Much research has gone into neurodivergence, but it's primarily been geared toward children. Recently, more adults are being diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD, and they either feel as though it's the missing piece of the puzzle, or they feel defeated and even more confused than before. Whatever you're feeling, you deserve to process the emotions, evaluate your behaviors, and begin to recognize your strengths while celebrating your differences.
Do you ever look back at your childhood and wonder why something was the way it was? Maybe a lack of friends or not even wanting friends. Not feeling as though you grasped certain topics in school the way others did, or did far better than other students without putting forth much effort. Were you highly sensitive regarding yourself and others? Or, perhaps you weren't sure how to express emotion at all?
As a teen, did you feel as though you were always behaving the way others did, or in a way you thought they expected (masking)? Maybe you found social settings to be exhausting and didn't believe you fit in. Or, you became so good at masking that you had large social circles and participated in many activities but likely didn't connect on a deep emotional level with any of them.
By the time you were an adult, you found yourself cringing at something you said in a social setting. Aren't quite aware when you say something that could be construed as insensitive or offensive, though you never mean to be hurtful. Drift off in your mind in the middle of conversations, miss what other people are saying to you, and find that you're sensitive to sounds and/or textures. Walk around the house with headphones on all the time? You might even have a variety of foods you enjoy, but get "stuck" on one thing and eat it over and over for days or weeks until you move on to something else.
My son was diagnosed with autism when he was 7 years old. I was told he had "Autism Spectrum Disorder" and that he would never be like other children. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but it felt like I had done something wrong, and that my son would spend a lifetime struggling to overcome hurdles. Well, neither of those things is true. I hadn't done anything wrong, and my son (now an adult), is an incredible person with a heart of gold and thrives in all aspects of his life.
Reflecting on those times, I am disheartened that my son was diagnosed as having a "disorder" as though something was wrong with him, or that he somehow needed to be cured. Then, to be told he would never be like other children felt like a gut punch. Now I realize that none of us, or our children, should ever be expected to be like others.
Raising an autistic child doesn't make me an expert, nor does it mean I know more than someone who didn't raise an autistic child. However, it did allow me to spend a lifetime supporting and advocating for an autistic person. It created opportunities for me to evaluate his behavior, watch him grow, and navigate challenges while celebrating successes.
Though autism is still labeled a disorder, I don't view it as a hindrance or something that needs to be cured. Nor will I pathologize my neurodivergent clients.