Neuro diversity in me and others
I know I have posted a bit before about neuro diversity and since that time I have thought a lot about it, done some reading up, talked quite a bit about it with friends and I thought I would put down my thoughts, as a way of trying to pin down where I am at with it.
I find that if I ever mention ADHD quite often I am met with the rejoinder “ oh that’s really fashionable at the moment, everyone is being diagnosed with it” which I have found a rather annoying dismissal of something which is actually being increasingly recognised.
I think my considered answer (on neuro diversity rather than just ADHD) would be that our society and our school system is a tight funnel, based on the neuro typical person. Anyone who hasn’t fitted into that has been given a label as a problem/ disorder such as ADHD. However I believe that those labelled are merely outliers on the spectrum, there are plenty more of us, especially females who keep quiet and keep our differences under wraps. This is starting to be increasingly recognised for example as females with autistic traits who slip under official radar by their skill at masking. I would argue that the definition of “neuro typical” is actually quite narrow and that there are lots of us out there whose behavior / skills / traits cover a much wider spectrum. I don’t see myself as having a disorder or a problem, I don’t want a diagnosis or label, I don’t want special help or allowances or stuff like that but it is really, REALLY helpful to recognise what I am really like. I am at the extreme ends of some of the spectrums of “normal” and it just makes life more…navigable, easier to negotiate when I know my quirks and needs, rather than trying to hide or mask my differences. And through identifying traits in a member of my family, I have been unable to avoid recognising the same stuff in myself and also in some of my friends. (Birds of a feather, flock together!)
Unlike one of my offspring who has always been themself, slightly different to the rest of us, my differences have been masked and tamped down for much of my life.
Looking back I recognise old “bad habits” reappearing once I started going to art classes. Old traits of messiness and disorganisation. My ex husband once pointed out that every single cupboard door in the kitchen stood open…. I was blissfully unaware. I used to feel envious of my severely dyslexic art friends seeing that their amazing artistic and creative skills were somehow tied in with their dyslexia. I now recognise that virtually every creative person I know is neuro diverse in some way, including myself. I wouldn’t “ label” myself as anything but I recognise the following traits:
Associated with autism in females:
Hyper empathy, being in groups is uncomfortable as I pick up peoples discomforts and emotions all too easily.
Hypersensitivity to noise ( again crowds and busy places are difficult and exhausting)
Hyper focus ( I become fixated on topics and pursue them unremittingly, this is good for really diving into a subject but can be wearing for others)
Difficulty with small talk, I can do it at a pinch but I hate it. It’s not shyness, I don’t want to engage in mindless conversation. If someone has a shared interest though I will engage intensley and talk a lot.
Associated with ADHD:
Disorganisation and extreme messiness which can then be flipped into intense hyper organisation. My bedroom and art room exist in a state of chaos which I tackle intermittently. This can be compared with my actual wardrobe where my clothes are organised into seasons, cross referenced with textures and colour shades!
Difficulty finishing tasks such as cooking, clearing, artwork. Deadlines are helpful for this. My attention and interest rapidly flits from object to object. I am very easily distracted. For example I have a virtually finished version of Zine 4 but I haven’t been near it for over three weeks, despite my aim being to finish it.
Associated with dyslexia:
Seeing things automatically in mirror imagery. This has shown up with learning the piano. In general I find coordination of my hands a struggle and have to work very hard at it. There is one exception though, getting the two hands to play simultaneously in mirror image is just natural and obvious. Reading music can be challenging for the same reason, playing a series of notes backwards has been known to happen. There is a big disconnect for me between the written music and what the hands do. I laboriously teach my hands the notes and patterns and then try and let them do it without having to follow the music. I see the printed notes as rough guidelines for the patterns of movements and sounds but struggle with following each note carefully. This obviously can rapidly end in a car crash! Once I go wrong I can find it hard to get back on track.
I can appreciate that all these things are also part of neuro typical behaviours it is just that the more I immerse myself in creative work and become less concerned with fitting in with society’s demands they are becoming more and more obvious and to the fore in my life. In some ways they can be negative, my ability to lose my keys, phone and glasses has rocketed, active avoidance of social activities has increased, but I am happy to accept that as the price for working creatively and being comfortable in my own skin.
Images are from last week's course, drawing different expressions.