Neurodiversity may sound like the name of a 1980’s kink club, but it is something very real that many people have without knowing!
Paul Martin is the Senior Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential.
Neurodiversity includes things like ADHD and Autism Spectrum. A large number of human brains are wired differently. The large proportion of neurodiverse LGBTQ+ people adds another layer of diversity to our communities.
But most people, often including the neurodiverse, don’t understand neurodiversity. That results in people trying to fit in with a ‘neurotypical’ world. People often respond negatively to behaviours that seem atypical. Growing up with this stigmatisation, shame and sense of exclusion can lead to psychological issues such as anxiety and depression. Our communities need to learn about, embrace and honour neurodiversity. Most of us can empathise. We have lived experience of exclusion because of difference.
Numerous myths surround neurodiversity including that people on the spectrum lack empathy. While true for some, others literally feel other people’s emotions. That can overwhelm them if they don’t dampen it down. At its core, autism is about an imbalance of skills, with some incredibly developed and challenges in other areas. There can also be some hyper and low sensitivities to sounds, textures and light.
Everyone on the spectrum is different to everyone else on the spectrum with some shared traits. This can include being ‘monotropic’, a remarkable capacity and interest in focussing on one thing for a very long time. Often at the expense of what other people think they should prioritise. Many people build incredible careers out of this. Challenges include not picking up nonverbal signals with communication. Many only understand words people say and therefore don’t understand nuances, ironic humour or take things literally. For high functioning people with autism, learning how to fit in with ‘neurotypicals’ often proves exhausting.
ADHD is another way that our brains can be diverse. This also comes with many myths and has its own positives. People with ADHD can be super focused on things they are interested in it. Many can feel that their lives are chaotic and blame themselves for negative patterns that include forgetting things, being impulsive and often being late. When a person is assessed and meet the criteria for ADHD, this can make all the difference. Their lives are often completely transformed just by taking the right medication.
Nature loves diversity
People can also benefit enormously from working with a psychologist who really understands neurodiversity. Some psychologists can do a ‘diagnosis’ and many can work with you to repair the damage unfairly done to you living in a neurotypical world. I long for the time when our society fully embraces all forms of diversity including brain wiring. As the grandfather of trans awareness, Milton Diamond beautifully said, “Nature loves diversity. Unfortunately, people hate it.”
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