Embracing Neurodiversity

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The Dunes Studio Gallery and Café – P.E.I.

Recently I had a situation which was causing me difficulty. The actions of another person was contributing significantly to my sensory loading. In addition to that, the person’s actions were inconsiderate and was out of sync with the expectations of the activity.

 

Because of my struggle with sensory loading related to my ABI (acquired brain injury), I had one of two options. The first option was to avoid being around the person. The second option was to make the person aware of the issue and appeal to some common courtesy.

I opted for the first choice. Just steer clear. It seemed the easier option.

I soon realized that it was impossible to avoid someone that was regularly around me. So my only viable option was to approach the person with my concern.

I approached the person with my request, not knowing what response to anticipate. That in itself added noticeably to my sensory loading.

The response I got was over the top and put me into sensory overload. Rather than acknowledging the friendly reminder, and recognizing that my request was very reasonable, I received some incredible push back. I was told that my request was ridiculous and that the courtesy was definitely unnecessary.

I walked away after the verbal assault and found a quiet place to off load some of the initial effects of my sensory loading. Since the ABI also affects my ability to problem solve, I was unable to give an immediate and measured response.

A half hour later the person approached me and apologized for, as he called it, his brusque behaviour. He told me he didn’t understand what I was talking about.  There was nothing ambiguous about my request. I had explained which of his actions were causing difficulty for me as well as reducing my margin of safety. His initial reaction was poorly covered by his nonsense explanation. With that I lost a lot of respect for the person.

Unfortunately, the interchange did very little to make his behaviour more considerate. For me it was a wasted effort and contributed unnecessarily to my sensory loading in the days that followed.

Avoiding to hide behind the ABI wall

I don’t like to use my ABI limitations to coerce someone else into changing their behaviour. If someone is engaged an activity in a socially acceptable way, even if it adds to my sensory loading, I won’t request any concessions. If someone is not acting in a socially acceptable manner I will ask the person to make concessions depending on how much it affects my ABI limitations.

However, I won’t explain my limitations as the basis for the request. I shouldn’t have to make my limitations public in order to receive cooperation. I don’t want to use my ABI as a means for coercion or manipulation. Being one’s own advocate is difficult and makes it hard to manage my sensory loading.

On a daily basis I have people around me engaged in activities in a socially acceptable manner. When these activities affect my ABI limitations I make it my business to leave the area or make my own accommodations.

Inclusiveness

My example shows some of the challenges of moving to a more inclusive neurodiverse society. The needs for those like myself who are neurologically a-typical the requests for consideration has a significant affect on our participation in a variety of events and activities.

At times when self-advocacy hasn’t worked I have had a measure of success with someone advocate for me. Unfortunately when self-advocacy hasn’t work other measures have too often been equally futile.

Much work needs to be done to move people to become more accepting of and have a greater understanding of neurodiversity. Through increased awareness hopefully more people will develop an appreciation for the needs of those who push the boundaries of neurodiversity. Pushing the boundaries not to make a point, but simply pushing the boundaries because of our presence and being who we are.

* What is neurodiversity?

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Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

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