I am wading into murky waters with this post. I know this, but I’m going to do it anyway…
I really dislike the word “neurotypical.” It’s one of those words that has always bothered me because, in my opinion, it doesn’t really mean what it’s meant to mean. Neurotypical is the word coined by many in the neurodiversity movement, (a word I like – neurodiversity – by the way, kind of like biodiversity, there’s no pejorative, underlying meaning) because it does mean what it’s meant to. But I don’t think neurotypical goes far enough. I understand that it was created as an upgrade and improvement from the word “normal” (a word which really, really bothers me.) The word normal being completely subjective and arguably something none of us could really say we are if anyone is being brutally honest. But neurotypical, while certainly preferable to “normal” just doesn’t do it for me.
Last weekend, Richard and I were talking about autism, and I said, “the neuromajority…” Richard said, “I like that, neuromajority. That’s good.” Yup, these are the kinds of conversations we often have with each other… He agreed with me that he didn’t like the word neurotypical either. The word “typical” has a slightly positive spin to it, kind of like a private club. Having always been unconventional (and proud of it) I’m not a big believer or fan of clubs, never have been. The word neurotypical is also vague, open to interpretation, completely subjective and ultimately confusing. I don’t like that. So I started using the word neuromajority. It doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as neurotypical, but at least it is more accurate in that it means what it’s meant to mean. Neuromajority – It is the neurological state the majority of humans have, neither good nor bad.
Flushed with pride in having come up with such a brilliant new word, a word I felt I alone had coined, it hadn’t occurred to me that others may have already used this word. Until I began writing this post. As I was writing, right around the end of the last paragraph, I suddenly thought – I should Google – neuromajority – and see if anything comes up. There were three instances of neuromajority being used, one of them was a comment left on an interview with Temple Grandin for 60 minutes. The commenter wrote: “Like most of the neuro-majority you reached beyond her statement and arrived at the conclusion this means she’s faking her eye contact” and the other was from a blogger with the blog – 1uppitywoman where she writes: “Asperger’s has complicated life for me only so far as the neuromajority bristles at people like myself because we’re different from them.” The last was another comment left on the blog AspieWeb. So I went from feeling pleased with myself for my tiny stroke of brilliance in having come up with a word I prefer to use in describing myself and others like me, to the humility of realizing I had NOT come up with this word all on my own, to indignation that only three sites came up where the word was used. My thinking is, since it’s been used, then why hasn’t it taken off and been used by a great many? After all it’s a really good word, isn’t it? (!)
So I’m putting it out there – does anyone else dislike the word “neurotypical?” Is there a better word we can use? What does everyone else think? Or is all of this way too political and therefore weighty and fraught with unseen implications that I’ve missed?
Tomorrow’s post will be about Emma’s new name for her dad.
For my latest piece in the Huffington Post, click ‘here‘.