- Cynthia Coupe
Have You Hugged a Neurodivergent Today?
Some of our very greatest thought leaders of all time have been neurodivergent. In fact, I may argue that they all have been. Einstein, Michelangelo, Elon Musk…and other envelope pushing minds like Greta Thunberg, Andy Warhol and Nikola Tesla. These individuals have paved the road of possibility for art, science, music, mathematics and more.
Neurodiversity (autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other brain based differences) is a bridge that connects new and innovative thoughts to the world, but neurodiversity alone is not enough.
You see, neurodivergents (ND) need neurotypicals (NT) too.
It is a two sided conversation..it’s not all about neurotypicals understanding neurodivergents, but that is certainly extremely important, particularly as our worldly structures (traditional institutions and corporations) are set up for neurotypicals. However... neurodivergents also benefit from understanding the neurotypical world. We each have important viewpoints and ideas.
There is so much richness in the intersectionality between these two groups, because the rate of overlap is tremendous. Not only do you have neurodiverse and neurotypical, but you then also have neurodivergent people of color, neurodivergent non-binary individuals, neurodivergent females…and all the neurotypical counterparts of the same sections.
Neurodiversity is the one level playing field in all of our minority groups. Neurodiversity doesn’t discriminate, isn’t found more in one population than another…Ok, that’s not entirely true…due to diagnostic tools, race bias and a few other things it may not look level, but it is. Okay, another disclaimer: statistically, neurodivergents have a higher rate of identifying as LGBTQ+ than the general population. That said…ND’s are everywhere.
When, and only when, we are able to talk openly about neurodiversity and what it looks like, how it feels, the needs of the individuals and their experiences, and couple this with understanding how and why a neurotypical world is set up, what the general expectations are, and the needs and experiences of this population then (and only then) can we create an environment where everybody is able to function to their full potential.
We need to understand diversity on this level.
Diversity and Inclusion has GOT to include neurodiversity.
I’d actually like to suggest that we take a step into the “Neutral Box.” (I love this term. A coach that Frank and I worked with a few years ago suggested it, when Frank and I weren’t seeing eye to eye, that we Neutral Box [she actually meant it like a neutral fight, but we took it as stepping into a neutral arena] and the term stuck. We successfully put ourselves into this box to understand one another with open eyes. To be curious, to come from a place of saying what we really felt, knowing we wouldn’t be judged, and then finding common ground or a way of moving forward from there).
So…if I could get ND’s and NT’s to step into the neutral box where we can talk about what makes us tick…what we need, how we need it, why we need it…what our experience is in being an ND in a NT world, or being an NT interfacing with an ND I think we’d get a lot done.
When society is able to understand and embrace the neurodiverse population and individuals who are neurodiverse understand and embrace themselves, we have the power to create true shift in the world.
Neurodivergents are often found to “mask” which means pretend to be someone they are not, in order to function in the neurotypical world. As a result we have higher rates of depression and suicide, poor self acceptance and difficulty being social for long periods of time. We also have a hard time truly knowing ourselves.
Neurotypicals often find ND’s odd…they misunderstand our ways of communicating, but are also excited by the new and innovative thoughts we often have.
I have found, as a self-identified neurodivergent, that I need both parties in my life. I need the neurotypicals who are more sensitive to my feelings, that help me with structure and follow-through. I need the neurodivergents who I feel comfortable being my weird self around, where I can cut through small talk with and give my feelings the appropriate amount of space. With both parties together, I feel complete.
I think society is the same way.
One is not better than the other.
Different means neither inferior nor superior. It’s just different.
We need neurodivergent thought leaders today more than ever as we go into a global economy. System change is coming quickly into focus. The opportunity is the ability to create a whole new paradigm where we have a level playing field for all kinds of minds. We need different.
The corporations and institutions that are able to embrace this understanding have seen increases in employee performance, job retention and employee satisfaction. Not only does this bring a better economic bottom line, but it provides a happier and more openly communicative workspace, where innovative ideas have full possibility to flourish.
As we open up dialogue between neurodivergents and neurotypicals we allow ourselves to understand more and to be understood more…thereby breaking down barriers and reducing stigma. This is extremely important because when real conversations can happen between stakeholders, trust and accountability is created, thereby making a more productive and harmonious workplace and learning environment while also reducing the rates of depression and suicide for the ND individuals.
Without this important dialogue so much can be left behind. Not only in our personal lives, but in the workspace as well.
I am a thought leader in the world of neurodiversity. In the work I do, I help start this difficult conversation as well as navigate the understanding of oneself, which helps strengthen the bond between stakeholders (both personal and professional). Together we can create a culture where neurodiversity is part of the human continuum and we are all viewed with equal importance.