To justify why this is the place to put this content – Neurodiversity is something I engage with in the content of my artistic endevors and also think about when in the room working with others. I think neurodiversity is an necessary thing to consider with some gusto since we work in a very collaborative art form that I believe in its heart of hearts demands inclusivity.
What is neurodiversity?
In his book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Steve Silberman defines neurodiversity as “the notion that conditions like autism, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) should be regarded as naturally occurring cognitive variations with distinctive strengths that have contributed to the evolution of technology and culture rather than mere checklists of deficits and dysfunctions.”
I watched a video that was mentioned by the author, called “In My Language.” Amanda Braggs is the person that created it and is labeled as a “low-functioning autistic person.” Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnylM1hI2jc&t=317s. Please watch it.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was in second grade and had my first round with medication as a junior in high school. Even as someone who personally thinks naturally in a neuro-divergent way (ADHD) and is in relationship with many other ways of thinking that are also classified as neuro-divergent, I recognized some judgement in myself when watching this video (specifically in the first part). It’s not that I thought it was funny or stupid or worthless, but I made a judgement about ability. I was surprised by how well articulated Amanda’s translation was. This judgement is probably related to the judgment I have internalized about myself. I couldn’t read until second grade because I didn’t sound anything out, didn’t take words piece by piece, I processed things in larger chunks. Or something like that. I have been told many times growing up that I don’t make any sense. I was called “mentally retarded” by a teacher. I have been told over and over that I am the one that is dysfunctional. And I believed it. Because our society was built to privilege people who think a certain way. Privileging the actual process of thinking in addition to ideology. I have been fortunate enough to have teachers (Ilana Brownstein being one of them) to provide support and tell me that my thought process could be seen as a gift. While also being my habitual. Though habitual, my way of thinking does not have to function as an immobile piece of furniture. Despite this not being a new idea to me, this idea of gratitude for my thought process is just beginning to gain speed in me. This video sunk that idea deeper into personal unexplored territory. I value patience and open-mindedness in myself for other people. When I encounter ideological differences, I try to understand them. I am open to the idea that my truth is not the Truth. But because I was convinced that my habitual ADHD way of thinking was a problem and that this was the Truth, I did not expect that other people could possibly be the ones confused. Perhaps I am not as confused as I believed I was (though I don’t think there is anything wrong and believe in the ripe ground of confusion!). I say so often “I don’t know” and I do know! Sometimes! Perhaps, I am still figuring out how to translate. And I don’t mind learning how to do that. Personally. I also need to remind myself that relatively, I am considered a “high-functioning” person “dealing” with “ADHD.” Relatively I have more privilege in the neuro-divergent community in relation to the neuro-typical community.
When I think about my brother (who is diagnosed with schizophrenia), I wonder about his place in this movement of neurodiversity. In my very early stages of research on the movement I don’t see any mentions of schizophrenia being included. The person who cut my hair and gave me bangs told me that America is the only country in which people with schizophrenia consistently report having negative hallucinations. Is that because in other places and other cultures by brother’s way of thinking would be considered a gift instead of a curse? His difference would be celebrated and not sedated and buried until he himself is left muted but more tolerable? I consider my brother to be one of, if not the, smartest person I know. What is so crazy about shitting outside? There is something crazy about the fact that we shit in water that is actually (for a large percentage – I did a science fair project in second grade answering the question – Is Toilet Water Clean Enough to Drink?) clean enough to drink! Also if we shat outside we are giving nutrients back to the earth, it decomposes and helps trees, flowers, FOOD grow! It makes natural sense! But it is inconvenient and doesn’t align with our cultural ideal of cleanliness. Of “civilization.” Though I also want to credit that I get that cleanliness as an ideal developed in order to protect us from disease! Both are true. But does my brother need to be medicated for that? Perhaps? Because he was a danger to himself, THOUGH NEVER DID HE POSE A THREAT TO OTHERS. The most violent thing my brother did was break a plastic toy he got as a souvenir because he was angry with his past self for supporting tourism, so therefore supporting neocolonialism. He was going to die if he continued not eating and not paying attention to cars when crossing the street. But did he need to be medicated? Quarantined? Because he wasn’t acting in a way that would get him the things I or my family or culturally we’ve decided is important in life? His way of thinking frightened me because I didn’t understand it. I still don’t. And I don’t necessarily have to learn his language. But I and the neuro-typical American cultural collective mind have to stop expecting him to learn ours.
The book I mentioned at the beginning: https://www.amazon.com/NeuroTribes-Legacy-Autism-Future-Neurodiversity-ebook/dp/B00L9AY254