How To Survive The World If You Are Neurodivergent?

Let me share my own experience: As a girl diagnosed with ADHD back in college, I have had experienced much  difficulties in navigating the world of neurotypicals. From having best friends (and lovers) to keeping a job, I did struggle a lot just to survive this world. Particularly when I haven’t been diagnosed back in high school. I didn’t know my friends were starting to date and have relationships, while I was stuck on anime, dolls, and other childish stuff, thanks to my constant daydreaming. It came even worse when I became a nursing student, when my ADHD symptoms became apparent. I easily forgot nursing procedures (luckily, I did learn them in the long run before graduation), miss class discussions, and always wanders while having a conversation. From there, I was reffered to a psychiatrist and finally was diagnosed. But the symptoms still didn’t disappear even with medication (atomoxetine). Though my meds did control my ADHD symptoms a bit, my hyperfocus never disappeared, and that became a problem after college. I did hop from one job to another, thanks to my ADHD. The worst experience I had with this is the gross discrimination I had from my boss. Upon assessing for ADHD, I was immediately relieved form my nursing job just only because of my ADHD without considering my positive abilities.

Unfortunately, there are no laws in the Philippines that protects neurodivergent (someone with neurodiverse condotions like ADHD, autism, and the like) people against discrimination, so I usually end up jobless (and loveless). Fortunately, I currently have a part-time online job, but I am stay at home. I am also having recurring depression and anxiety.

This experience is really traumatic to the neurodivergent. Now, the question is, how to survive the world if you are neurodivergent like me?

First and foremost, you must know or be aware yourself (or your relative, child, friend, lover, etc.) that you have a neurodiverse condition or at least be diagnosed with it. Imagine how hard it is to live right without knowing what’s wrong with you. When I was finally diagnosed in 2007, I had least a relief about my symptoms (but I do suspect that I have dyspraxia/DCD and/or HFA/Asperger’s). However, if I was diagnosed earlier, I should have never took nursing as a profession due to high demands of concentration with patients and lots of routine activities. Unfortunately, ADHD was not so known in the Philippines during that time.

Like a stranger in the desert, a neurodivergent must navigate the desert of neurptypicals…

Without being aware of undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disabilities, a neurodivergent will never understand what’s going on with him or her and thus will have difficulty in making life choices from selecting a career to starting a relationship and/or family and so forth and wil have a high risk.of having depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or being chronically unemployed or divorced.

After awareness and diagnosis, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses. By being aware of your traits, you will know what type of jobs will be suitable for you and avoid jobs that might jeopardize yourself or other people. For example, an autistic loves long hours of work at computers but cannot hold long conversations, so he or she should not get jobs that require client communication like receptionist, social worker, or teacher. Instead, he or she should get jobs that require minimal to no client exposure like computer programmer, librarian, and the like.

Then, try to observe and study the ‘hidden’ social rules of neurotypicals. The social rules are nonverbal communication like body language, gestures, sarcasm, and figures of speech. Neurodiverse people usually cannot read and comprehend these social rules just like the way dyslexics cannot read letters. How is it done? It sounds like it’s very difficult especially for someone with ADHD like me and also for autistics. Here’s a tip: watch your favorite TV program and observe each character’s communication style and also how he or she acts. Still clueless? Read a psychology or social skills book and study all nonverbal communication and other social graces. I didn’t mean to exactly mimic neurotypicals. Just understand their perspective, and voila, you will be able to adjust a little to their world like a soldier planning a strategy to win a battle.

Ready, aim! By having a well-planned strategy, you will be able to win the battle for living with neurotypicals.

Get support. Your family and friends (true firends love you as you are no matter what) will understand and support you once they understand or become aware of your condition. Try also to join support groups with the same condition so that you get enough support and also tips on daily living as a neurodivergent.

Finally, believe in yourself that you can survive the neurotypical world. A positive thinking will boost your morale and move on with your life. Try also to pray for believers or try to meditate and/or self-reflect for non-believers to have a better understanding of yourself.

That’s all I can give on advice on survival of a neurodivergent. Lucky are you with enough awareness and support in the developed world. As for me here in PH (Philippines), awareness has begun only a decade ago and is only known in the medical field and the upper class, so I am trying to survive along with my mom (I think she has suspected ADHD, dyspraxia/DCD, and dyscalculia) using these tips above.

The earlier the identification and intervention of the neurodiverse conditions, the better will be the outcome and the potential of becoming successful in life.

P.S. We neurodivergent people have more ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and may solve the world’s biggest problems given enough support.

