adreanaline   February 5, 2021 in ASL

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The concept of neurodiversity and how it connects to the ASL Deaf community. Also introducing the new ASL word.

[This video is split into two parts. An English version is only provided for the first half, as the second is a within-ASL community discussion.]

Hello, I'm Adrean, and I have ADHD. Today I want to examine the concept of neurodiversity, and how it connects to the ASL Deaf community. Some of you might think of the ASL word "diversity" as it relates to racial diversity, but here I am speaking of the diversity in how the brain is wired.

The English word "neurodivergent" is commonly used these days, but the word doesn't sit right with me. Neurodivergence implies an extremity to how the brain is different, as if it is a branch that is yanked askew from a tree's trunk. I feel it's better to see the neurodiverse brain as a unique intertwined canopy of neurons.

Some theorists have said that Deaf people are automatically neurodiverse. I disagree with that assessment. There is truth to the observation that Deaf brains are different in comparison with the uniformity of hearing brains, but what happens if we focus on Deaf people alone? We'd see a separation between neurotypical and neurodiverse Deaf brains as well.

I can remember from personal experience being aware of how some of my Deaf peers managed well with things that I and others struggled with. It was very clear to me at a young age that something was going on, despite our shared deafness. Later in life I found out that I have ADHD, one of the many neurological differences under the neurodiversity "umbrella." It means that my frontal lobe is impaired, which can result in symptoms such as impulsiveness, being easily distracted, emotional instability, and more. The upside is that my brain can quickly make connections between unrelated ideas to create new concepts.

ADHD is both a blessing and a curse -- it gives me the ability to create humor out of the mundane in my comics work, but I can also become overwhelmed with prioritizing the tasks needed to produce the work itself. It's taken a long time for me to accept that part of who I am, and this short explanation doesn't capture all of what ADHD is. I hope to make a full video on this later.

Meanwhile, I encourage the ASL Deaf community to be aware of neurodiversity in Deaf children and Deaf adults. The system often blames our struggle on our deafness and ignores our neurological diversity. We need to continually develop multiple approaches: to allow neurodiverse people to continue shining in what they do best with contributing new ideas and visions for our community.

[The second part of the video discusses the new "neurodiverse/neurodiversity" ASL word I spoke, and how it was coined.]

What are your thoughts? Do you have a neurodiverse brain, and what is your experience? Feel free to share!

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