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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Introduction: A Thinking Person's Guide to Neurotypicals

A Guide to Neurotypicals -
For Those on the Autism Spectrum

Neurotypical: A term used by those on the Autism Spectrum to describe people who have typical neurological development and functionality.


There are hundreds if not thousands of books available to help “normal” people navigate and understand their family and friends who have Autism or Asperger's Syndrome. Neurotypicals know that people on the spectrum have issues with communication, social navigation, routine, sensory overload. When their child is diagnosed they're given guides and websites to try to help them understand. But what about those who are ON the spectrum? What are THEY given to help navigate a world that isn't made for them? How does a person with Asperger's or Autism understand a culture and language that isn't made for them? There are so many facets of neurotypical society that are just instinct for those who are “normal”. A neurotypical child learns body language and social mores simply by being a part of them. They learn how to lie and love and read faces and act “properly” with hardly any actual teaching.

The comparison has been made between a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and a person being dropped, with no warning or previous training, into a foreign culture. There is great frustration in learning not only the language but what certain gestures or expressions mean, social etiquette, things to avoid saying and doing that might offend or confuse. Add to that trying to understand what the locals are trying to convey who don't understand your language any better than you understand theirs. It can be maddening and overwhelming. The locals don't even notice the overwhelming sounds or smells of their city – they are accustomed to it and think that you, as a foreigner, are being melodramatic or even rude for commenting on your discomfort and asking for any adjustments to be made on your behalf. Their customs and traditions and humor are difficult to navigate at best and maddening at worst. But you have no choice. There is no option to leave. Some outsiders who enter this foreign land never do learn the language and are considered by the locals to be mentally deficient simply because they never did pick up the ability to communicate or understand the complicated traditions.

But more and more people are being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder every day. The current statistic rests somewhere between 1 in 110 and 1 in 91. That's right around 1% of the population who is DIAGNOSED as having autism or Asperger's. This isn't including all those who are borderline, or whose parents didn't have the money, means, or awareness to take them to someone who could diagnose them. The numbers are steadily rising, and since we have no idea what causes it, the numbers will probably continue to increase. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, so long as neurotypicals and those on the spectrum can learn to communicate. Obviously the next step is to provide a sort of road-map to the neurotypical world for those on the spectrum.

My plan, eventually, is to turn this into an in depth book that is easily accessible whether or not a person has internet readily available. For now though, I am going to kick off a condensed version here on my blog. I ENCOURAGE and ASK for lots of questions and input from my Aspies and Auties out there!  Stay tuned as I push out what is hopefully some great information for those on the spectrum to function in a world too stubborn to accommodate them!

The topics I plan to cover are:
  • Herd of Humans (inability to be alone, social hierarchy, tradition, ritual, bullying),
  • Talking Without Words (non-verbal communication via body language, facial expression, and voice tone),
  • Nevermind what I say, you know what I mean (lying, figurative language, hyperbole, sarcasm),
  • Emotional vs Logical Beings (flighty, irrational, emotional, lack of focus)

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post, thanks for your thoughts. If you are interested, check out my blog: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Autism-Teaching-Strategies/138122749584717

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  2. Thanks Joel - I added your page on Facebook and also linked it as one of my page's favorites.

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    1. I love the idea for this book! I could really use the advice. Ha ha! (I'm Aspie). I'll check back for details.

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  3. So, it might be interesting to note that folks who know what to look for have suggested that _I_ might be somewhere on the spectrum. Obviously, if I am, then I'm VERY close to the neurotypical side, but Amy at least has noticed behaviors that remind her a little bit of spectrum disorders, and one of the psychological therapists I've seen has agreed with her.

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  4. Jeff I'd be interested to talk to you about what behaviors and whatnot you and Amy have noticed that might make you fall onto the spectrum. I personally believe that people who are super-smart and in jobs like engineering tend toward the spectrum. The big three for Aspergers(and autism, but autism has a few more things added) tends to be social issues, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests.

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  5. Greatness! I want to read "Herd of Humans!"
    Bobbi Sheahan

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