Neurodiversity

Articles about interesting research, personal experiences, and societal acceptance of ASD, ADHD, etc.

Psycho comes from the Greek word psykho, which means mental. The Greek root word path can mean either “feeling” or “disease.” So psychopath is a word meaning “mental illness”. “Sociopath” is not a clinical term and it is a no-no for mental health professionals to use it. However, I am NOT a mental health professional, and the name is rather on point about the issue: Sick towards society, towards people. In the 1830’s this disorder was called “moral insanity.” By 1900 it was changed to “psychopathic personality.” More recently it has been termed “antisocial personality disorder” in the DSM-III and DSM-IV.

DSM-IV Definition: Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards in the local culture. There is a marked inability to get along with others or abide by societal rules.

It’s easy to take the DSM on faith at face value as sufficient authority to settle the issue of who is or isn’t thoroughly, but the needs of the mental health community and others who have to deal with psychopaths don’t line up perfectly. The DSM criteria depend heavily on observed behaviors while law enforcement and criminal justice must often predict behavior based on personality characteristics. Continue reading

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(Not my writing, preserving author anonymity)

I have ADHD. My dad has ADHD.

I know that it’s hard for NT folks to understand what it’s like to have ADHD, but you HAVE to stop connecting moral judgment to our ability or inability to do things.

We would not be on time if we just loved you more. We would not remember our appointments of we just tried harder. Our brains are not a good fit for this neurotypical world.

Assistive methods and devices are not there to train us to have a habit when they’re gone. Assistive methods are what allow us to maintain these habits.

If we grow out of one method it’s just because we’ve replaced it with another. Ideally, the method would be housed in our brain (yay medicine! or meditation! or positive self-talk! or any sorts of other internal practices!) but it’s still there. Continue reading

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I didn’t write this, I lived it. All I would add is that for most of these, the word ‘child’ could just as well be; friend, sibling, partner, employee. Credit to the anonymous author.

 

  1. I’m trying way harder than you’ll ever know even though it doesn’t seem like it to you. I really, truly am.
  2. Criticizing me or getting angry at me that my brain doesn’t work better doesn’t help me. It makes me hate myself even more.
  3. I’m painfully aware of all the areas that I’m not measuring up. Instead of making a big deal about my shortcomings, try to find ways to help me.
  4. An accommodation isn’t the same as enabling. If you help me where I’m genuinely struggling, I’m going to be grateful. Don’t assume that I’m manipulating you.
  5. I’m not doing this to you, it’s NOT something I am doing on purpose.
  6. If you think it’s hard to live with me, imagine trying to live inside a body that won’t do what you want it to do.
  7. My brain doesn’t work right but I don’t know how to tell you that. It makes me angry and unkind, but I’m not trying to be that way.
  8. When I’m being horrible, what I really need is for you to tell me you’ll love me no matter what. And maybe hug me, too. I probably believe that I’m unlovable, so prove me wrong.
  9. I know that my lack of motivation is frustrating, but pushing harder doesn’t help me do better.
  10. My anger and frustration is a result of my brain not processing properly. When I’m overwhelmed and freaking out, don’t escalate by freaking out or getting angry too. I need you to be calm and show me that everything’s going to be fine even when I feel like it’s not.
  11. If I get overwhelmed, don’t expect me to sort out the problem all by myself. The part of my brain that controls regulation doesn’t work properly. That’s why I need your help to regulate.
  12. Don’t try to break me of things that you see as weaknesses. My sensitivity as a child means I’ll be compassionate as an adult. My stubbornness as a child means I’ll be independent and assertive as an adult. Instead of squashing these characteristics, channel them toward something good that can benefit me when I’m older. Don’t view me as something that needs fixed or toughened up.
  13. Don’t be afraid of labeling me. A label gives me answers and help. If my condition is serious enough to need to be diagnosed, you can guarantee that I’ve noticed something’s wrong and I’m wondering why I’m different too. Unless you tell me what’s going on, I’m likely to grow up angry and confused about why everyone has it all together and I don’t. A label means I can get help, it gives me answers and vindication.
  14. I have a real, actual medical condition in my brain. It’s just as real as if I had Type 1 Diabetes. Just like Diabetes, I need help to deal with the condition. No one tells someone with Type 1 Diabetes that they are lazy if they’re tired because their blood sugar is low. They understand that it’s part of the condition.
  15. Please, please, please learn about my condition, and don’t blame me for things that are out of my control. Just like leaving Type 1 Diabetes untreated results in serious complications and even death, untreated ADHD can lead to serious complications – potentially including death. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat ADHD (and medication isn’t the only way but a sure way to help me).
  16. My frontal lobe is developing 30% behind normal. Please understand this and don’t put me in situations I’m not ready to handle. If you give me responsibility that’s beyond my developmental age, don’t be angry with me that I do poorly. That’s setting me up for failure, and that’s just cruel.
  17. Stop expecting me to be normal. I can’t be. Not for all my trying. Until you accept that, I’ll always be a failure in your eyes, and I’ll always view myself as not good enough.
  18. You have the power to make me miserable by how you treat me. Remember to treat me with love and grace. Treat me how you would want to be treated if you were struggling with a problem in your brain. I may make myself miserable sometimes, but don’t add to that by treating me poorly. When in doubt, be kind. Believe me, I need your kindness, love, support, time and validation.

