14/02/2021

Circles and squares ... a plea for the acceptance of neurodiversity


In my previous blog I described the successful business trip to Japan and the reason why it was successful. Good preparation and deepening in their culture and typical communication aspects contributed greatly to this. In essence, we familiarize ourselves with what distinguishes us. We are concerned with cultural diversity and apparently we find this very normal.


The step to neurodiversity is then small when we accept that there are different forms of thinking and communicating. I wholeheartedly support differences such as autism and ADHD which in my view are the result of a normal variation of the genome. When you accept this approach, you see that traditional viewpoint is pathologizing in nature, that is, this kind of diversity is considered a deviation, or in other words, a defect.


People who embrace this concept of neurodiversity assume that dissenters cannot, and need not, be cured. There is nothing to cure.


According to John Elder Robison (2013), this group of adherents views neurodiversity as follows:

  "They look at the pool of diverse people and see - in the center - the range of different ways of thinking that have enabled humanity's advancement in science and the creative arts. At the edges, they see people who are functionally crippled. because they are “too diverse.” When 99 neurologically identical people don't solve a problem, it is often the 1% other person who has the key. Yet that person can usually or always be disabled or disadvantaged. For proponents of neurodiversity, people are disabled because they are at the edges of the bell curve; not because they are sick or broken. "


Beautiful right?


In our society we have a variety of shapes, triangles, squares, circles and more. Our education system and society is set up for circles and you will become a circle. The problem with fitting a square into a round hole isn't so much the amount of time, effort and frustration it takes to get it to fit ... but more that you damage the square in the process.


People who think differently, on the other hand, deserve space, respect, appreciation and, where necessary, help and support and not pills, inhibitors, oppressors, adapters, drowsers and other burdening means. Yes, it is often done with the best of intentions but it is short-sighted and narrow-minded and yes, the lack of financial resources or the improper use of these resources, unfortunately greatly contributes to the maintenance of this approach.

The majority of people in our western society are “circles i.e. neurotypical and our social order is based on these hormone-driven principles albeit with a touch of logic and straightforwardness. And, because neurotypicals have the upper hand, they set the rules.


What if it was the other way around?


Finally, my favorite quote, from Steve Jobs. Perhaps not charming in character, but a real game changer:


"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."


Here, here Steve!