• Heather Thompson, TheoArtistic Acquired Savant

Neurodivergent Doesn't Automatically Mean "Disordered/Disabled/Less than Neurotypical"

"My most interesting ideas often seem too difficult to express with speech. It can take me years to figure out how to say something just right."

I pulled the above quote from the article at the bottom of this post. As I read it, I immediately found myself swearing alone in my living room while typing rapidly on my computer.

Truthfully, I am often angered by the way that people with neurodivergent brains are treated in our culture. We have an incorrect view of neurodivergence - It does not mean that the neurotypical person is "fine" and the "neurodiverse" person has a problem. This is not about good and bad, healthy and disordered, abled and disabled; rather, this is about the fact that brains work differently. It almost seems ridiculous to expect otherwise! Yet we seem to want grey matter homogeneity such that we label normative departures disordered.

This must be the function of left hemispheres run amok - yes that's a metaphor more than an actual biological reality, but you get my drift. The Left half of our brains would have us all believe that it is in charge of everything, and those that have powerful Right brain thoughts don't matter because they cannot communicate their ideas effectively. Like a snooty 2nd grade librarian, this belief system is so pervasive that we don't stop to question the logic. Could the opposite be true? More specifically, could it be that the information coming from the Right brain is so complex, and the means of communication is nondualistic, therefore it is the Left brain that is actually missing the boat? AHA! Watch Left hemispheres everywhere panic.


Mind. Blown.

A little tongue and cheek, but actually a kind of true.

I used to be a person that was Left brain dominant. Now I am Right dominant, post TBI, with acquired savantism and synesthesia. For a while, I was so Right dominant that I fought for every word; yet, poetry ran through my head constantly and paintings became my primary means of expression.

In theology, thank goodness there is a word for this "dysgraphic" experience - "ineffable" - the awe inspiring experience of standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and trying to put it into words.

I fought to build an information highway that could handle my Right brain thinking, as I routinely have deep ocean thoughts come across the corpus-collosum in rapid succession. When the flood enters my conscious mind, I see colors and feel emotions. A complex holographic ball of information begins to form that is very much like the way that the aliens communicated in the movie "The Arrival," though I am not limited to two dimensions. Looking at the holographic sphere is like taking in the entirety of a book, or a movie, or an entire life story, all at once - how could I possibly flatten it into a sentence, a paragraph or even a book? To do so would be to lose the infinite inter-connections throughout the sphere that makes it what it is!

I have learned, however, to stop fighting it. There are times when I can communicate with words (like now); however, there are times when I am speechless due to the complexity of thought. I have learned to honor my brain and allow myself to communicate in other ways if that feels more natural. Others might not understand me, and that just needs to be okay.

Just as there is sign language (my grandmother was deaf), some of us have different ways in which we communicate the complexity of what lies within. I can paint it. I can speak it in poetic form, most of the time...but not always words. It's just too linear. Of course, our culture has to make this a disorder because it isn't neurotypical.

How many kids grow up feeling that they are stupid because they are so brilliant that they have trouble putting their exceedingly complex thoughts into words?

Had I not had the brain injury....Had I not had the influence of theology professors that gave me WORDS for my experience...Had I not been able to read original theological sources - multi-dimensional thinkers that wrote in the same manner that my brain thought (Tillich) - I too would have believed that I was stupid...and what a different view I would have on the value of my life.


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