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The Neurotypical

You heard it. The term neurotypical. This is familiar among neurodiverse people (especially with autistics). But what exactly is the word neurotypical and what does this term imply to neurodiversity?

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Neurotypical or NT, abbreviation for neurologically typical is is a neologism originating in the autistic community as a label for people who are not on the autism spectrum.[1][2] The term eventually became used for anyone who does not have atypical neurology. In other words, this refers to anyone who does not have conditions such as autism, dyslexia, developmental coordination disorder, or ADD/ADHD.
This term is also used by the scientific community.[1]

In short, neurotypical means the ‘usual’ human being with typical neurodevelopment. They are also called normal.

How do you know if someone (or you yourself) is neurotypical?

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First of all, NTs comprise 99% of the world’s population. It means they’re everywhere. While neurodiverse people are only 1% of the population. Chances are, there is an NT in your family.[3]

You can tell if someone (or you yourself) is an NT by having (some or) all of these traits[3]:

First, an NT loves to have small talk or chit-chat. It means light talk or simple conversation that includes trivial topics like the weather, showbiz, gossip, etc. This ability is crucial to have rapport or to build ‘bonding’ with another person. For the neurodiverse, small talk is boring and considered nonsense.

Second, NTs love to ‘avoid honesty’.[4] This is how it works: when someone asks them about her appearance, the NT says she’s fine even if in fact she’s ugly. In fact, they love flattery even if it is really a lie. When feeling bad, they will tell you they’re okay when actually it’s not. For the neurodiverse, this is just confusing as you tell a thing when in fact you’re thinking of its opposite. In short, NTs love sarcasm.

Third, NTs are obsessed with social status. Typically, NTs want to beat their fellowmen when it comes to trends, may it be fashion, travel, luxuries, or sexual conquests, they want to be the ‘winner’. For the fellow NTs, these trends are like contests. Whenever they have more facebook fans or wear the latest fashion, they love to brag about it in public. However, if they see another NT who’s more ‘in’ than them, they will envy them.

Fourth, NTs are approval seekers. Though it seems like it’s insecurity in a sense, they love to have validation from others to keep them going. It’s not that all NTs are insecure, but most of them do want approval from peers.

Fifth, NTs have herd mentality. Wherever one NT is, the others follow. Let’s give an example: ‘trending activities’ on social media. From making duck faces to ice bucket challenge and even sexting, NTs just follow these trends even if some of these trends may seem stupid to the neurodiverse. Also, when one NT has a new app or gadget, every other NT follows her. And they too have to be similar to their fellow NTs in their behavior. For example, when it comes to peer pressure, NT teens usually have to conform just to be socially acceptable to the herd, not matter what the outcome is, whether they become sober, or they accidentally become pregnant or have an STD. But when they see a neurodiverse or fellow NT doing things that deviates from the ‘normal’ herd, they usually bully, make fun, or mock the neurodiverse. As for the NT, they have to follow the herd; otherwise, they will be left alone.

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Join us and be cool! Leave us and you suck!

Sixth, NTs are solitude intolerant. How is that? While most neurodiverse people enjoy solo time to think or rest, most NTs get bored or become depressed when alone. They cannot live by just themselves only. They seek companionship wherever they go. That is why it’s common for them to find another date right away following a breakup from a relationship, though they haven’t really moved on from their exes. You can spot an NT from a neurodiverse by their history of past relstionships. An NT usually has 4 relationships and up plus a number of flings, fucking buddies, and other casual partners whereas a neurodivers has 2 or less relationships and a few to no flings or casual sex partners or may be a virgin. It’s not that all NTs are promiscuous, but most of them do.

And lastly, NTs are silence intolerant. They cannot stand to be silent for a long time; they need energy from people. NTs do want to spend most of their time with peers and be noisy whereas ASD folks enjoy being quiet and alone doing stuff.

Actually, there is a full ‘description’ of neurotypical syndrome, a parody made by the autistic comunity. You can follow this link here.

Disclaimer: This is only an opinion and these NT traits do not apply to all people. Some neurodiverse people like those with AD/HD do have these traits also. This article is for comparison of people with typical development against people with autism spectrum disorders.

Reference:
1. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurotypical
2. Sinclair, Jim (1998). “A note about language and abbreviations”. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
3. http://musingsofanaspie.com/2013/01/10/what-is-neurotypical/
4. http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Neurotypical_syndrome

Further reading:
1. http://isnt.autistics.org/
2. http://www.theneurotypical.com/
3. http://actingnt.blogspot.com/2014/08/neurotypical-syndrome-played-straight.html
4. https://www.reclaiming.com/content/node/221

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Neurodiversity? Disability or Variety?

