‘The Myth of Normal’ (podcast) … embracing neurodiversity

I highly recommend The Myth of Normal – CBC ‘Ideas’ podcast – a 2-part series on CBC’s ‘Ideas’ that includes many insights from authors I reference in my ‘Neurobiology and Learning‘ course in Antioch University’s Individual Masters Program (online): Temple Grandin, Gabor Maté, Thomas Armstrong, and others talking about the need for accepting and expanding neurodiversity. (Gabor Maté actually has a new book out titled ‘The Myth of Normal’ but the podcast doesn’t exclusively tee him up in a special way).

All the profiled authors have important things to say about this subject, and they help illuminate histories not only of the brain’s development through evolution but how humans have regarded neuro-a-typical brains. By way of a spoiler alert I can confirm that the show’s authors reveal that human societies have generally isolated and ostracized neuro-a-typical people (children especially) at the same time we often really value their a-typical contributions. Some of these (under-achieving [sic]) contributors include include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Elon Musk, Emily Dickinson, Temple Grandin, Greta Thunberg and many others.

I liked the series so much I listened to each episode 3 times and transcribed them!  Below are several excerpts. Maybe you’ll value them, too.

I like to say I don’t I don’t treat disabilities, I help people unwrap their gifts. If you help people unwrap their gifts, then they will contribute. You see, it costs society a tremendous amount. I mean, the ultimate example is the prison system. We are wasting, squandering incredible resources in these gifted people that we are at best misunderstanding and at worst, incarcerating. I mean, the prisons are full of people with undiagnosed untreated mental differences, who could be helped by informed, intelligent fact based interventions that we have that the system won’t even allow to be implemented.

– psychiatrist and author Ed Hallowell

I don’t think we’d be here if we didn’t have a school system that was incredibly narrow and was focused on what’s at the back of the book, I think it comes back to that every person who is going to deal with children – parents, daycare workers, teachers, physicians, all the way through adolescence – need to be told about (neuro) differences and not to try and fit every kid into the same square peg.

– University professor and author Temple Grandin

There’s this really big gap between what we think of as normal, and what the world needs in many different situations that we don’t ever think about. We define something like impulsiveness and hyperactivity as inherently bad. … Yet, think about how much of our life and how many job descriptions involve threat, chaos, and really intense situations. Think about our firefighters, our EMT, or emergency surgeons. They are constantly facing emergencies, and yet they thrive and focus on that hyperactivity or that impulsivity or that stimulation seeking.

– Steve Silberman, author, Neurotribes
Diversity defines the natural world … Neurodiversity is likewise a naturally-occurring phenomena, that many perceive as contributing to our resilience and survival as a species.


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