 

 

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Nobody Understands (but they all think they do)

Executive Dysfunction, motivation, avoidance, resistance, disorganization

Memory: Short term, long term, working, and nonexistent

Time Blindness, distortion

Emotional Mess: Rejection sensitive dysphoria, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, despair, etc.

Random leftovers

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Knowing Things We Never Learned:

Nearly all of us must struggle diligently to acquire even modest talent in Mathematics, Music, and Art. We encounter genius as a rare group of people who display an amazing gift that seems to come to them easily compared to our sweaty, grinding, display. People with this kind of talent are sometimes called savants. Below them are random individuals of great talent and below them, the rest of us in a bell curve spread from mediocre to hopeless. Yet effortless, genius-level mastery of these areas appears to be latent in our brains, modularized in you and me, right now. How to back up such a claim? We learn much about ourselves through the exceptions of pathology and extreme variation. A break in the pattern reveals the pattern.

There are three kinds of savants that reveal these “genius modules”. Continue reading

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“The Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing”

Our brains are clearly amazing at processing the “blooming, buzzing1” world around us.  A recent experiment supports the theory that when neurons work together they actively cooperate to achieve their maximum processing capacity. They seek the urgent, intense edge of their ability. Picture them as the human runners in an Amazon “fulfillment center” except happy in their work.

The entire brain appears to seek this set point or default working state at the maximum of its abilities: “Where it is as excitable as it can be, without tipping into disorder, similar to a phase transition.” A phase transition is where matter transitions from one state, liquid, solid, or gaseous, to a different state.

In other words, our brains are balanced about one millimeter from chaos and disorder. That’s all of us, all the time. Returning from sleep or other off duty moments the brain tunes and retunes itself seeking this point.

While the study neither reveals nor claims anything else about our neurology, I think it points a bright red arrow at possible organic causes of ADHD (as well as ASD, schizophrenia, etc). If the default human phenome, the standard, mass-produced person has this edge-of-chaos set-point, then genetic variation (known to be the prime cause of ADHD) could easily generate a different set point. This variation might generate the quirky, out of step processing that makes us so valuable in the modern workforce, wait, strike that…

It also seems logical that anything that alters this point results in behavioral instability.

More and other interesting details in the reports:

Link to study results 

 

 

1 William James, writing about sensory processing. : “The baby, assailèd by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; “

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This artist ( pina@adhd-alien.com ) does the best job I have ever seen of communicating what ADHD really is, and is like. We baffle and disappoint ourselves and the people and structures we need in our lives. Every hour of the day is a neurological roulette wheel. Here’s a link to her site.

I would be grateful to anyone who casually imagines they know what ADHD is like, to read several of these. I would simply like as many people as possible to better understand this disorder. It’s weirder and more limiting than you think.

It’s WAY more than inattention, and let me tell you, it isn’t lack of effort. We are 11% of the population and stories of effective treatment have been greatly exaggerated. The person in these cartoons is ON her meds.

Friends, family, and even total strangers confidently inform us that our problem isn’t real. Everybody thinks they get it, and even professionals in education and mental health often lazily ASSUME they get it with no research since 1993.

It’s like mental multiple sclerosis but we just look like we’re ditzy, and not trying hard enough.

 

 

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Mean exactly what they sound like: Fear of the new and Love of the new.

