What Does It Mean To Be Neurodivergent?
Being neurodivergent is not the same as a disability. However, it can be associated with a disability because they may need accommodations and services at school or work. The difference is how the brain works and processes information compared to what is considered "typical." Examples of a few types of neurodivergent conditions include autism, attention/deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome. Read the article below in preparation to discuss, "Neurodivergent Does Not Mean Disabled."
The Girl Who Said No:
Did you feel sorrow for this young man? I understand, but I am kind of tired of it and it is atypical to feel sorrow for someone when rejected for a date. It sucks, I know, especially in front of a crowd! We can all empathize, but that is not the reason that these types of stories make the press. It is due to the suitor being neurodivergent along with being rejected. Why single them out this way? No one wants to feel the embarrassment of rejection, let alone in public. Especially if one is neurodivergent; spotlight on you the majority of the time, even your personal life.
I am positive that the perception of despair, due to being rejected, is the reason the students showered him with kindness afterwards. The teens had their hearts in the right place and that is commendable, but let's view this situation from the young woman's side of the story. Do we want to guilt her into saying yes due to his condition? What did she learn from this situation? That she should have said yes because something is wrong with her for telling him? Or, feel so much compassion about his condition that she will feel compelled to say yes to him? If you answered no to these questions, I agree with you and so does this young man's mother. His peers, however, "may" have made this young lady feel badly for saying no, but there is no reporting of support for her or her response in the press. My guess is that she was probably embarrassed and quite possibly sad about this situation going viral. Collectively, we teach teenagers that, "No means no" and there is no shame in being firm in that decision. When "no" is given to someone who is neurodivergent, why the outpouring of empathy? Who not give the same type of response to any young man is rejected? Better yet, why highlight these stories in the press? I read just about one news article per week at minimum, about a neurodivergent teenager being treated differently by others due to a disappointing event occurring to them at school. Life is full of disappointments and learning to cope with them is a life lesson. Not, everyone will celebrate "me" when I encounter uncomfortable situations, obstacles, and opposition to my personal desires. On the other hand, we also do not need young women feeling bad about saying no!
Did You Know...
Neurodivergent is Not a Disability? Sure it may qualify some individuals for services, accommodations, and other assistance. However, life happens and we have a responsibility to treat neurodivergent individuals "typical" in those situations. If our minds are geared toward lower expectations, then we set them up for failure. For example, a parent who continuously allows a neurodivergent child to misbehave shapes the child to learn that negative behaviors are acceptable. Pertaining to the article, for every disappointment that this young man will have in life, we need to show him that he can recover on his own. Not that he asked for all of the sorrow and support, but it happened due to his condition. Instead, increase a neurodivergent individual's social communications skills in preparation for these disappointing situations, as his mother mentioned in the article. This will help neurodivergent individuals more than singling them out when upsetting life events occur to them. Here are 5 tips to replace pity with understanding how to provide support for neurodivergent individuals.
1) Private Conversations
The impact of your behavior can be hurtful. Do not devalue neurodivergent individuals by using your pity to "help them." One of the best things that you can do is to have private conversations instead of public ones. In the aforementioned situation, why would this young man want the public to focus on his rejection? Of course, the outpouring of love was wonderful, but now we all know that he was rejected. Not to mention, being a teenager is already difficult without have a young woman turn you down publicly. Personal, one-on-one conversations are helpful with practicing social communication skills in preparing for big days, such as the one above in the article which can also provide increased confidence, support, and reassurance in their decisions.
2) Neurodivergent Guilt
Do not provide a crutch when a crutch is not needed by you. To combat this error is to stop being critical. Your perception of neurodivergent individuals may be wrong; guides your thoughts., and then your actions. In return, you can make this person feel fundamentally flawed because they cannot meet your expectations. When you seem to celebrate negative outcomes, as the one in the article, it may feel positive in the moment for you to choose the type of support that you believe they need, but did you ask them? Your choice is about your own pity based upon your perception of what that person needs in that moment. Why? Because you see the atypicality first, then the person. I am the opposite: I see the person first then their needs based upon what they tell me. This is how I remain positive minus sorrow when life happens to them. It allows me to focus on the person and not their condition. It also means that this person feels "typical."
3) What They Feel Versus What You Assume
Well, we all know the cliche about assumptions. It is not about your feelings, but how you deal with them toward others. Know and understand how damaging premeditated thoughts can be toward others. Neurodivergent individuals may not feel the way that you think that they do. Instead, ask them their thoughts or what helps them to determine the best course of action in situations. Your beliefs influence how you perceive neurodivergent individuals and assume about how they perceive the world. It may not make sense to you, but there is no need in making them feel inadequate or believing that your way is best. Sometimes, increasing the self-esteem of someone neurodivergent can be challenging but most have a positive self-image of themselves. Let's not change that because, for example, they need to behave a certain way based upon your rules and expectations. In other words, don't compare them to you.
4) Stop the Judgments
This will cause them to hide and feel shameful. Behaviors are not linear and the judgment will cause neurodivergent people to hide their authentic personalities. Being neurodivergent is not a flaw; they are not broken or incomplete people who are nonhuman. Sometimes we forget that neurodivergent people are, in fact people with human rights. Your persistent need in trying to change them by insisting on, for example, sustained eye contact in conversations or defining their behavior based upon your standards rather than their individuality is hurtful. "Variety is the spice of life," is what my grandfather use to say about societies expectations versus individual differences. We do not need to determine what is valuable about others through our views. Your perception should not guide what should be discarded or developed to matched your expectations. You need a full understanding of a situation before action. You may be taking unnecessary pity in a way of devaluing the ability to process situations of neurodivergent people. I am asking you to be careful of the ways in which you treat the neurodivergent differently. They are atypical, but in this situation it smacks as a kind of pity that is harmful than helpful. Pity cannot be hurtful; that's not contributing to their growth, or development.
5) Stop Babying Them
I really do want to scream, "stop it" about treating the neurodivergent as if they need to be coddled. Even neurodivergent toddlers need structure and discipline over denial and acceptance of poor behaviors. Pampering in difficult situations is not always the best choice for support. The world will not always affectionately help the neurodivergent, and if you treat them this way as children, they will internalize that this response is (worldly) acceptable. Instead, show concern with empowerment and not with coddling or baby talk which makes them feel stupid. Actually, that response toward them is annoying to them, and does not teach them survival skills or slow down your speech. Their resiliency and vocabularies are far more expansive than ours and you are belittling them by automatically thinking that they are not intelligent enough to learn and/or grasp rules, expectations, and understand your natural language.
Being neurodivergent does not mean a developmental delay. You may, at times, need to use a lower tone for "some" individuals with autism for example, but that is due to sensitive hearing and not low intelligence. Do not assume incompetence and change your behavior based upon their condition. From the "typical," this is a degrading behavior and sometimes, parenting is the problem in this situation. Some parents of neurodivergent children treat them as if they are "different" with their own compensating behaviors (i.e., speaking for them, cutting them off mid-sentence, using infantile speech, teaching structure, and loose discipline). In other words, they overly compensate for neurodivergent children when it is not always necessary especially when their speech is intact. These behaviors come from a place of care and concern, but it is also a type of ignorance. To a neurodivergent person, being kind in the face of ignorance is easier than trying to educate. However, they do talk badly about you once you leave their presence due to your degrading behaviors toward them! So, "stop it."
I see you. Are You Neurodivergent? Comment Below.