I was (and even now) wondering why someone with neurodiverse conditions (ADHD, dyslexia…) are considered disabled? Except of course for those with classic autism or with severe Tourette’s, the rest who are more able to function independently (high-functioning autism, dyspraxia…) are unfortunately labeled as ‘disabled’ or ‘abnormal.’ Medically speaking, neurodiversity is called neurodevelopmental disorders or even developmental delays. For example, someone with dyspraxia cannot learn to crawl at a certain age (I think it’s between 9 and 12 months), but what they don’t notice is that there are cases where dyspraxic toddlers may not crawl at all but they learn to walk ahead. Unfortunately, the medical community seems not noticing these.

I may think of a hypothesis where neurodiversity evolved to be ‘specialists in thinking’ so that humans may grow and progress. That’s because some of the most clever people in history have neurodiverse conditions.

Huh? But how is that? Neurodiverse children spend time on SPED schools, and adults are usually unemployed or underemployed. What does this mean?

What I mean is that the higher-functioning neurodiverse people are able to think ‘outside the box’ or  unusual from the neurotypical (normal, mainstream brain development of most people). I’ll give you an example: a neurotypical child in a science classroom may think of the process of photosythesis (how plants make food using the sunlight), whereas an ADHD child may stare out of the window and think what may happen in photosynthesis if the weather is cloudy and should think of a way for the plants to make food even if it’s cloudy.

Sounds great, right? ADHD kids usually think of some ways to solve various problems. Unfortunately, teachers usually see that as a distraction from the discussion. (Inattention symptoms of ADHD).

Here’s another example: an autistic teenage boy will spend time on computer mastering computer programming and may even create new computer programs. Isn’t it very innovative? And productive? Whereas, your normal teenage boy will only spend hours on the computer watching porn.
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Oh boy! This lad has more productiveness and will be a big help to you more than this ‘normal’ guy below.

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Oh yeah…

But here’s the problem.

Thanks to medicine, we have sought help for the developmentally delayed through therapies. However, thanks also to medicine (and popular culture too) that they have made the neurodiverse disabled by not adhering to ‘normal’ development (aka ‘cool’).

Medicine? Well yes. Remember there is a medical model of disability for neurodiversity where the deficits of neurodiverse conditions are given more attention rather than the strengths (i.e. ADHD’s hyperactivity vs hyperfocus), which makes them more disabled and nonfunctional and also makes them immature. (What?)

On the side of pop culture, well, this is very obvious like making the autistic nerd and the clumsy dyspraxic laughable. At a glance, this is funny, but in reality, it’s bullying.

Sadly, the modern world seem to discriminate neurodiverse people quickly and do not appreciate their strengths and their contribution to humanity.

Here’s the thing. Autistic minds are linear and can systematize facts for analysis of problems. ADHD brains are impulsive to be ready for flight or fight for survival. Dyscalculics have strong intuition. These brains helped propelled human civilizaition and evolution.

Instead of pathologizing neurodiverse conditions, these should be part of the human ecosystem. Remember the environmental ecosystem with different living things? The same goes with human brains. There should be variety in the food chain. Otherwise, if only same species remain, the ecosystem will be imbalanced and has the high risk of destruction and even extinction. If we homo sapiens continue to endorse neurodiversity as adisability, then, chances are, we might face extinction as well.

Immaturity? Why won’t we call that neoteny instead? According to scientists Gould and Montagu[1], neoteny is a positive trait towards evolution because the longer the childhood, the longer for brain development and the higher chances of thinking innovation.

Neoteny?

According to educator Armstrong[2], neoteny means “holding youth” and refers to people who act younger than their age. That doesn’t necessarily mean selfish and self-centeredness. This means curiosity, playfulness, curiosity, humor, creativity, sensitivity, and wonder[3], that are essential in the ever-changing world. All these traits should be valued for us to move forward.

Well, anyway, I think aside from awareness and management, neurodiversity needs acceptance as well as difference, not disability.

Sources:
1. http://heartsatplay.com/neurodiversity-play-and-the-so-called-adhd-child-2/
2. http://institute4learning.com/blog/2013/08/30/neurodiversity-play-and-the-so-called-adhd-child/
3. http://institute4learning.com/blog/2012/08/20/neoteny-the-lost-fountain-of-youth-rediscovered/

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