A neurodiverse person’s brain, however, works differently than the medical and social norm, away from others’ expectations. Society, however, tends to force the neurodiverse community, forcing them to fit into the boxes. My goal, as a student with lots of neurodivergent friends, was to create an inclusive and diverse community to foster learning between both neurodiverse and neurotypical students. I was able to join the Stanford Neurodiversity Project - Research, Education, and Advocacy Camp for High Schoolers, also known as SNP-REACH, in order to accomplish this goal.
The first step is to understand which way we will address those on the spectrum. This is where the identity-first language and person-first language come in. The identity-first language is referring to a person on the spectrum as an “autistic person” while the person-first language includes phrases such as “person with autism”. Around 60% of the neurodiverse community prefers identity-first language, but everyone has different preferences.
Some of the challenges that people on the autism spectrum may face are social interaction with others. Autistic people may struggle to interact socially with others due to the challenges of reading social cues. Additionally, some individuals may face challenges with social cues, maintaining conversations, and understanding sarcasm or metaphors. Unlike the myth, this is not because they care less or struggle to be empathetic as some autistic people can be hyper-empathetic. This social struggle is rather correct to be characterized as not skills-based but energy-based, otherwise known as the spoon theory.
People on the autism spectrum could also suffer from emotional regulation, which is the ability to manage or respond to an emotional experience healthily. Many neurodivergent people, including autistic people, may struggle with this ability, which could relate to intensified emotions.
Another struggle of autistic people can be making or maintaining eye contact with others, but not everyone struggles to make eye contact are people on the autism spectrum. For these individuals, making eye contact is more of a conscious effort than a natural phenomenon.
Various terminologies are required when learning about these neurodiverse communities. What are some ways to learn some of these vocabularies, not only on the medical model but on the social model? A group of eager students, including myself, decided to advocate for this community by creating a website that functions as a neurodiversity “handbook”. “Neuroscope” creates a safe space to communicate and connect with their peers as it helps create an inclusive and diverse community to foster learning for both neurotypical and neurodiverse students where they both can benefit and grow. Please check out the handbook if you are interested in learning more about the social model of neurodiversity!