The Neurotypical Standard of Society
Let's start with defining a few terms.
Neurodiversity: Coined by Judy Singer in 1998, this term recognizes that every individual's brain develops differently. The term covers all people from those who would classify as neurotypical to neurodivergent. Similar to how no two people have the same fingerprint, no two people have the same brain. Therefore, we are all neurodiverse with our own unique neurotype (the way your individual brain experiences the world).
Neurotypical: those who function within the major societal standard and are categorized as a part of the societal "norm" in social functioning, interactions, communication, and ease of adjustment to surroundings.
Neurodivergent: those who struggle to adapt to these societal standards due to a various range of reasons (examples: executive functioning, social interaction, tendency toward overwhelm, sensory sensitivity, accommodations, disability, cognitive functioning, cultural needs, mental health diagnoses, and more).
Some examples: Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are neurodivergent. So are those with ADHD, Autism, and dyslexia.
That said, neurodivergence is not a disability. It is simply a different existence and intake of the world that requires appropriate accommodations. Once the individual finds the appropriate accommodations to match their individual brain's functioning, they are able to find success in survival and meeting their own needs.
Therapy with a neurodiversity affirming therapist can help with:
Learning about your unique neurotype, including what I like to call learning about every page of your own "operation manual"
Learning how to make adjustments in your life and/or ask for accommodations in areas of your life that would align better with your neurotype and level of functioning
Learning how to set boundaries
Learning how to recognize your own limits and limitations
Learning to communicate your limits and limitations to others to create a more peaceful and enjoyable life experience
The current concerns revolve around the lack of awareness in our world about neurodiversity in general. Our world caters to those who are neurotypical. From birth, the messaging we receive is for those who are neurotypical. In order to find accommodations for our unique needs, we have to seek it out. It's not assumed to look at every individual as a unique entity, and I often wonder if we even have the time and resources to do that from childhood. However, we can start by teaching children of any age to learn more about their uniqueness so they are equipped with adapting the world to meet them instead of adapting themselves to meet the world.
Even past childhood, adults are also groomed to fit into the neurotypical mold. I have worked with countless adults who show up to therapy thinking something is "wrong" with them instead of wondering if something is "wrong" with the way the world functions instead. They may wonder why it's so difficult for them to work 80 hour weeks when others seem to do so gracefully. They may wonder why it's challenging to attend holiday parties where they don't know anyone and feel overwhelmed. They may even wonder why it's hard for them to go to the gym the way other people do or walk the aisles at a grocery store without having a panic attack.
These are all signs of neurodivergence, that do not signal any deficit or concern for capability or competence. They are signs that this individual has yet to learn about their own operation manual and figure out how to make adjustments to meet their own needs instead of conforming to societal standards of what is expected for a successful adult individual.
You do not have to be able to function in a highly competitive work environment with long work hours and little rest to be successful. You do not have to be the social butterfly at the holiday party to be likable. You also don't have to ever go to a grocery store with the technology we have today. Gyms aren't the only option for fitness. We can find alternatives and accommodations for all of these things once we start to accept and nurture ourselves for our differences instead of comparing ourselves to the standard of adultness that our neurotypical model has created.
My wish for every person is to figure out more about themselves. Some questions to ponder to start learning more about your operation manual:
What types of environments overwhelm you?
What sensory experiences irritate you compared to sensory experiences that energize you?
Are you a verbal processor or more of an internal processor when it comes to communication?
Are you a quick decision maker or do you need time to sit with your thoughts before making a decision?
Do you take time to warm up to people or are you easy to relate to quickly?
Are you more logical and analytical in your thinking or more emotional and relational?
Do you enjoy physical touch or do you prefer people not enter your bubble?
Do you like one on one conversations more than group settings?
Do you get overwhelmed easily? Do you get irritable easily? What might contribute to those emotions?
How do you recharge best? What specific actions do you take to recharge?
Do you do well at asking others for help or do you prefer to keep things to yourself?
Do you enjoy being the center of attention or do you prefer to stay out of the spotlight?
What types of work environments help you to focus?
Have you been checked out by a doctor recently? Bloodwork? Do you have food sensitivities or allergies that you need to be aware of?
Have you ever had a psychological assessment or met with a therapist or psychiatrist? If that's not accessible to you, have you tried any self-tests for ADHD or Autism (it is completely valid to self-diagnose to better understand yourself)? (Autism self test: https://embrace-autism.com/autism-tests/)
Stay curious about yourself.