I make it quite well known that talking about neurodiversity is something that is extremely important to me.
I am a neurodivergent author, with neurodivergent children and family members.
I want to be able to see and support more Own Voice neurodivergent voices in children's publishing and find a way to help challenge stereotypes and stigma that often surround being a neurodivergent person.
So let's talk a little about neurodiversity!
We are all neurodiverse. Our brains are highly diverse in the ways they function, work and think. Neurodiverse is a broad term that basically covers everyone, yet is often the term used when discussing autistic people, those with ADHD, Tourettes, often excluding neurotypicals.
When we want to address neurodiversity, we are better off separating it into two categories; neurodivergent and neurotypical.
Neurotypical being someone who has typical developmental and cognitive abilities.
You may have also heard this also refers to as "normal" .
I just need to clarify that no, this is not "normal", everyone has their own life experiences, which are normal to them. ADHD is my normal, and your normal will be yours.
Neurodivergent covers the autistic spectrum, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourettes, and other. People who's brains are maybe "wired a little differently", people who's brains function in a way that's unique to them.
We all know the saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".
We all know... this is also utter nonsense.
Words can have an immensely huge effect on people.
While I, as a neurodivergent person, may feel comfortable calling myself weird or a bit of an oddball. It is a completely different matter when someone else calls me this, or choses to refer to another this way, just because they are seen as “different”.
When writing neurodivergent characters, choosing to include words that may reinforce negative stereotypes and negative tropes is not helpful in creating positive representation, this applies to all marginalised groups.
It can be particularly damaging if those words are triggering, and may cause unnecessary pain to those who read or hear them.
Stereotypes surrounding neurodivergent persons, is something that needs addressing and if you are not presenting an authentic story, and are choosing to include words with such negative connotations, you could end up reinforcing these stereotypes and being part of the problem.
It goes with out saying, in my opinion, that lived experience, is the best experience when it comes to writing authentic stories.
I know my world best. I know how ADHD makes me feel and act. I know the conversations I have with myself, the accomodations I have to make for myself and others. I know that it's common for girls to mask their symptoms, and often we get diagnosed much later than boys.
I also know that my experience Is unique to me.
Even though I am a neurodivergent person, it doesn't mean I know it all.
If I write a book, featuring a protagonist with ADHD, I still need to consider and be thoughtful towards others with ADHD too.
Many people don't know that ADHD is split into three categories, Attentive, Inattentive and Combined. It's also highly likely that we have other comorbid traits/conditions on top of our ADHD. Which, as you can imagine, makes talking about ADHD a little more complex than most may have considered.
The more books we read books that feature neurodiversity, different types or the same types, told in different ways, the more likely it is that we will have a broader and more realistic understanding of what it is to be neurodivergent. One person's experience is not the only experience.
When I talk neurodiversity, I do tend to focus a little more on the ADHD side of things.
It is what I know most about due to my own, and my daughter's, lived experiences.
I also have an understanding and experience of living with autistic people too, so I do address this when talking about neurodiversity.
My own symptoms seem to have many crossovers with Autistic symptoms, some may say I am an ADHD person with autistic traits but I am still doing a lot of self discovery and trying to read up on this. Hence, for the moment, a lot of my work focusses on ADHD, rather than Autism.
Neurodiversity is such a HUGE and fascinating topic, and I really can waffle on about it for ages, but I'm trying to keep this short and sweet!
I would hope that if you are reading this, as a writer, it inspires you, when considering writing a neurodivergent character, you have done all the necessary research. It's also important to consider if you really want to take on the responsibility of creating an authentic and positive representation of the type of neurodiversity you are trying to portray/show in a character.
I would highly recommend, if you do not have lived experience, and even if you do, connecting with the amazing people at www.inclusiveminds.com who specialise in providing help and support in creating positive, authentic representation for all marginalised groups, within children's publishing.
If you are a reader and are looking for books that you could read that feature Own Voices, you can take a look at this reading list, which features a mix of Own Voice disabled and neurodivergent writers;