Normalizing Neurodiversity

Click pic for 10 Things We Must Learn from Children

“Aw, this one is so cute!”

“Thanks! Came with the typical skin problem, but they gave us special instructions that should do the trick.”

“Well, good luck! Mine is one of those ya gotta snip, but we never had any problems with the last one, so hopefully once that’s out of the way we can get into more training.”

“My neighbor was telling me about theirs going through field training, sounds very rigorous, but once you get into a group with the same kind it’s really fun.”

That’s an example of a very normal convo when people talk about their dogs. If this had been children, the entire convo would have flipped like a negativity pancake.

Why is it ok to accept that there are very different kinds of dogs with extremely different needs and care plans, but not ok to accept that people can be the same way?

Normalizing is about making a lot of information easier to apply to a large variant group. We are all very familiar with normalization in our societies through schools, churches, work forces, militaries, and so on. Part of normalization is standardization, like guidelines within those institutions that help us find where we fit. We assess and categorize into subsets within the bigger group, and each smaller group works on different specifics toward normalization.

That sounds like a lot of big words, but mostly it just means that you can check pinterest (or with a doctor) to see if your child is developing at the proper rate for their age, physically, socially, psychologically, etc.

More and more we are finding that not all humans fit into one overall standard. Some of us might not learn to read as quickly (I couldn’t read at all until second grade), and then suddenly accelerate into super academia (I got a 32 on my ACT). Some of us might catch on to all kinds of things at very young ages, like the ins and outs of socialization, while missing the point of paying attention (I raised a child with marked ADHD). Sometimes, as I have learned, it’s not about helping the child conform to a standard so much as simply asking what that child needs to excel with what they have. Interestingly, my stepdaughter grew up with good grades and has a much better job than I ever had with my much higher college credentials, thanks to an eye doctor helping with corrective lenses one year for ‘jumpy’ eyes (that really works), another year with Sylvan Learning Center, and lots and lots of sports.

Each person is uniquely equipped with skill sets we might not automatically notice if we are too busy assessing fails. When we have pets, we allow for different personality and behavior types and blame it on breeding or possibly poor handling. When we have kids, we work out rewards and punishments and set goals for normalization to a bigger and sometimes very overwhelming society.

I like that normalizing diversity seems to be making diversity fashionable, at least on television, but it also stereotypifies and mocks to some degree. Until humans learn to accept the individualized ‘package deal’ a child comes with, as with a puppy, children will continued to be measured and found wanting, no matter what the challenge may be. I’ve read vast amounts of materials covering everything from designer DNA to eugenics, and my biggest fear is the angry, bereft parents automatically assigning “fail” to every little thing children do.

Designed to fail? Destined to fail? Self-fulfilling fail? I think even neurotypical children wish for more forgiving parents sometimes. How about opting out of normalization? Or normalizing differences as a way of human life? I dream of a world like that. I dream of a world where talking about our children’s differences is as much a topic of interest as talking about our pets.


About Janika Banks

Aspie, chicken herder, Lexx maven, writer.
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