232: Chromesthesia, ADHD, Music and TikTok

My guest today was diagnosed with ADHD and twice-exceptionality later in life. We have connected through TikTok and are learning a lot from each other. He demonstrates kind accountability in his TikTok posts and shows authenticity in his longer YouTube posts that I greatly appreciate. Join us to hear his unique perspective.

Sean Szolek-Van Valkenburgh grew up in Indiana surrounded by orchestral, classical, and contemporary music. His formal musical education began at age 7 when he started studying piano and performing in choral ensembles. As his musical education progressed, he noticed that he had the unusual gift of chromesthesia. Through TikTok, Sean avidly posts about being a professional musician and artist and connects with over 680,000 followers; he refers to them as “kings, queens, and monarchs.” He hopes to provide a safe, inclusive, and entertaining platform that prioritizes genuine content creation and critical thought.

Show Highlights:

  • What is chromesthesia? Multiple senses cross in the brain, making it possible to hear music and also see it in colors, textures, and patterns

  • How Sean uses TikTok to share music and chromesthesia

  • Why Sean is intensely passionate about educating and helping people see the world in different ways, especially the “lightbulb” moments of learning

  • How Sean’s personal brand of intensity cuts through to the truth and presents it to people, shining light on obscure areas in the legal system

  • As Sean grew up, he was very adamant about certain fixations, like dominoes and Jenga; his twice-exceptionality was masked by his ability to study and learn, but his ADHD was overlooked for a time

  • How his ADHD impacted the way he planned and self-regulated himself and caused imbalance in his mental health

  • How Sean was socially isolated with a few superficial friendships and focused on his hyperfixations

  • How Sean had to learn in college to apply himself to social constructs

  • The cultural factors that affected Sean as he and his sister were black twins adopted by white parents, and how this helped inform his cultural understanding

  • How Sean had to tone himself down as a counselor at a fine arts summer camp and learn how to expend his energy in appropriate ways

  • Why Sean depends on established routines and structures that work with his ADHD

  • How Sean has gotten out of control on social media in exposing the truth and presenting the facts, sometimes finding it difficult to strike a balance

  • How Sean uses his fire for good in helping people channel their fire into artistic expression in different ways

  • How Sean harnesses the power of his intensity through self-regulation and recognizing the power behind his personality and neurodivergence

  • How Sean recognized his twice-exceptionality

  • How Sean has learned to take time for himself and take mental inventory with introspection

  • Sean’s advice: “Be educated and aware when you speak about ADHD. Know your abilities and disabilities. It’s a long journey. Find your authentic self and work on defining yourself.”

  • How to ask for accommodations

  • What Sean is working on for the future


Find Sean on Instagram:  @seanszolekvanvalkenburgh

Find Sean on Twitter:  @SeanSzolek

Find Sean on TikTok:  @seansvv