Neurodiversity Myths: Busted

Do you wonder what the truth is behind stereotypes of neurodiverse conditions? Here are 5 neurodiversity myths: busted!

Myth 1: Neurodivergent conditions only affect boys

Stereotypes of a number of neurodivergent conditions tend to be more closely aligned with presentations in boys. But did you know that there are growing numbers of adult women being diagnosed? This often happens when a child is diagnosed and their parents say “but he’s just like me….” And given time the penny drops.

Disclaimer: this also happens for Dads, and for adults without children. But engage with any neurodivergent group of adults and you will almost without fail find that at least one has been diagnosed as described above. This is helping to increase our understanding of these conditions and their different manifestations.

You can read more about this here:

Or you can read about autism in women and girls here.

Myth 2: Neurodivergent conditions are becoming more prevalent

See above. Numbers are not necessarily increasing. Diagnosis is getting better.

Myth 3: Adopt a growth mindset and think your way out of Neurodiversity

Surely there are strategies that neurodivergent people can learn to help them fit in better, right? Well, yes and no. Neurodivergent people have been learning strategies to navigate the world around them since the day they were born. It’s exhausting, and this viewpoint assumes that neurodivergent people are “deficient”, that they do things “wrong” that neurotypical people do “right”. We tore that assumption up in this blog.

Think of it this way: my natural hair colour is brown. I could invest time, energy and money in bleaching my hair to make me look blonde, but I can’t change the fact that my hair comes out of the follicles brown. In a situation where I absolutely had to appear blonde, I would always be on the lookout for a bit of growth coming through that might give the game away. Was I blonde enough today? Do you think that person who looked at me funny realised I’m brunette? What product can I buy to make me blonder for longer? Maybe I’ll turn down that invitation to meet in the park because the sun’s out and if the light hits my head a particular way the hairs look darker.

No wonder neurodivergent people have high levels of anxiety.

Myth 4: Neurodivergent people are trailblazers

We’ve talked a lot recently about the positives associated with Neurodiversity: focus, attention to detail, creativity… But neurodivergent people aren’t always shouting about their strengths or proposing ground breaking solutions to problems.

Why not? Well, firstly we are – on the whole – just your average Joe. We don’t have Mensa-level IQs. We don’t have egos the size of houses. We don’t necessarily think our ideas are better than anyone else’s.

Then layer on top of that Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Yes, the flip side of Neurodiversity is that despite having good ideas, we might not want to share them because rejection or criticism from our colleagues causes a very real and physical pain. If you are a line manager who thinks you’ve got to grips with Neurodiversity, I urge you to read about RSD because understanding this might help you to really get the best from your staff. And if you’re a friend of someone neurodivergent, please go easy on them!

Myth 5: Autistic people have no sense of humour

April is autism awareness / acceptance month, so I had to close with this one. To give a bit of background, Autism Awareness month was launched by a charity that Autistic people actually don’t support. For a whole host of reasons that you don’t have time to read about right now. Anyway, this charity suggests “lighting it up blue” in April as a way of identifying autistic children. Call to mind significant events in modern history or think about the friends of yours who don’t post images of their kids on social media, and you’ll get the jist of why this is a problem.

So, in response, and bearing in mind that autism often goes hand in hand with sensory sensitivities, the autistic community tongue-in-cheek recommend that during April we should #toneitdowntaupe.

No sense of humour, eh…?

Image (c) Christina-Marie GonzaMama Wright

Bonus laughs:

(c) jja
(c) SMBC Comics – NB This is a play on the fallacy that vaccines cause autism