What is Autism & Neurodiversity? - My Personal Little Theory & How We Have Got It Wrong

I would like to put forward my own little theory here. My simple explanation of is to compare the human brain as a bit like the portable tv of the 1980's that we would use in bedrooms or camping holidays etc. It came supplied with a little aerial attached to the top of it, or you could plug in an extra indoor areal which you could move around the room to obtain a picture. Either way it was a case of moving the aerial to get the best overall reception. It was more often the case that you could always get one or two particular channels perfectly at the expense of loosing reception altogether on the other channels. This is how I would best describe autism, not un-similar to having a particular channel working perfectly at the expense of loosing the other channels to a poorer or even none existent channel. For the neuro-typical it is better to have an overall ability to view all available channels a bit fuzzy even rather than one channel perfect and the others less accessible.

Although, as I am aware, this is a very simplified explanation of the human condition, my point is the necessity for open mindedness on all diversity as a natural part of our make-up. At the same time each one of us is likely to contain various degrees along the scale of both neuro-typical and autism (neurodiversity). But the tendency is to see neuro-typical as normal on one side of the scale and view autism as abnormal or disadvantaged on the other. This is nonsensical.

An Unfair System

Today as technology and knowledge has increased into intense need for integration and specialization there is a demand for all individuals to access, and obtain skills at its very least to some ability in most fields and areas of knowledge or subject. At the same time we also rely upon a specific need to lean towards and rely upon some amongst us to be ardent specialists in a particular field who will help us to progress i.e., in english, maths, history, science, and so on. Education today remains mainly focused upon creating little clones for the workforce rather than towards overall progression.

How things are set up here in the Uk at present, is that children are expected to do well in as many subjects as possible in school. From this they get awarded an examination result to put to their name. However it is only when one can show a certain number of successful examination results that an individual can be proved worth of furthering their education into a given field of specialization and pass the test to enter into further education or university. Ironically this is set up towards one end of the scale, namely neuro-typical, and leaves anyone on the spectrum unrecognised and a hard fight to access further education in a given field, despite the fact that they are much more likely to do better in their field of interest than most. In other words, this means that the specialization abilities in an autistic or asperger's child is often over looked or unnoticed. The tendency is to focus on disabilities rather than abilities. Its all back to front!

Autistic or neuro-typical, its not as simple as that. In the scale of things I believe we all contain varying degrees of both, but it is only when the tilt is more one way than another, and life becomes problematic for an individual that there becomes a focus for diagnosis. For my own part I am viewed as a neuro-typical but labeled a bit of a dumb blond so to speak. But this is due to not being able to spell, add up in maths, left handed, and unable to remember directions in any shape or form. Despite not being given a diagnosis of any kind, please allow me to bare witness that if you cannot shine as average in general subjects and expectations for the workforce then furthering research and learning or getting any recognition for what you are good at is one hard struggle, since you are already condemned as useless to to the system.

I have a little friend who is genius in every subject he approaches, but his school were more worried about his quirky behaviour rather than his profound ability. Even when he became amongst the top 10 in maths in the UK, they still wanted to see his mother to ask her why he never seemed to have any reading books in his school bag. The truth was that this was because he had already read them all! Now as examination year is here for him, his teachers are suddenly in full admiration for him since they get merited by the number of passes they can achieve from their pupils, and this boy will pass. But at the same time, he for the most part learnt by his own merit, and not the teachers! How ironic is that?! "Good luck my young friend, I know you will do well! and you will take the school up with you".


Richard Crookes said...

A good analogy Jakki - I had one of those tvs when I was in france and developed my own prototype remote control... it was a length of bamboo with a piece of moistened cotton wool on the end and it worked surprisingly well - not sure what that says about my position in any spectrum... Have you read any RD Laing? - 'The Politics of Experience' and 'The Divided Self'?

Jakki-D said...

he he, that self made aerial sounds well innovative , (spelled it right I think this time), well done. Yes I have read some RD Laing many years ago, "The Games People Play", and The Divided Self, I think if my memory serves me well.

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. said...

I couldn't agree with you more on how the schools focus attention on the negatives and neglect the positives in people with labels (PWL!). Also, the issue of being on a continuum is a critical concept, since everybody is somewhere on the spectrum with regard to sociability (from totally non-social to overly-social), and also with respect to other functions like literacy, attention, mood, and so forth. I take up these issues in my book Neurodiversity which will be out in May.