What is normal? It's just a numbers game.Feb 16, 2022
By Suzan Issa
So, you’ve probably seen all the hashtags and bold exclamations; Different not less, different operating systems, not broken, different not deficient (okay I may have imagined the last one... but you get the gist.
But, What does it really mean? How different are we? And different from what? Who created this notion that there is a place called ‘same’ and everyone not born there is called ‘different’?
Well, we did... and in my experience, all it is, is a numbers game. Because there are more people living in the land of same, their quirks, vulnerabilities, strengths, characteristics were filed under ‘normal’ and didn’t draw much attention because everybody made allowances for them as they were part of the human condition (yep... this does suggest that those not born ‘same’ are aliens)
Basically, they boxed up normal depending on the neurowiring (I just made that up, I like it) of the vast majority. Then they created structures of work and learning based on the people in that box; anybody not fitting in the box was then labelled broken, unteachable, unemployable, needy, disabled, then they decided that was a little mean as it wasn’t our fault so they pathologised us and created labels such as Autistic, ADHD, Dyslexic...
… and here’s the catch; WE BOUGHT IT! We answered their questions about all the ‘easy’ things we couldn’t do, how hard life was for us and those around us and we celebrated when they slapped their label on our personality because now we were sick and deserved charity ... we weren’t simply annoying and inconvenient to them.
Anyway, I digress... as I was saying it is a numbers game. When you are 4 in a classroom where 29 of your peers can sit unnaturally still, follow instructions unquestioningly, do really boring things they don’t want to do for a sticker they don’t particularly like, be unnaturally quiet even when the best idea in the world has just come to them ... when you are 4 and sitting tapping your fingers, squeaking in delight at the brightness of the blue on your teacher’s jumper and so eager to finish the incredible car you were making before being called to ‘carpet time’ … suddenly desperately impatient because you’ve just thought of an incredible way to attach the wheels and make them stay on and turn, when your thoughts have turned to the angle that you placed the steering wheel and the sudden realisation that it needs tilting to work properly...
… but you’re having to sit and listen and do something you have no interest in and you feel like you will actually explode... you can’t help but think, ‘what is wrong with me?’ it must be me, there are 29 of them over there doing it really easily and none of them look like they want to cry and scream and shout... I must be quite stupid to not be able to ‘just’ do this thing I keep getting told is simple and easy. (‘just’ that word has a lot to answer for… but that’s a different conversation)
So, in that context, the traits of the 29 appear to be strengths, desirable and commendable... while the creative thinking, problem solving, hyperfocus, determination and imagination of the four year old looking on appear erratic, inconvenient, unacceptable and require investigation and ‘fixing’ ...
The world needs both.
… Like I said, it’s ‘just’ a numbers game.
Wellbeing, Emotional Regulation & Neurodiversity specialist for families and individuals.
Autistic with a sprinkling ADHD and PDA, passionate about helping people understand us, themselves and each other so we can all live together harmoniously.