Something I struggle with in my daily language is how to describe a student's abilities in terms of where they "should" be. I HATE the word "normal"... and "typical" or "usual" are only slightly better. I wish we lived in a world where we didn't have to routinely measure children against "average" benchmarks.
While I generally don't like the words normal and typical, there is one iteration of it I don't mind, and that's the word "neurotypical." Why don't I mind it? Because it begets an even better word:
While most of the antonyms of those words above are awful (abnormal, atypical, unusual...nasty all around), "neurodiverse" encapsulates the idea that maybe we are better when we don't all fit into an average criterion.
According to Psychology Today, neurodiversity is the idea that differences in neurological functioning are the result of normal (and natural) variations in the human condition. Those who support the theory of neurodiversity also believe that the varied ways that people with neurological differences view and interact the world do not need to be fixed or corrected.
Instead, we can view neurodiversity the same way that we view any diversity-- with the understanding that differing perspectives and experiences contribute beautifully to our collective understanding of what it means to be human.
Neurodiversity celebrates the unique ways that some brains process information, identify patterns, and find solutions.
Neurodiversity encourages the idea that there are very real strengths and gifts that can come from "seeing things differently."
Neurodiversity questions the belief that the "normal" way of operating is the superior way.
Neurodiversity provides a platform for those with neurological differences to be seen and heard as contributors.
Neurodiversity builds empathy and collaboration instead of division and seclusion.
Neurodiversity means that we're not all the same and that that's totally okay.
You know how sometimes being average feels good (like "My child is average height") and sometimes average feels bad (like "You're average on this area of your performance review")? Typically our students with special needs get the "bad" kind of average, if they're near there at all. Neurodiversity flips the script.
It says that maybe, having an average brain-- a neurotypical brain-- is actually not that exciting. It's normal, common, even boring.
Having a brain that works differently-- that makes you special.