They aren’t cute made-up words, they are technical terms from biology. Animal ethologists (they study behavior) coined them because they needed to describe a common trait variation. Within a species, there are individuals who exhibit an openness to novelty. They try different foods, different hunting or mating techniques, for example. This is Neophilia.

The only way we could notice this is against a background of “by the book ” individuals. These are not risk-takers, these are the ones who define “normal behavior “. Whenever an animal’s general survival strategy and behavior is described, it ‘s the story of the Neophobes. But the deeper story is that Neophiles, while they live risky and often unsuccessful lives as individuals are key to survival and evolution.

In fact, it’s likely that that the pattern lived out by the neophobes was initiated by neophiles. First, the neophile may simply hit upon a more successful approach, and thrive. Second, when the species experiences a crisis in food or health or predation, the neophiles are likelier to be “the resistant strain ” that survives. These are the two main reasons for subspecies variations. So if you imagine this heretical thought; that life, rather than being the 100% dumb luck festival of the neo-Darwinians, has strategic algorithms for success, then these observations make perfect sense. Where or how these exist and operate is not my problem here. When patterns predictably exist in nature there are underlying causes to be found. If you follow this blog you know that my vaguely mystical point of view is not pointing to a “god did it ” conclusion and is not content with a “mere coincidence ” explanation.1 Continue reading

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  • He has Parkinson’s
  • She has epilepsy
  • He’s schizophrenic
  • She’s autistic 

No, it’s not the setup for this year’s wackiest RomCom.

It seems one might possess Parkinson’s like a teacup chihuahua or a classic mustang whereas autism is who you are. You could make the case that autism or schizophrenia dramatically shape your personality in a way that defines you, while the other two do not…but you’d be wrong. The communities of caregivers surrounding them commonly describe what they know as Parkinsonian and epileptic personalities. What decides this automatic and unnoticed distinction between Being a disorder and Having a disorder?

How can you be a diagnosis? The taxonomies of neurological types used to label people aren’t real things that people can “be”. They are checklists where we matched the diagnostic criteria enough to call the result positive. “Enough” might be 4 out 7 matches, for example. Diagnostic criteria are simply a collection of behaviors and bio-metrics accepted by the medical community. It’s rather like asking hunters (the hunting community?) the 7 most distinct characteristics of deer. That might be kind of fun but the heuristic is: “I know one when I see one”.

Different neurologies are utterly real but named neurological types are descriptions, the names for vertices and ranges of behavioral parabolas distinct enough to contrast clearly against normal.

Normal is the smooth melted butter river of behaviors we mostly can’t even notice because of how overwhelmingly common they are. Normal isn’t a thing either, it is a thing that’s going on.  Normal is a strange state, only seen clearly when it is held next to things that are not… a bit like a black light held over a motel bed. Normal isn’t a cool matter-of-fact background to things. Normal is the thing we fear when we make a terrible impression. Normal is the cop we all feel oddly guilty in front of. Normal is being welcomed home or cast out in exile. In meat-and-potatoes reality, there is no break from normality that calls for a celebration.

Throughout human history, Normal functioned as an immorality finder. Where immorality was uncovered, normal was declared missing…even for commonplace behaviors that simply got on the wrong side of something socially cherished. The other side of Normal’s coin is perversion of course. So Normal is tainted and muddled by being a measuring device cum moral cudgel. If you trace it back far enough you’ll find Normal describing primate pro-social behaviors that maximize pregnancies and group survival.

Continue reading

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There is a rather famous story about moths that you might well have encountered as a student. The class would have been discussing evolutionary theory.

The common form of peppered moth had a pale coloration suited to hiding on the bark of light-colored tree trunks. This camouflage apparently enabled it to avoid being eaten by birds. Then, in 1848 a specimen with black wings turned up, in the industrial city of Manchester, England. By the end of the 19th century, the dark peppered moth was everywhere, and the paler, mottled version had vanished, becoming virtually extinct.

This was perhaps the first clear instance of human behavior increasing environmental pressure on local species and observers noting and following it. The industrial revolution roared up to speed and the universal use of coal for heating and industrial production had blackened skies and forests. An editorial in an issue of Nature quotes an 1851 railroad guide to the English industrial midlands: “The pleasant green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes swim, are black and unwholesome…the few trees are stunted and blasted.” Continue reading

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