It goes without saying that we are all different. We have different physical features, different personalities and traits, different beliefs, sexual orientations, opinions, IQs, and different ways of thinking. So why then do we pathologize neurological differences? Why do we treat conditions like DHD and autism as diseases that we need to cure? Sure, these conditions pose challenges to those who are affected, just like a person who has poor eyesight and a short person is affected. We all face challenges in different areas; our strengths and weaknesses are all different. There is so much variation in all facets of our lives. This is why I strongly believe that we need to push forth the idea of neurodiversity into our mainstream thinking.
What is Neurodiversity?
According to John Elder Robinson, author of My life with Aspergers, "neurodiveristy is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, nature variation in the human genome." This idea profoundly changes the way we view conditions that were traditionally pathologized. Although it is not widespread or widely accepted, it is increasingly supported by science. He goes on to say, "...science suggests conditions like autism have a stable prevalence in human society as far back as we can measure. We are realizing that autism, ADHD, and other conditions emerge through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental interaction; they are not the result of disease or injury."
Why is accepting Neurodiversity important?
Once neurodiversity is accepted as mainstream thinking, it will bring awareness and acceptance to the neurological differences spirited children and adults have. It will essentially "normalize" this variation. The feelings of shame, isolation, and low self-esteem that our spirited children so often experience will be minimized as a result of widespread understanding that no two people are the same. This widespread understanding that there are differences in our how our brains are wired and it is simply a matter of natural variation in our genes will empower those who feel isolated, and incapable. Once this notion of "normal" is eliminated, our spirited children will be better understood and accepted as the bright children that they are.
How do we promote neurodiversity?
It's simple. Talk about it with others. If you're an educator, introduce neurodiversity to your class. If you're a parent, talk about it with your children. Talk to your co-workers, your friends, and your family. If a well meaning family member talks about curing your spirited child with essential oils or a treatment they heard or saw in an ad, gently explain neurodiversity as a concept that embraces your child's neurological differences and that they are not ill, not broken, not diseased. Word of mouth is a powerful tool we forget we have. This is a simple way to make changes around you on a micro level.
What neurodiversity is not
While neurodiversity entails acceptance of neurological differences, it does not mean treatment and therapy are no longer needed. Just like a person with poor vision wears glasses, so too does a person with autism need therapy to strengthen their weak areas. Therapy and seeking treatment does not equate to the idea that something is broken and needs fixing. This idea is false and needs to be debunked in order to change our society's perspective on seeking help when it's needed. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help. Just like an athlete goes to the gym to strengthen their muscles. There is nothing innately wrong with their muscles. Their muscles are there, in all their form. Training to strengthen is something we do as humans; we strive to be the best version of ourselves. While it's important to embrace your spirited child's neurological differences, you also need to give them the opportunity to be functional, happy individuals by providing them with training, therapy, and education that helps them get there.