Autism: A Shield and Barrier
Autism for me is not the presence of something, but rather something missing – a kind of social blindness. In groups of more than three people a conversation can get away from me like a slippery fish – it seems to be able to wiggle out of my grasp until it’s gone and I can’t see where it is anymore or even comprehend it. When you’re unable to see certain things, having guidance is incredibly important.
Growing up, my parents largely acted as a shield for me; to an extent, though, it also acted as a barrier – making it difficult to bond with my peers. In college, this became much more of a problem. As an engineering student, engineering teams are incredibly important – looking back, I feel that I squandered opportunities with other students in favor of more solidary research with professors.
Neurodiversity to me means the differences in our minds – how we process the world, think and solve problems – and a paradigm that views these the same as other differences. The traditional view divides our minds into “normal” or “disabled,” treating most variations as hindrances. In reality, some are hindrances, but others are strengths, and most are neither or both. A tall person will be better at basketball than gymnastics; a short person the opposite; a person without legs cannot compete traditionally with either. But a person with a sixth finger is only constrained by the closed-mindedness of others.
Henry Cavendish led a painful existence. Painfully shy, inside his manor he rarely saw guests, communicating to his servants with placed notes. Painfully curious, his inquiries of amperage (counting the number of convulsions after pricking his thumbs with electrodes) was allegedly how he assigned statistical measure to electrical current. Painfully alone, the few adult associations he had mediated his desire to cache himself from the world. Henry kept meticulous notes, rarely publishing his findings and frequent skirmishes about who had the right to discovery would erupt. In remembering Cavendish, we confront the question: how many more quiet, ensconced lives of achievement have been forgotten?
To me, neurodiversity is a snapshot of different people that may look similar to each other but could have different initial conditions attached to their minds. One person may have autism spectrum disorder, one may have ADHD or another learning disorder, one may have an underlying personality disorder or mental wellness condition, and another may have none of those conditions. While some look at diversity strictly through the eyes of color and race, it is important to also look at neurodiversity when approaching the topics of diversity of inclusion. Because while these people may have differing mental or physical conditions, they can still achieve highly in a society where neurotypical people are leading the way. They may require some assistance along the way, but that in no way means that they are unable to contribute to the betterment of society.
What Neurodiversity Means to Me
Neurodiversity to me, means finding a place of acceptance amongst friends, colleagues, mentors, and even family. Knowing for every mundane task I might find difficult, there are many difficult professional problems I can solve with great ease just by thinking differently and using what software tools I have available. Asking for help or guidance is no longer seen as a sign of weakness but of great communication when a task may not have been thoroughly explained. Every workday ends with a feeling of accomplishment, that I am still an asset, and no longer a broken marionette worthy only of pity.
What does neurodiversity mean to me?
I’m autisic and neurodiverse. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I’m going to allow that to stop me from getting to where I want to in life. Having a disability can be challenging at times compared to people without disabilities. I was diagnosed with autism at a very young age.
My parents didn’t know if I would speak. Being 22 years old with autism I’ve broken through a lot of barriers along the way. Being neurodiverse is more of a gift than a disability and makes me more motivated to achieve what I want to do in life.
Neurodiversity can be seen as a blessing and a curse. With a mild case of Asperger’s, For my entire life, I have had difficulty picking up social cues. To compensate, I go out of my way to not offend anyone. However my Asperger’s has also given me an ability to focus intensely and learn incredibly quickly. I may sometimes be unintentionally awkward, but I would not change my Asperger’s even if I could. At this point in my life, I enjoy being different.
“Neurodiversity” means to me that we all have different likes and dislikes. In my opinion, it’s okay to be yourself, as long as you don’t go and try to force somebody else to be a carbon copy of you. That’s just what I see as “selfishness.”