When I was getting my undergrad, I took Composition 2 with a delightfully awkward yet thought-provoking woman named Tina. In class one day, she shared a story about being out with a colleague who once noted that she opened her bananas “wrong.” Rather than grab the stem of the banana and peel it back, Tina would pinch the bottom of it open and peel it there. She made a point of telling her colleague that her method was different, but it shouldn’t be called wrong. She continued that most primates open their bananas this way, and she found it compelling. The next time I got a banana, I tried peeling it this different way. I’ve been doing it that way ever since!
So, as we’re talking about neurodivergence this month, why am I sharing a story about peeling bananas? Quite simply, this distinction between different and wrong has stuck with me for many years, and I feel it’s important to remember when considering the neurodivergent experience. The term “neurodivergent” has come from the related term “neurodiversity,” one coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer to recognize the different ways our brains can develop. By focusing on the diversity in brain development, Singer wanted to move from models that concentrate on terms like “normal” and “abnormal.” In other words, she wanted space to recognize that brains can often function differently than what we consider typical. For more information on neurodiversity, I suggest starting with this website from the Cleveland Clinic.
So why is it important to remember that neurodivergence is different and not wrong? Simply put, because it is true! As a society, we often focus on the typical way of acting or getting things done as the “right” way, which means anything outside of that typicality becomes “wrong.” People who are part of the neurodivergent experience are keenly aware of this. This feeling of being “wrong,” of not fitting in with the “typical” experience, often becomes an identity. “I acted wrong” and “I did that the wrong way” over time becomes the overwhelming message of “I am wrong.” The price of this belief for the neurodivergent person is steep – shame, guilt, and depression are just some of the possible outcomes.
However, if we allow space for the neurodivergent experience to be different instead of wrong, we can begin to dismantle this continued shade of “normal vs. abnormal.” The benefits of neurodiversity are vast, and more and more people are starting to embrace them. We need the unique perspectives, the creative solutions, and the challenges to the “typical” way of doing things that neurodiversity brings! We need continued support to normalize the neurodivergent experience rather than minimize it. No one should be left out or made to suffer because of differences. If you or a loved one needs support in your neurodivergent experience, we at Heartland Therapy Connection would love to be there for you! Feel free to reach out today or call us at (816) 287-0252 to schedule an appointment.
We look forward to meeting with you!