The Infinite U


Neurodiversity: What does it mean and why it being used?

There is no one right way to think, behave, or be social. Just as ecological diversity is essential to the thriving of an ecosystem, neurological diversity is essential to the thriving of a human population. Individuality, different ways of processing information, unique approaches to problem solving, varying perceptions, and creativity are all aspects of being human.     

While "neurodiverse" refers to groups or systems, "neurodivergent" refers to individuals. Autism is only one form of neurodivergence. ADHD, learning differences, dyslexia, and bi-polar are also forms of neurodivergence. Whereas "autism spectrum disorder" or "learning disability," or "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder" pathologizes people according to their variations from mainstream neurology, neurodivergence attempts to differentiate neurological types, without valuing or devaluing one form over another.

The Infinite U also avoids using terms like "high functioning autism" or "low functioning autism." As explained in Neurotribes, bySteve Silberman, high functioning and low functioning are terms that date back to the Holocaust. Human lives were literally prioritized based on how much individuals were deemed to be able to "contribute" to the growth of society. If they were seen as able to contribute, it was more likely that their life would be saved. The others, were killed. When we continue to use these terms, we're equating human value with what a person can or cannot do. It's like neurotypical people in power saying: "You can manage in a mainstream classroom? Alright, you're allowed to exist." Or "You rely on pictures to communicate with others? Alright, you're done for." This has to stop.  

The terms neurodivergence and neurodiversity aim to promote acceptance and appreciation for neurological diversity, to metaphorically fling open the confining doors of "normalcy", and to expand who or what we are allowed to be as individuals. "Neurotypical" refers to mainstream neurology, a particular means of processing information, and understanding and adhering to mainstream expectations and social norms.

Who's to say that a common neurotypical behavior, such as pretending to be interested in what someone is saying, when in actuality, you're so bored and are fixated on creating an escape plan, is "polite", whereas saying "I'm not interested in what you are saying" is "rude?" Why is it that lying is preferable to honesty? Don't we teach kids that lying is "bad?" Isn't lying what has led to such immense corruption in government, religion, and many other big systems? 

If neurodivergent was the norm, and neurotypical was the outlier, neurotypicals might be known for being really needy/unable to be alone, lacking originality, liars, cheaters, deviants, and totally insensitive to their environment and others. If neurodiversity was embraced, we just might live in a world where tending to the Earth is prioritized, people tell the truth, difference is appreciated, original thought is valued, and sensitivity and empathy are seen as strengths that promote kindness, acceptance, and inclusivity. 

We all win when neurodiversity is embraced. We all get to think for ourselves, be authentic in who we are, express our creativity, be original, and have more freedom to be our innately gifted, quirky selves. We don't have to try so hard to fit in, to be like everyone else, or to hide the innate genius that we were born with.  

The world's problems need new, creative solutions, and it is essential that we value diverse ways of thinking and behaving. This is the only way we can move forward with creating a nation-and world- with greater harmony, love, and freedom for all living beings. 

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