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Musings

Unnamed Constellations: Neurotypes, Traits and the Future of Neurodiversity

There are way more neurodivergent traits than there are neurotypes; are we going about this the wrong way?
When you have a certain set of neurological traits configured in a certain way we call that ADHD; when you have a different set of neurological traits configured in a certain way we call that Bipolar; when you have yet another set of neurological traits configured in a certain way we call that Schizophrenia.

Do you see the problem with this approach? By only naming
certain clusters
of neurodivergent configurations we’re relegating other forms of neurodiversity to unacknowledged obscurity.

What do you call someone who has an overactive confabulatory tendency (their brain is constantly making up stories to connect details) and difficulties regulating their emotions, but who has none of the social challenges of autism and doesn’t think twice about dismissing their imagined stories as obviously fiction?

What do you call someone who has some of the hallmarks of ADHD but none of the challenges with emotional regulation or rejection sensitivity? Is that still ADHD, or is that “some ADHD traits”, or are the emotional aspects so common with ADHD not actually a part of ADHD, or...?

Naming things is hard.

But when you’re naming certain configurations of neurodivergent traits and ignoring others it goes beyond hard into harmful. What gets measured gets managed, and what gets named gets measured — other challenges and benefits stemming from unrecognized neurodivergent traits are still being largely ignored, or treated as personal quirks, rather than recognized as uniquely identifying neurodivergent signifiers.

Here at the Public Neurodiversity Support Center we suspect that the future of Neurodiversity is actually a movement away from discrete neurotypes and towards a more deconstructed, trait-oriented taxonomy.
After all, when “I’m autistic” can mean anything from “I have sensitive hearing and can’t parse language or speak” to “I can hear a pin drop in the next room and am an award winning actor” then the word is useful more as a cultural marker than as an indicator of any specific traits.

One useful metaphor is to imagine that neurodivergent traits are like stars, and neurotypes are like constellations. Two constellations can claim the same star or set of stars, overlapping, or they can be totally unrelated. By focusing on the constellations at the expense of the stars we’re ignoring all of those stars that don’t fit neatly into any constellations.

Those experiences are as valid as any other, and this site takes the position that all forms of neurodiversity should be identified and supported — not just the ones that insurance companies decided to categorize.

Help us make sure all of these stars get cataloged — help us make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.

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