By Skylar Mostoller, G9
The do’s and don’ts of socializing with neurodivergent people.
If you’re reading this and find life easy – no overwhelming anxiety, not having the dread of waking up the next day hanging over you, or knowing that you’re normal because your mind doesn’t function differently – then this letter is for you.
For those of you who aren’t aware, neurotypical people are those with “typical” developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities. Otherwise meaning, you don’t have a learning disorder, you’re not anywhere on the Autistic spectrum, or you do not suffer from OCD, anxiety disorders, depression, and so on.
The opposite of this is us – the neurodivergents. We’re wired differently. We don’t think the same thoughts as you, move the same way as you, and don’t learn the same way as you do. We’re the kids that you have dubbed “weird” or “abnormal”, the kids that you normally would avoid on the playground or make fun of for fidgeting or speaking out of turn.
Clearly, this doesn’t refer to all of you. We’re not grouping all neurotypicals together because you all think and act the same, but only because the vast majority have this mindset of isolating and alienating those of us who are different from them.
This letter was written for awareness, of course, seeing as we don’t get much representation on campus. It’s more or less a brief explanation of what we do unknowingly or knowingly that can cause a bias against us.
The first thing to start with is educating yourself on the topic, which, if you clicked on this article, you’re already taking a step in the right direction. Read articles about neurodivergency, learn about what makes them different from others, and more importantly, learn about how they’re not that different from other people.
Some things that you might want to research in besides neurodivergency and the different types of mental disorders that go along with it are:
- Sensory Overloads
- Tactile Sensory
- And so on!
The next thing is to stop judging others for things you don’t do. For example, eye-contact. Many people who are neurodivergent can’t make eye contact with other people out of anxiety or making themselves uncomfortable. Eyes are the windows to the soul, as it’s famously said, and eye contact can make us feel more vulnerable and more uneasy than when we’re not holding eye contact. When we’re not looking you directly in the eyes, it’s not out of disrespect. No matter what your relationship with us is, keeping direct contact is hard.
Another is stimming. Stimming is a shorter way to say self-stimulatory behaviour. Stimming can come in all kinds of forms: drumming fingers against a table, flapping your hands, repeating a word you like over and over again, twirling your hair, clapping, and even things like rocking from side to side and biting your nails could be a type of stim. Everyone stims in their own ways, no matter if a person has neurodivergency or not, but the difference is the frequency in which a person does it.
Also, something that needs to be stopped is the stereotypical “weird kid” title that we hear quite often. You know the kids – the ones who don’t interact with others as much, who have “special interests” in something that isn’t typically made for their age group (like watching a cartoon made for kids), and who don’t interact with situations the same way as others do. It’s just another stigma constructed for us to make us stand out, single us out from the crowd, and prevent us from making the connections we want to make.
We would just like for you to remain open-minded – no matter if a person is neurodivergent or not. We want the same respect that you would give someone who is neurotypical. We’re not asking for much at all. We just want to be able to have an educational and social environment that we feel comfortable in.
The Neurodivergent Community
Cover illustration courtesy of Lyka Peng, G11