I learned a new word this week: neurodiversity | Blogs

I’m graciously right-handed myself, but I’ve lived my life among a crowd of dishonest people. I learned not to tell the driver which way to turn at the next turn, but to point clearly in the desired direction. I learned to describe the location of an object in the refrigerator or on a shelf not as to the right or to the left, but as towards or away from the street, towards this neighbor or this neighbor. I’ve heard that left-handers have more serious car accidents because when their attention wanders, left-handers drift into oncoming traffic rather than off the road. I wonder if the same is true for right-handed people in Britain?

I’ve also heard that left-handed people are more creative and are able to grasp the nuances of complex situations more quickly. Just looking at famous and gifted people, left-handers seem to be represented in a much larger proportion than in the general population (about 12%). With three out of five of my immediate family members being “sinister” instead of “clever,” I know how it would feel if we voted on this.

The above is an introduction to the news that I learned a new word this week: neurodiversity. In fact, it’s been around since the 1990s, but I’ve only just heard of it. Neurodiversity refers to the differences in behavior, abilities and actions between us, all the product of the variety of our nervous systems.

Having lefties in our population increases our neurodiversity. Just like having people who can solve quadratic equations without writing anything down, even though they might not be able to tie their shoes. Just like those who can be so easily distracted that they need their own private, soundproof office, but can crack the most sophisticated encryptions. Whether those who are different can make contributions to society despite or because of their differences is not as relevant as encouraging them to make those contributions.

Some companies now have neurodiversity programs in their human resources department, realizing that the button down, dark suit, matching tie, conservative business attire, lookalike, similar action and thought are not not always the path to greater productivity. Consistency is not always a virtue, nor is uniformity and conformity.

It is good that the industry is making a conscious effort to ensure that hiring and working conditions improve the contributions of those of us who are different from most of us. I must, however, inform Ford, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and others that institutions that hire and employ different, sometimes very different, people have been around for centuries. They’re called colleges, universities, medical, dental, and law schools – pretty much any organization that exists to put an alphabet behind your name.

Serious examples of the world gaining or losing through its treatment of neurodiversity, such as Helen Keller, Alan Turig and Stephen Hawking, abound. An easy example of people considered disabled who turned out to be gifted was the discovery during World War II that color blind people could see through camouflage efforts, in the air and in aerial reconnaissance photographs, much better than pilots. or the usual color-perceiving pilots. analysts.

Another example of the different abilities the usual person doesn’t have might be code talkers, also from World War II, whose backgrounds in learning English might not have equipped them to be at home. at ease in a cocktail party in Boston, but who devised a coded language never broken by the Japanese.

For us, let’s continue the left-handed review. Baseball has long understood that it can hit right-handed pitchers better. Plus, they’re already on their way to first base when they’re done swinging. It is such an advantage in tennis that Rafael Nadal, born right-handed, became left-handed. The importance of this advantage was satisfactorily illustrated the first time my left-handed son came up against a left-handed tournament opponent. Watching them struggle to cope with crooked serves and balls bouncing the wrong way, as we always had to do against them, was entertainment of the best kind.

Far from being accepted as a normal variation or even an advantage in certain circumstances, some parents still see left-handedness as a handicap and force born left-handers to become right-handed. Please exit! Show children the different adaptations to the condition. Holding the scissors upside down, operate the jar lids by holding the lid steady and rotating the jar. Have a left-hander teach them things like sports and tool use. Probably most important, when learning to write, tilt the page to the right rather than the left, thus avoiding upside-down pen grips and the other cramped efforts of some left-handed people to write. See that the school does the same; hope for a left-handed desk.

Neurodiversity programs embarrass us by saying, as we should have done all along, notice what people can do, not what they can’t.

Arthur Garrett is a former ecologist and educator, retired geneticist and pediatrician. Email him at [email protected]

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