I’m a neurodiversity advocate for so many reasons, both personal and collaborative. I love the ways in which adding to the conversation about neurodiverse traits has helped me stand up for my own differences. I’ve become more confident talking about synesthesia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and my other outliers, and I am less afraid of my tics, meltdowns, and stimming behaviors. I’ve embraced the fact that I’m a weird sister, and to me, that’s awesome.
Through voicing my lived experiences as a neurodivergent woman, I feel I’ve become a better ally to other neurodiverse persons. My strongest calling to activism is anchored in my hope to alleviate suffering; neurocognitve differences can have a profound impact on psychosocial health and well being, and are often a source of tremendous dissonance, depression, and anxiety. I can remember with great clarity my many years struggling to understand my strange sensorium and my patchy cognitive profile, and I don’t want anyone else to waste decades in the same exasperating pursuit of solutions and community.
I believe one of the keys to a greater appreciation for neurodiversity is education. The neurodiversity movement is still in its infancy; when neurodivergent folks share our experiences along with factually accurate information about neurocognitve anomalies, we elevate the conversation. And, we diminish the historic stigma associated with the behavioral and personality features that are often part of the neurodiverse brain.
One of my favorite outreach activities is talking to school groups about synesthesia. I recently offered a Zoom presentation to students at Orchard View High School in Muskegon Michigan, who are studying consciousness as part of a psychology curriculum. We explored the phenomenon of synesthesia, what it is like to have conflated senses, and its impact on my everyday life. I showed them my Great Big Story, and we looked into the work of Dr. Richard Cytowic and Dr. David Eagleman, two pioneers in neuroscience research. The students asked thoughtful questions about my experiences as a synesthete, and we reviewed the lesson’s key points so that the detailed information about synesthesia would really sink in.
The night before my talk, I wrote the names of each of the students in the colored letters I see due to my grapheme-color and lexeme-color synesthesias. One of the students, Zander Isley, accidentally got left off that list. Yet, he took the time to create a delightful drawing of me, including the cute wool cap I was wearing. Zander’s illustration absolutely made my day, and I am honored that he took the time to render my likeness.
As a formed high school theater educator, I recognize that learning is a two way street. Students are both pupils and teachers, they constantly offer back to their instructors lessons on how they are learning, and which skills are the ones they wish to master. And teachers both instruct, and are instructed by their students; we educators learn so much from the ways our students reveal their skills and abilities. I feel more educated after my talk with the students in Mr. Bolthouse’s class at Orchard View High School. Thanks to all of you for helping me become a better advocate for neurodiversity.
If you’d like me to speak to your students, your civic or community group, or organization about neurodiversity, please reach out via my contact form.