The word Neurodivergent begs the question, “Divergent from what, exactly?”.
Neurodivergent describes an estimated 20% of humans who differ cognitively from Neurotypicality, which itself emerged to bypass the necessity of using the increasingly problematic term Normality, while essentially pointing to concept behind it.
Normality is a culturally constructed term which encompasses a broad range of characteristics that centre around a rarely-achieved Ideal of physical, intellectual and sociable characteristics.
The Ideal itself is biologically-based on evolutionary principles, but to some extent can be culturally defined; e.g some cultures value extroversion, others, introversion.
The boundaries of the normal range are fuzzy, and subject to contention. Small deviations from the normal range are often claimed as Identities. Large deviations are viewed as Disabilities. The boundary line between an identity and a disability is fuzzy, and will always be subject to disputation.
Why do we need NeuroDivergent? What’s wrong with Neurodiverse?
The adjective neurodivergent became necessary because the adjective neurodiverse is not logically meaningful. Neurodiversity has been a property of the biosphere since the evolution of sexual reproduction. It simply says that all human minds on the planet are necessarily different.
So all humans are neurodiverse!
It’s just that some of us have been excluded more than others for our divergence from the ideal.
Neurodiversity is a fact. TheNeurodiversity Movementis however an identity politics vehicle for people who were discriminated against for differing from the culturally-defined normal range.
There are degrees of difference of course. Thus “neurodivergence” shades from difference to disability, with a grey area in between.
Our Western free-market liberal culture tends to favour extroversion, sociability, competitiveness, self-promotion, lots of noise and buzz. We also tend to worship youth and fear and shun old age.
Other cultures favour introversion, introspection, quietness, modesty, and tend to respect age. Think traditional Chinese, Jewish and Indigenous cultures.
The latter cultures are eye-contact avoidant in various circumstances, considering it variously disrespectful of status, invasive or manipulative. From the point of view of egalitarianism, this is a good thing.
But rather naively, Western culture demands eye-contact as a verification of sincerity, when in fact it can easily be used as a tool of emotional manipulation by psychopaths and con-artists!
Cultures change all the time of course. Not so long ago, absent-minded professors were honoured in our culture, though perhaps we laughed at their eccentricities behind their backs. Then along came Dr Lorna Wing and Uta Frith. Before long, we could easily find our professors’ eccentricities dissected in the pages of the DSM IV Bible of Everything that could Possibly Be Wrong with the Human Mind.
And yet, from an evolutionary view, we have an expectation of a range of normal behaviours, based on our primeval survival needs as Homo Sapiens emerging from the African savanna.
We evolved as a dominant hierarchical species, and our responses are still primed for survival in the wild, with high general levels of physical fitness, problem-solving and sociability.
But do our advanced cultures still need the same “hard-wired” qualities for survival?
”The Neurodiversity Movement challenges the notion that we must all be generalists to survive. Neurodivergent people are often specialists with spiky ability profiles.
The biological reality is that as a species, our success has been based on the evolutionary imperative of role differentiation.”
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