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Students Are Not Broken

25 Mar

Students Are Not Broken

Posted By: 
Kimberly White

Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.

The above quote, on a page titled the , is offered by Autism.org as a parody. It takes the same framing often used for neurodivergent perception and behavior, and applies it to neurotypicals (aka “normal” people) in a way that hopefully causes you to think.

Or to rethink.

Similarly, the following short video by Rethinking Autism packs a punch. By offering the perspective of somebody with autism, people have cried in relief of finally having something represent their views, or in frustration and confusion. This video has mostly been well-received, but some parents voiced concern that it might represent them in a poor light, and others expressed confusion over the responses offered from the autistic perspective.  Just remember that this confusion is the very reason why the video needed to be made; this is the voice that needs to be heard more often.  It’s a matter of personal agency. View the video and see what you think.



Those who are neurodivergent are so often told to adjust to neurotypical ways without equal effort of those who are typical to adjust to neurodiverse ways. Often “broken” aspects are not necessarily bad, just different, and often better. Yes, better. You might not agree, depending on your personal perspective, but these different ways can be preferred from a personal or even socio-cultural view. Many times, whether or not a way of thinking or being is valued depends on time and location. Beyond this, it is often those who do not “fit in” that rock our world and make the changes for which we are later grateful.

“Human competence is defined by the values of the culture to which you belong.” ~ Thomas Armstrong, author of Neurodiversity

Thomas Armstrong shares a pre-Civil War era article about a mental disorder among slaves. The symptoms? They wanted to run away. Obviously something was wrong with them, and this “disorder” required medical treatment. I hope this sounds absurd to you. I also hope that we can become more aware of the influence of society’s “supposed to’s” and learn to overcome them.

I love Armstrong’s section titles, but I will just share one more for now because it echoes something that The McAuliffe School often teaches:

“Whether you are regarded as disabled or gifted depends largely on when and where you were born.”

How many times have I said to people, “You are not broken” when in reality they definitely had some damage to overcome? However, the phrase is usually heard with grateful relief, and that is when the healing can begin.   The McAuliffe School often spends much time detoxing students and their parents from previous experiences, replacing the negative views with affirmations that you are strong. You have gifts. Okay, so you have quirks and you need to develop strategies to deal with some things; we all do, every single one of us, neurodivergent and typical both. Learn to play nicely with the neurotypical “natives” while also surrounding yourself with a support system of those who value you exactly how you are. As Chris Brogan encourages all of us to do: find your freaks.  You’ll be in good company, and it’s your privilege to do so.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” C.G. Jung

To a beautiful future,

Tamra Excell