Neurodiversity and ThinkPrint

I am so excited that the term neurodiversity is getting its time in the spotlight. The idea that we all have different kinds of brains – hardwired for doing the different jobs that need doing in a society – is what the term ThinkPrint was meant to convey. Like our fingerprint, each of ours is unique.

We need to change the way we think about our learning differences, our social emotional differences, our natural interests and preferences, so that we can expand our understanding of “normal.” Our current culture, our educational system especially, assumes a sameness that does not exist. Diversity is the norm – in nature, in humanity, among our neighbors, our colleagues, our children.

Much of our problems stem from our being unnerved by other people’s differentness. It is natural to be afraid of the unknown, the unfamiliar. There is evidence that we have become more anxious as we have evolved, because fear, resulting in caution, resulting in safety and survival, is amplified genetically by natural selection. Our brains are wired to have a balance of caution and curiosity – novelty seeking is built in. But only some of us are thrill-seekers, while others have limited tolerance for uncertainty, suspense, and surprise.

People on the autism spectrum are novelty-averse. They are familiarity-seekers. They usually have a narrow range of interest and have difficulty being interested or attentive for other topics or experiences. Lots of people who are not on the autism spectrum have this quality as well. The point is we need people who can handle the Emergency Department, people who can spend an entire career studying a distant time or place, a rare small plant or creature, who can love and understand math and physics (!) and who can create great works of fiction and art of all kinds.

When we can begin to see our differentness as a good thing we will all be better off. Neurodiversity is normal. Just because we cannot be interested in or attentive to every topic or event does not mean we have an attention deficit. It may mean that our brain is wired to be interested in and attentive to something else, the thing that we were born for. Our natural intelligence – our ThinkPrint, is to be discovered and developed. And enjoyed.