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‘.
I, too, generally dislike the word “neurotypical” – especially as the “opposite of autistic” – a good friend of mine is definitely NOT “neurotypical” but she is also absolutely not autistic… there’s a lot of gray space and other things. One word I have heard used quite a bit is “allistic”, to be the opposite of “autistic” – I kind of like that one, because its not got “majority” or “typical” or “normal” or anything, it simply means “not autistic”.
Allistic is interesting, someone on FB suggested neuroplurality. I wish there was a word that was neutral in it’s implications, neither negative nor positive, but that meant “not autistic” so maybe non-autistic is the best we can do? Because neuromajority has a “we’re the majority and therefor better” connotation to it?
“Neurotypical” has less and less currency as the opposite of “autistic,” because you can be non-autistic but not be neurotypical. Anyone with a non-normative neurology would not be neurotypical.
I like the word “neuromajority” quite a lot. I’ve also seen someone use the word “neurobigotry,” which starts to get to the heart of the matter for me. I don’t really care much what a person’s neurology is so much as how they think about it. Do they respect difference or don’t they? That’s the question.
“Do they respect difference or don’t they? That’s the question.”
Yes. Respecting differences, that’s really it for all of us. Can we respect each other’s differences? I’d like to believe the answer is, yes. But history has shown that respect of others, particularly those who are in any way different has been slow at best. Perhaps our continuing evolution will change that.
The word autism comes from autos- (Gr. self) and -ism (condition. system). Coined by Paul Bleuler in 1912, the intended meaning is “morbid self-absorption” an interpretation I also don’t care for. So if we’re sticking with autism to define the spectrum, maybe we should take a page from ‘LOST’ to define those not on the spectrum. The Others!
Ewww… that’s good. Now there’s a name that doesn’t have negative connotations to it!
It’s really interesting that you wrote this about the origin of “autism” because I did that about an hour ago on a FB conversation with someone else. This is what I wrote: “I’ve often wondered how those who are autistic feel about that word. After all the root “autos” in Latin meaning self is misleading and, it seems to me, corrupted to mean self involved and antisocial. FB is such a great example of how wrong that thinking is. And my daughter, who knows not of FB’s existence is another example as she is extremely social, wouldn’t miss a party for the world and much prefers being with others than alone. Especially if she can perform! Which she does. A lot!”
So not only do we wear the same colors all the time, but we have similar thinking…. not sure what that means, except that maybe our children are totally screwed!
Okay now you have my head spinning with all these words!
What always gives e a chckle is our local autism specific school ( which is only for the first 4 years of schooling) is called”Western Autistic School”. But how can a school be “autistic”? Now the media here has picked up on it and after a long campaign for a P-12 autism specific school for the region, newspapers and politicians are calling it the “Autistic School”!
I have always taken “neurotupical” to pretty much mean there are a lot of them around not that it is a more acceptable way of being. I dont think my children are self absorbed they just struggle to relate to others even though they want to be social. When communication is very difficult and not comprehending others I guess you may appear self absorbed. The reality may actually be that all day long they are trying to figure out everyone else.
I love your comments! I laughed out loud when I read – “The reality may actually be that all day long they are trying to figure out everyone else.”
Right, because figuring out everyone else can be really tough. I can so relate and all that work hardly seems worth it, so often, once I do figure it out!