Neurodiverse ‘Constellations,’ not a Spectrum

Neurodivergent folks are not positionable on a one-dimensional spectrum. The range of our variations can only be plotted out on a wide multi-dimensional field like stars in the sky.

We tend to have constellations of diagnoses: not just depression and anxiety, but also AD/HD, PTSD, CTSD (or CPTSD), autism, eating disorders, various forms of body dysmorphia, dyslexia, hyperlexia, dyscalculia, hypercalculia, etc, etc… and we endure the conditions underlying these diagnoses at varying rates in our own ways, forming unique clusters of particular conditions at specific intensities.

Quick rundown of neurodivergence, via Awakened Neurodivergence [fb]:

The scientific simplicity of a single bipolar spectrum between ‘allistic’ and ‘autistic’ is not enough to capture what is happening, and so it allows for assumptions that a person could be more or less autistic, rather than autistic with more or fewer sensory issues, with greater or lesser intensity, with more or fewer support needs. In short, it is the various facets of being autistic that vary, not the basic fact of being a particular neurological configuration that presents as ‘autism.’

h/t to Little Penguin Studios (Autism Happy Place) on Instagram

Just as the stars, we too are each made of different stuff so that no two neurodivergent individuals will ever be exactly the same, no matter their similarities: even as there are only so many possible patterns of neural configurations, experiences differ so dramatically that no repeated configuration is experienced in exactly the same way by any two individuals.

Thinking in terms of constellations can move us away from DSM-diagnostics, checked or unchecked boxes, and disorder, all of which are associated with the idea of ‘spectrum,’ which is itself intimately associated with being autistic to such an extent that one can say they are “on the spectrum” as a synonym for “autistic.”

This is a matter of identity. We need language that supports this basic fact. I do not “have autism” just like I don’t “have gayness.” You hear how absurd that sounds? “I have gayness.” One says, rather, “I am gay“: an existential/stative verb and a descriptive adjective. In just the same way and by the same logic, I say “I am autistic.”

We’re not much of a spectrum, traditionally and popularly imagined as a one-dimensional axis of a single pair of antonyms; we are each a constellation.

Bonus: NeuroWild [Instagram] on Functioning Labels

One response to “Neurodiverse ‘Constellations,’ not a Spectrum”

  1. I love a spectrums and constellations

    Liked by 1 person

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