Different, Not Defective: Celebrating Neurodiversity in a Neurotypical World.
Being Neurodiverse in a society designed for Neurotypical individuals can often feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Societal norms and expectations may not align with the way our minds work, leading to a host of challenges. I have experienced this firsthand, having only been diagnosed with Neurodivergence in my early 50s after a problematic school, university, and working life.
I want to address the words we use to describe Neurodivergence. I find being called “Neuro-DIVERGENT” triggering and unpleasant. The term has connotations of being inadequate, insufficient, bad, inferior, and flawed, which I find objectionable. While “Neurodivergent” is the correct medical and grammatical term, I prefer to use “Neurodiverse” to describe myself and my pupils. Technically, all people are Neurodiverse, and one person is Neurodivergent from the norm. I also sometimes use the abbreviation ND, which can cover both Neurodiverse and Neurodivergent.
Navigating a world tailored to Neurotypical minds can be overwhelming for Neurodiverse individuals. Our brains are structured differently in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in Executive Functioning issues.
Executive functions include working memory, attentional control, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, planning, and organization, all of which are involved in the planning, initiation, and regulation of goal-directed behaviour.
As a result, we may struggle with the everyday functions required of adults. Our differences can result in feeling misunderstood or excluded, as our actions and reactions may be perceived as disruptive or odd. Unfortunately, this can lead to being judged, stigmatized, or even ostracised.
But being Neurodiverse is more than just struggles. Our quirks, creativity, and unique thinking are beautiful, and our unique perspectives and cognitive styles enable us to approach problems and situations with a fresh, creative outlook.
We often possess exceptional art, music, writing, or problem-solving abilities, and we can contribute meaningfully to the world through our gifts.
One of the joys of being Neurodiverse is the ability to think in unconventional ways, which can lead to innovative solutions and ideas that might be overlooked by Neurotypical individuals. For example, people with Dyslexia, like myself, excel in spatial reasoning, while those on the autism spectrum may possess great attention to detail.
We must focus on nurturing these strengths and channelling them into areas where they can thrive.
I do have a ‘big idea’, creative thinking part of my brain, which is linked to my Dyslexia #DyslexiaThinking. That said, due to my ADHD, I also have the ability to ‘hyperfocus’ and go down a rabbit hole. This is something that I have learned to harness and use to my advantage in business when working on projects. My Autism gives me the ability to show extraordinary attention to detail.
Embracing our Neurodiversity is crucial to harnessing our full potential. To do this, building supportive environments that cater to our unique needs is essential. This might involve seeking out alternative learning methods, implementing flexible work arrangements, or finding social spaces that are inclusive and understanding.
As we move forward, we must work together to create a world that appreciates and accommodates Neurodiversity. By recognizing our differences as strengths and not just obstacles to overcome, we can create an inclusive society where everyone can flourish.
Let’s celebrate the square pegs, and instead of trying to force them into round holes, let’s make space for all shapes and sizes. Don’t knock off your corners to try and fit, as those corners are the best bits of you! As A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh, “The things that make me different are the things that make me, me!”
If you want to reach out to me, please connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jmbeducationalservicesltd/, and we can continue the discussion.