Neurodiversity. What a brilliantly different way to think about the world!

I was messing around on Facebook waiting in the car pick-up line an hour before dismissal at OJ’s school, when I first laid eyes on it. Meanwhile, the Dad in the car behind me was giving me the stink eye because he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t tailgating the car in front of me just like he was doing to my rear (it’s an hour before dismissal guy, relax).

But I didn’t care. Right there, on my friend’s Facebook page was a word I’d never seen before: NEURODIVERSITY. I think it was in reference to something about Oliver Sacks. I can’t remember exactly, but I mean Oliver Sacks is brilliant, so it probably was.

THIS was the word I’d been searching for since the start of our autism journey five years ago. By immediate breakdown of the word, I just knew this was something I HAD to know more about.

Neuro-Diversity. Diverse Brains. I like diversity and I like brains so… I take my tookus to the library and I check out the biggest, fattest book I find on the topic which happens to be Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/310415/neurotribes-by-steve-silberman-foreword-by-oliver-sacks/9781583334676.

Damn, the book is long but so enlightening and informative, a must-read. I check it out and plan to keep it on my bedside table. I’ll read a chapter a night until it’s finished in eight or nine months. I turn to Google for more immediate information to consume.

So before I get started, I want to express that this topic can generate very polarizing and emotional opinions. With that said, I’ll try to break it down as best I can and also put my 2 cents in mindfully and respectfully.

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds. It’s the mixed bag of neurocognitive brain wiring.

Long story short: Neurodiversity applies to EVERYONE.

It is not a point of view, belief, or standpoint. Now imagine the stars at night. There are a bazillion stars out there, each with their own unique properties. They’re made up of different sizes, colors, molecules, and surface features.

Now imagine you’re sitting on your Adirondack by the campfire looking up at those stars on a warm summer night on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Each star has its own brilliance and some of them are necessary to complete a constellation. How super lame would it be if each and every star was the exact same? So lame, that’s how.

WE ARE ALL DIVERSE

Autism is seen as a natural and normal variation in the human genome. It’s a basic biological fact. Here’s this from Nick Walker of Neurocosmopolitanism.com: — “diversity of brains means a diversity of cognitive styles, a diversity of innate cognitive strengths and weaknesses, gifts and peculiarities.”

Three basic principles outline the Neurodiversity Paradigm, as explained by Nick Walker:

  1. Neurodiversity is a natural and valuable form of human diversity.
  2. The idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind, or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning, is a culturally constructed fiction. As invalid and less conducive to a healthy society, or to the overall well-being of humanity, than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” ethnicity, gender, or culture.
  3. The social dynamics that manifest in regard to neurodiversity are similar to the social dynamics that manifest in regard to other forms of human diversity (e.g., diversity of ethnicity, gender, or culture). These dynamics include the dynamics of social power inequalities and also the dynamics by which diversity, when embraced, acts as a source of creative potential.

Walker explains the term Neurodivergent as having a brain that functions in ways that diverge from the dominant societal standards and norms. The term can be applied to people with minds that work differently than the social “normal” or “typical” mind. ADHD, depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia and learning disabilities can all be considered Neurodivergent.

To me, just the sound of this word is badass. I wanna be a Neurodivergent super hero, flying high above the skyscrapers, saving the metropolis from neuro-stupidity.

BUT in reality, these variations can create the need for support and I don’t want to discount that very real need. I want to… support it! People who honor Neurodiversity are aware and accepting of the way each individual body and mind work. Not only that, but they value it no matter if the person is disabled.

Back to my starry night analogy: would you say that because one star is a different shape or size, it’s wrong? Is one of the stars that makes up the constellation “Jon Snow” better than the one that makes up the constellation “Prince”? No, it’s not. Think about that for a minute 😉

So, why is this so important? Because when we work toward accepting a Neurodiverse community that respects autistic people as well as people with other intellectual differences or those that deviate from the social standard, we respect our community as a whole.

Diversity is everything. I think there are ways to embrace diversity while we work toward ways to immediately improve quality of life as well. Respect and support. Our social norms are so old and tired. Let’s be done with them, right?

Have you heard of this term? I know I’m just scratching the surface here so I’d love your comments!