven't heard. 

So listeners, let us know if you've found podcasts that are a big hit with your kids. What are they listening to and what do they like about it? Email us at We'd love to hear from you. 

Gretchen: And check out the show notes, where we have links to all of the podcasts we mentioned in this episode. 

Rachel: This show is brought to you by Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people with learning and thinking differences like ADHD and dyslexia. Learn more at 

Gretchen: "In It" is produced and edited by Julie Subrin, with additional production support from Cody Nelson and Ilana Millner. Justin D. Wright mixes the show and Mike Errico wrote our theme music. Briana Berry is our production director. Neil Drumming is our editorial director. 

Rachel: From, our executive directors are Laura Key, Scott Cocchiere, and Seth Melnick. Thanks for listening. 

Gretchen: And thanks for always being in it with us. 


  • Gretchen Vierstra, MA

    is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the “In It” podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.

    • Rachel Bozek

      is co-host of the “In It” podcast and the parent of two kids with ADHD. She has a background in writing and editing content for kids and parents. 

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