Neurodiversity, Disability, and Exceptionality

This six minute video of my convocation talk at Landmark College really encapsulates my thinking on neurodiversity.

We can have disability diagnoses, but we do not have to live as disabled people, thereby internalizing the idea we are "less" than others.  We can choose to live as neurodivergent people - using a term that springs from our own community - and recognize each of us has a mix of disability and exceptionality.

Watch the video and tell me what you think:

John Elder Robison


John, there’s another really helpful aspect of “neurodivergent” as a way of describing neurological differences. Not only does it capture both strengths and weaknesses, but in our current world, where many people believe that a diagnosis can capture everything about a person, “neurodivergent” isn’t trying too hard to match a real, living person to a set of DSM V criteria. My family on both sides is full of quirky people. Characteristics like synaesthesia and prosopagnosia sit alongside remarkable empathy, wisdom and social attunement in some of my relatives. Exuberant emotional warmth, and great conversational skills vie for airtime in others who have great difficulty thinking flexibly and considering others’ perspectives. There’s the scientist aunt who can write beautifully and spends her life thinking of and caring for others but can’t organise her way out of a paper bag, and the psychologist uncle who doesn’t really converse, he more or less imparts his “wisdom” at family gatherings. A cousin didn’t learn to read until he was eleven, then went on to obtain a Masters’ degree at 25. My people defy a specific diagnosis, and they have gifts that have led to great success. This is what I love about the neurodiversity movement. It just lets us be ourselves!
tresho said…
Here's a quote, a paraphrase, and a comment:

"When people say to you have ADHD or autism, what they are often thinking is: You are messed up, and you won’t amount to anything. That’s the stigma we talk about, right there in those people’s minds. "

Or, how about:

"When people say to you have X or Y, what they are often thinking is, You are messed up, and you won't amount to anything. That's the stigma we talk about, right there in those people's minds."

It is unreasonable for anyone to think they will not be stigmatized by some/most other people, some/most of the time. Call it the "human condition". This reminds me of the old childhood song: "Nobody like us, everybody hates us, think we'll go eat worms!"
Yes! All of the video resonated with me I was whopping with the audience! PARTICULARLY the last part: Disability is part of life for all of us, but disability comes to everyone eventually. Meanwhile, we're going to talk about our exceptionality while our disability remains where it belongs—in the background. It is simply the trade-off humanity makes for having exceptional people like us in the world.

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