- June 8, 2023
(The Nuances of Accommodating Neurodiversity)
Take this from a learning specialist who’s also neurodivergent. There’s a difference between asking people to accommodate you and asking them to change their behavior for you.
Although it’s easy to mix up the two, they’re not the same.
It’s a Good Thing We Know A Lot About Neurodivergence
As a society, we weren’t always aware of what it meant to be neurodivergent. Matter-of-fact, manifestations of neurodivergence, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyslexia, and dyspraxia, were once called defective or abnormal. More often than not, people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, or dyscalculia were described as lazy. Also, people with ADHD would be punished for being inattentive and easily distracted.
We know now that while no two brains are different, some brains develop and function differently. In our medical and health sciences, establishing what is expected is critical for providing healthcare or diagnosing illnesses. But, over the years, much information has been lost to us because we’re trying to establish what’s normal and exclude everything else. The concept of neurodiversity makes it clear that brains that develop or function atypically are different, not defective or abnormal. Neurodiversity is simply saying that “different” is fine too!
Neurodivergent people are different, so what now?
As soon as we learned that neurodivergent people aren’t abnormal or defective, the conversation shifted to the implications for neurodivergent people in our society. Neurodivergent people live among others who aren’t neurodivergent; in school, at home, and in the community. As neurodiversity can manifest in a number of ways, it made sense to create accommodations for them, especially in school.
The curriculum in more schools in the US and outside the US is more inclusive, with a slightly better focus on learning different processing styles. As a result, more neurodivergent people have the unique opportunity to go through a school system or community where they receive the support they need to thrive; however, much progress still needs to be made.
Neurodivergent people in our society today are no different than they used to be. However, the concept of neurodiversity has brought more visibility to the reality of their struggles; people are also more aware of how to accommodate neurodivergent people. On the other hand, it has also brought new conversations into the picture regarding how much accommodation is just enough.
Here’s What’s Wrong With Some Demands by Neurodivergent People
Although our society is all for inclusion, we must strike the right balance between neurodivergent and non-neurodivergent people. Imagine that neuro-divergent people demanded to be so accommodated that they face no challenges whatsoever with their school work; not going to happen, though, but imagine it. If that were to happen, it would impact their ability to function in and beyond the school environment. As such, neurodivergent people should not (and cannot) make such demands.
Official accommodations for those who are neurodivergent include changes in official learning modalities, medical accommodations, and the use of items like headphones, fidgets, and stimming practices to self-regulate. However, on social media, it appears lately that many times the accommodation demands made for neurodivergent people come in the form of requesting that someone else stops acting a certain way or expressing themselves a certain way (e.g., don’t use sarcasm, don’t whisper, don’t be too loud). True, that behavior may not be the best and may trigger some neuro-divergent individuals, but the question becomes; can we ask others to change their expressions because it doesn’t exactly fit with the way we want them?
This brings us back to discussing what can and cannot be demanded on the grounds of neurodivergence. The essence of neurodivergence is that people are different and accepted no matter their differences. Suppose that neurodivergent people want people to act a certain way. In that case, it defeats the whole point of accepting differences. We cannot ask neurodivergent people to change their behavior to make neuro-typical people feel “more comfortable”, but ironically, we cannot ask neurotypicals to change unproblematic behavior to simply make us neurodivergent people more comfortable. There is a difference between demanding accommodations we have a right to have to ensure accessibility and demanding people change their habits because we, as neurodivergent people, just “don’t like them very much” #triggered.
Tips for every Neurodivergent Person Who’s Affected by Non-Neurodivergent or other Neurodivergent People
These tips are straightforward, and you can apply them immediately. The first tip is to understand that you’re different and others are too. No person’s difference is superior to the other, so much so that one must change for the other person. This brings us to the second tip;
Accept others as they are
What follows this kind of acceptance is relief and progress. It is difficult to make progress without acceptance and tolerance. When you accept what you cannot change, you find a way to co-exist with it, and then everyone moves on…progress.
I hope this helps!