If you had asked me even ten years ago what Neurodiversity meant I would not have been able to tell you. Which is surprising really because for my entire life I have not been neuro typical – I just didn’t know it.
As far as I was concerned I was completely ‘normal’. You see if you are neuro typical you are considered normal but if you stray at all from that criteria you are labelled as ‘less than’ – not normal. I now know that I am unique as we all are. Normal is as outdated as misogyny – or should be.
When I became a parent I became acutely aware of the differences between some of my family. I have a son who has ADHD and a daughter who was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety by the time she was four years old. Some suggested she was too young for these so called labels, however our family knew – and lived with – the huge differences between her and her peers for years to come.
She is now a mother and still has anxiety and social phobia. She also has a great understanding and compassion for the misunderstood and marginalised.
My son with ADHD was ostracised, criticised, mistreated and ignored by the professionals who should have been able to offer reliable and constructive advice on the differences between my son and his older brothers. This ignorance, overly medicated and dismissal of my son’s behaviours also resulted in him being sexually assaulted in primary school – a long story which I will not detail.
For myself as a child, all we knew about autism was it meant some kids didn’t talk, made strange sounds and waved their hands around – that is all we were told by adults at the time. What I wasn’t aware of is I was on the autism spectrum myself and had/have Sensory Processing Disorder.
I would like to make it clear I am on the milder end of both. I point this out because those who are very high on the spectrum are in need of considerably more acceptance, inclusiveness and accommodations.
The revelation of my being on the spectrum did not become clear to me for decades. All of my ‘quirks’ were always attributed to weirdness, stubbornness, misbehaviour, rebelliousness – you get the drift.
My mother suffered severe depression and anxiety and my father suffered social phobia. My niece battles with depression and anxiety and her children are both on the autism spectrum.
So what exactly is neurodiversity? For those who accept the concept, it is proposed that people with differences such as autism, do not need to be cured, rather, they need acceptance and accommodation instead.
For example, (one of many) this concept is widely accepted in cases of acquired brain injuries. My mother suffered a cerebral haemorrhage when she hit her head on a tree branch and fell back on the concrete. She was left with permanent brain damage, through months of rehab she slowly learned how to walk, talk, feed herself, toilet herself and many other daily activities most of us take for granted. However she can no longer drive, she cannot articulate herself as well as she would like, suffers a high level of anxiety, has major balance issues along with various other issues. All of these things are dealt with by providing assistance and making accomodations for her circumstances.
When you can accept my mum’s situation it should be easier to understand that someone on the autism spectrum, ADHD or a myriad of other ‘differences’ – need acceptance and accomodations – which may or may not include therapies to accommodate that persons needs.
We are still in this day and age being stifled by those who resist change and acceptance, They would rather bash a gay person, belittle an autistic person, laugh at the ADHD kid and generally make complete dicks of themselves.
The world is changing though. Parents of neuro diverse children are standing up and demanding equality – and not a moment too soon.
I am not an expert (is anyone?!) but I can share my experiences and I hope to be able to share some guest posts on this subject in the future.
When I write about myself being on the spectrum, it was my current doctor (a new up to date professional) who made me aware of the problems it caused me in the past, particularly with my father and schooling. I have managed over the years to accommodate and accept my diversity. However society has not and that rejection for want of a better word has exacerbated my suffering with bipolar.
For me, the concept of neurodiversity has no relation to my psychiatric illness which may seem at odds with what I am writing about.
I do not accept that my hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis, hearing voices and wanting to self harm is simply Neurodiversity – it’s a psychiatric illness requiring treatment in the same way a person may require a heart bypass.
If you wish to learn more about this subject other than my future personal experiences, I will leave some links below which explore the for and against the concept – they will give a greater insight than I have been able to.
Remember – we are unique, we all have our quirks, we also have many commonalities and should facilitate the diversity we all bring to society. We have differences – not deficits.