When I first read about neurodiversity, a concept floating around in online Autistic communities, I felt a powerful sense of relief. The idea that Autism in particular was not quite as terrifying and world-ending as advertised had been on mind for many years as I saw my younger brother, diagnosed with ASD, excel in the areas of mathematics and music. I had been accused of ‘normalizing’ symptoms of Autism for years during my time working in early intervention. Why was I not more excited about physically restraining a three-year-old to prevent them from stimming? Reading about this neurodiversity thing felt like coming home. I was not alone anymore. Long story short, I never looked back.
As an adult with a lengthy diagnostic history, I feel a responsibility to act as a role model and support for children with similar diagnoses. As a clinician working with children and teens, I practice this by validating the challenges families face as a result of impairment effects while encouraging them to also value the strengths associated with their child’s diagnosis. It is my role to support the family in exploring and developing the strengths that I know exist. These have included vibrant creativity and artistic ability, an unwavering sense of justice, and a deep empathic connection with others. Are there possible downsides to these strengths? Of course but that does not mean we should employ interventions to eliminate them. Rather we should be working to help the next generation find a balance between what comes easy and what is hard, as well as helping the current generation understand that this really is the best way to support their children.
It is important for all neurodivergent people to discover, acknowledge, and celebrate the strengths of that divergence. We are not fragile, broken, or ‘damaged goods.’ We have unique strengths just as we have unique challenges.
This is the same for any human or other living creature. There is no shame in being different. These differences are a value added for ourselves, our loved ones, and our world.
Jordan is a licensed social worker in Ohio (USA). She speaks professionally at conferences and student organizations about neurodiversity, neuroinclusivity, and Autistic culture. She also offers customised staff trainings for a variety of organisations.