Neurodivergence: Disability or Just Different?
“Jatin has autism. Mehek has a learning disability. Sanket suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
Imagine if we did this with cultural differences (“People from Holland suffer from altitude deprivation syndrome”) or racial differences (“Eduardo has a pigmentation disorder because his skin isn’t white”). We’d be regarded as racists. Yet with respect to the human brain, this sort of thinking goes on all the time under the aegis of “objective” science.
There is no standard brain. We have to regard individual differences from the standpoint of a diversity model. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences. Dyslexics often have minds that visualize clearly in three dimensions. People with ADHD have a different, more diffused, attentional style. Autistic individuals relate better to objects than to people. The human brain works more like an ecosystem than a machine. It isn’t hardware or software. It’s wet-ware. And it’s messy.
We need a new field of neurodiversity that regards human brains as the biological entities that they are and appreciates the vast natural differences that exist from one brain to another regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood, and other important mental functions. Instead of pretending that there is hidden away in a vault somewhere a perfectly “normal” brain. We’re all just a few hallucinations, speech patterns, and genes away from schizophrenia.
And the schizophrenic is just a few typical perceptions, clear conversations, and genes away from normality. This is an important principle, because it helps to destigmatize individuals with neurologically based mental disorders. There is a tendency among us human beings to take people with diagnostic labels and put them as far away from ourselves as possible. A lot of the suffering that individuals with mental disorders go through is a result of this kind of prejudice. Knowing that we’re all connected to each other just like ecosystems means that we need to have a far greater tolerance for those whose neurological systems are organized differently from our own.