As I looked at my pace for this month’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I discovered…I am off, especially after yesterday’s Guy Fawks mini-party and getting NOTHING done. But even then…I have just finished the intro and Chapter 1 of the parenting book. At this pace, it will take all of NaNo to finish that one book.
And I honestly want to work on RadiCool Unschooling Your Neurodivergent Little Human too. So the only way to do that is…side by side. Work on both. Perhaps even double up with two posts most days. So here I go with…
What Is #NeuroDivergent?
If you bought this book based upon the description, you noticed words like…
So what is this word…neurodivergent, where did it come, and what does it matter?
The best explanation that I have been seen can be found at NeuroCosmopolitanism:
Neurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”
Neurodivergent is quite a broad term. Neurodivergence (the state of being neurodivergent) can be largely or entirely genetic and innate, or it can be largely or entirely produced by brain-altering experience, or some combination of the two (autism and dyslexia are examples of innate forms of neurodivergence, while alterations in brain functioning caused by such things as trauma, long-term meditation practice, or heavy usage of psychedelic drugs are examples of forms of neurodivergence produced through experience).
A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms in multiple ways – for instance, a person who is Autistic, dyslexic, and epileptic – can be described as multiply neurodivergent.
Some forms of innate or largely innate neurodivergence, like autism, are intrinsic and pervasive factors in an individual’s psyche, personality, and fundamental way of relating to the world. The neurodiversity paradigm rejects the pathologizing of such forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement opposes attempts to get rid of them.
Other forms of neurodivergence, like epilepsy or the effects of traumatic brain injuries, could be removed from an individual without erasing fundamental aspects of the individual’s selfhood, and in many cases the individual would be happy to be rid of such forms of neurodivergence. The neurodiversity paradigm does not reject the pathologizing of these forms of neurodivergence, and the Neurodiversity Movement does not object to consensual attempts to cure them (but still most definitely objects to discrimination against people who have them).
Thus, neurodivergence is not intrinsically positive or negative, desirable or undesirable – it all depends on what sort of neurodivergence one is talking about.
The terms neurodivergent and neurodivergence were coined by Kassiane Sibley, a multiply neurodivergent neurodiversity activist.
Please do take the time to check out this excellent source for further information on the neurodiversity paradigm and movements.
But I want to draw out a couple of points especially salient for the purposes of this book…
…having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”
Some forms of innate or largely innate neurodivergence, like autism, are intrinsic and pervasive factors in an individual’s psyche, personality, and fundamental way of relating to the world.
In other words,
Neuro = nervous system, brain, thinking, feeling & being
Divergent = tending to be different or develop in different directions.
This is especially important for parents to grasp. When you stop pathologizing and labelling your little human and accept that he or she is simply ‘different’. Then you can begin to enable him to reach his full potential. To become all that she can be.
In fact, you are then in a position to learn your offspring as a unique human being with as much potential (perhaps more in some areas) than anyone else. You can begin to explore the complex and fascinating workings of her brilliant mind. And through this exploration find the best ways to untap potential that might have been stifled in a school setting.
I encourage you to begin thinking of your child not by specific labels but rather neurodivergent because often times these things go together. When I was first coming to understand my daughter’s multiple neurodivergences (epilepsy, autism, ADHD, and dyslexia), I snuck into an epilepsy conference for professionals. While I cannot remember the name of the speaker (most likely Dr Christopher Gillberg) his words struck home…
A brain that does not function well in one area is likely not to in others.
Of course, I would say…functions differently.
So you may be sitting there now thinking of your little human as dyslexic or autistic or having ADHD. But as you travel down this road of learning with your little human you may well come to realize that she is or has all of those neurodivergences.
The thing is that when you as the parent stop seeing those labels and start insteading focusing upon the child as an individual…a person…a human being…then you will find that the individual pathologies matter less than you first thought.
It is not about strategies that work to teach reading to dyslexics…or visual schedules that improve executive functioning in autistics…or behavior management techniques that help those with ADHD to focus. It is about discovering the individual ways that maximize your little human’s talents and gifts while minimizing her challenges. Thus enabling him to reach his full potential.
Yes, there is some though limited value in recognizing the different neurodivergences that contribute to your little human’s unique profile. But the danger is in getting so lost in the labels that marry yourself to strategies that do not work for the individual.
In addition, you will find that some strategies conflict. For instance, with autism it is all about structure, routine, and sameness. Yet for ADHD, one recommend method of getting and keeping attention is novelty. If your child is both autistic and has ADHD, what do you do?
The answer is simple…
You follow your child’s lead.
By experimentation, trial, and error, you will find the balance. What works best for YOUR little human.
But then that is the point of neurodiversity… the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. (Neurocosmopolitanism)
What works for one is not what will work for others. But my guess is that if you have bought this book then you are beginning to realize that for yourself. And you are looking for answers…ways to meet the unique needs of your wonderfully complex and delightful little human.
So…if you are wondering if this is the right book for you…if you little human actually is neurodivergent…then yes, dyslexic, dyspraxic, autistic, ADHD, and all those others…even ones that do not make the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association Fifth Edition – the bible for diagnosing and labelling anything to do with the mind).
Personally, I am empathic -meaning highly sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others. I have always found it ironic that the ‘experts’ who for years claimed that the autistic were lacking in empathy would not recognize and label the opposite. Strangely enough I find that I have many of the same outward symptoms as my autistic daughter including becoming easily sensory overloaded…and yes, meltdowns…or shut downs.
It took me months of struggling to come to terms with my own neurodivergence. This was due in large part to the pathological mentality of those ‘experts’. Somehow I just did not ‘feel’ like my own issues were ‘bad’ enough to warrant a label. Though I am dyslexic, once I finally learned to read at ten, it has not held me back from my writing. Yes, you will usually find one or two errors in my blogs that spell check does not pick up. Yes, I cannot learn new languages. Yes, when I am tired, I still have trouble transposing words. But I function.
Neurodivergence though is not about functionality or specific labels. It is about…diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.” So if you have bought this book…if you are considering RadiCool Unschooling your little human, it is a fair bet to say that yes, you and your child diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”
Now that that is settled, let’s look at that other word…RadiCool Unschooling.