Lost In Translation: Ways in Which Neurodivergent and Neurotypical Social Languages Differ

We the neurodivergent are genetically different. We experience the world through a hypersensitive nervous system which informs every aspect of our thinking, our behavior, and our social values.

The dominant social group labels our way of being in the world as disordered because they don’t understand us. Even though they don’t understand, the dominant culture controls the narrative about our differences.

Society believes the experts who are not part of our culture, who see brokenness where there is order. We gradually start to believe the myths ourselves and lose all sense of self-esteem. We come to hate ourselves for being different.

They have largely not tried to understand the biological mechanisms that create our experience of self. Instead they have tried every means possible to force us to act neurotypical.

Some of us can pretend to be neurotypical, for a while, at great cost to our health and happiness, but we cannot change our neurotype. We are neurodivergent.

Our behavior and social values are different because the way we think is different. The way we think is different because our moment-to-moment experience of the world is different.

In this article, I’ll explain the key ways in which neurotypical and neurodivergent people misunderstand each other.

Source: Lost in Translation: The Social Language Theory of Neurodivergence | by Trauma Geek | Medium

This is a great piece of research-storytelling from the intersections of neurobiology and sociology. I highly relate to all of it. Here are the 8 key ways that are covered:

  1. Emotions
  2. Empathy
  3. Nonverbal Communication and Body Cues
  4. Words Mean Things
  5. Social Rules
  6. A Different Value System
  7. Skills and Abilities
  8. Reactions to Stress, Pain, and Overwhelm

Read the whole thing, and follow the thoughtfully curated links.

Check out Trauma Geek for more great articles, including one on “Discovering a Trauma-Informed Positive Autistic Identity”.

Previously,

“Yes, And…” Infodump

These tweets are good advice, especially before infodumping after someone tickles one of your SpIns.

Sometimes my “yes, ands…” are too subtle before I infodump in enthusiasm. They can come off as “no, buts…” and intellectual bullying.

SpIns and Infodumps

I don’t know who invented the phrase “special interest.” Probably some researcher. Autistic people don’t really love the term because the term “special” has become tied so closely with terms like “special needs,” which we resent.

Nevertheless, somewhere down the line “special interest,” commonly shortened to SpIn (“spin”), became the term for the characteristically-autistic tendency to develop an obsession with something specific and often obscure.

Some special interests are short lived, and some last the lifetime of the person; but, however long they last, they are intense, delightful, and a vital part of autistic culture.

So integral are special interests to autistic culture that autistic people will post about feeling depressed and unmotivated because they don’t have an active SpIn at the moment.

Having a special interest is like having a crush or being newly in love. It is consuming and delightful. We love to share our special interests and a common example of autistic empathy is encouraging others to talk in great detail- “infodump”- about their SpIns.

It is considered a sign of caring and friendship to encourage someone to talk to you about their SpIn- whether or not you actually share their interest- because nothing makes an autistic person happier than discussing, learning about, or sharing about, their SpIn.

It is also quite acceptable in autistic culture to “infodump” on a topic whenever it happens to come up. To autists (an insider short-hand for autistic people), the sharing of knowledge and information is always welcome.

Source: 7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic

We Exist As Friction

I highly recommend Liz Jackson’s episode of UX Cake, Changing the Disability Design Narrative, to all designers, tech workers, and educators.

Selected quotes:

…how do we insert somebody with a disability studies background into a design space so they can start asking the hard questions and the right questions so that we can get past this — this frame of mind that only thinks of disability in terms of just accessibility?

We exist as friction. The work that I do; it’s wildly painful.

People are creating interventions to get around actually having to talk to us.

And we burst that bubble.

But the thing is, is when you look at empathy, you realize that — that like other sort of charitable approaches, it’s actually caused just as many problems as the solutions that it’s trying to sort of create.

And so, if you boil it down and look at it step-by-step, you know, the first step is, is cultivating empathy. But to a disabled person, it can feel a little less like empathy and a little bit more like designers are coming in, they’re speaking with us, they’re observing us, they’re taking our life hack welcomes right? Our ingenuity, and then they’re going to sell it back to us as inspirational do good, right? Without ever giving us credit.

Source: Changing the Disability Design Narrative – UX Cake Podcast

Yes! We need disability studies folks in every school and company. We need folks who speak and live the social model of disability on our teams.

I’m disabled and neurodivergent with two disabled and neurodivergent kids. “We exist as friction.” I let forth a “hell yeah” when I heard those words. We exist as friction, and we’re constantly educating others on and hacking our way around structural friction, to the betterment of all.

disabled people, we are the original life hackers, right? Our innovative solutions have changed the world, right? Like, we created the Internet, we created the bicycle, we created the iPhone touch screen, we created audio books and curb cuts. And, you know, just item after item. And, you know, I think that it just demonstrates the value of really existing on the margins.

It’s tiresome work. We could use some help from abled and neurotypical allies working with us and alongside us instead of for us. Develop the lens.

…who is capable of developing this lens? I don’t think as a society we’re there yet, right? Like, we don’t always — we’re not so eager to have our bubble burst. Especially with one of the few things that sort of traditionally makes us feel good about ourselves which is what disabled people call inspiration porn, right?

Where the objectification of our body is used to inspire other people, right? Disabled people make everybody else in society feel better about themselves. And I’m taking that away. Right? And that’s not fun.

Develop the lens by changing our framing from deficit ideology to structural ideology.

Design is tested at the edges. Invite friction into our companies, schools, and teams. We’ll all be better off for it.