Posted from WordPress for Android


Wired Differently

I’m back. Last time, I introduced you what will I blog in this page. Now, I will define my topic. We sometimes encounter people who are weird in some ways and think and behave in a manner which deviates from normal. We usually refer to them as ‘wired differently’ or simply abnormal or ‘special.’ In the medical community, they are diagnosed with ‘learning disabilities.’ But not all of them agree with this concept. Instead, they advocate neurodiversity.

What? What’s that word again?

Neurodiversity. According to the definition in Wikipedia, neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that suggests that diverse neurological conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome.[1] This term was coined in the late 1990s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, and it asserts that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on a par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability status.[2] To make this definition a little less complicated, let’s just compare this to biodiversity. Like in ecosystems where there are diverse species of life forms from plants to animals, the same goes for humans who have brains wired differntly resulting in multiple intelligences and differing in the way of thinking.

But how is that? Of course people think differently. Each person is unique.

Err, what shall I say? Yes, each individual thinks differently, but what I mean is the way the brain develops from childhood to adulthood. Let me explain further.

Neurodiversity encompasses all people whose brains develop differently from the normal people. The development can be either delayed or advanced or deficient. People under neurodiversity are called neurodovergent. Neurodiversity include dyslexia (difficulty in reading letters), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (short attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (hyperfocus to detail, deficient in social skills), Tourette syndrome (involuntary body movement), developmental coordination disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia (difficulty in planning and coordinating movement), and dyscalculia (difficulty in reading numbers, or ‘dyslexia of numbers.’) These conditions are also collectively known as learning disabilities. On the other hand, people whose brains develop without these conditions stated above are called neurotypical.[3]

This concept has attracted controversy because it attacks the traditional notion that ADHD, ASD, and the like are disabilities that are needed to be fixed or cured, but rather, respect the differences in thinking as part of the normal human genome variation, just like the variations in human sexual orientation or variations in human physical appearances.

Neurodiversity is a concept akin to biodiversity or cultural diversity that recognizes neurological disorders as a natural human variation. Rather than looking for cures, neurodiversity advocates work to promote social support systems and spotlight the value of neurological differences, in the same vein as variations in learning styles or social tendencies like introversion and extroversion.[4]

In short, people under neurodiversity are just normal variations of the human specie, not an abnormality of some sort.

To illustrate this, the diagram of neurodiversity[7] by the late Mary Colley, author of Living With Dypraxia, is shown below:

That’s the presentation with the difficulties associated with those conditions. The following diagram[8] below shows the strength with each condition:

They’re really overlapping. Okay, I think you are somewhat getting the point, but who started and how did neurodiversity begin?

An autism advocate and an autist herself, Judy Singer, coined the term in 1990s as part of the autism advocacy campaign.[2] Another autism advocate, Jim Sinclair, wrote in his 1993 article “Don’t Mourn For Us” told parents that the autism itself cannot be separated from the person who is born with it, but rather part of the person itself.[5] The term neurodiversity appeared on Harvey Blume’s 1998 The Atlantic article where he said, “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind.”[6]

Since then, hundreds of people with otherwise neurotypical development have advocated neurodiversity as the way of being the way sub-Saharan Africans in the United States and LGBT communities have advocated their rights before. A lot of neurodiverse people have contributed to society whether be in art, science, politics, and so forth. However, people with neurodiverse conditions are still continued to be bullied, ridiculed, and abused in all walks of life from infancy to old age. That’s why they are prone to suffer from anxiety and depression. Nevertheless, neurodiversity campaign remains strong, and more neurotypical people are beginning to accept neurodiverse people as who they are, particularly in the Western World.

It’s a long way to go. They’re really wired differently, but the same members of the modern human specie Homo sapiens like us.

Next time, I will post about the different conditions under neurodiversity one by one, their presentation, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, advocacy, and some samples of people who have these conditions.


[1] Jaarsma P, Welin S (February 2011). “Autism as a Natural Human Variation: Reflections on the Claims of the Neurodiversity Movement” (PDF). Health Care Anal 20 (1): 20–30.
[2] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurodiversity.
[3] Sinclair, Jim (1998). “A note about language and abbreviations”. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06.
[4] http://www.pbs.org/pov/neurotypical.
[5] Autism Network International newsletter, Our Voice, Volume 1, Number 3, 1993.
[6] Blume, Harvey (September 30, 1998). “Neurodiversity”. The Atlantic. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
[7] http://joelgethinlewis.com/2013/05/23/self-storm-troopers-strongbox-neurodiversity-and-snowfall/
[8] http://www.geniuswithin.co.uk/infographics/neuro-diversity-venn-diagram/