Being Different – The Gift of the Neuro-divergent

As someone on the autistic spectrum, the world is somewhat different. Different, but not as you might imagine.

A common misconception of autism and ADHD is that these are neurological “deficiencies” that make it more difficult for individuals to integrate themselves into their surroundings.

Although the difficulties themselves are often true, I can say the gift of seeing the world differently, even if only by a few degrees, is anything but a deficiency.

A perfect example of this is how I struggle with auditory memory

Growing up I simply couldn’t put vocalizations into proper context to decode meaning, or even hold them in short-term memory.

I would often get in trouble – and sometimes still do – for misremembering, misinterpreting or altogether forgetting vocal instructions.

I would get scolded, shouted at, told I was stupid, and sometimes even subjected to physical intimidation in my youth. Today these instances are far less frequent, however, they do still occur on occasion.

Nearly 3 decades would pass until I finally understood that I was not incompetent or ignorant, but that I was simply on the spectrum.

Although I don’t have an exact measure, this news came to me through a genetic test which identified me as both “significantly above average” in intellect, but also “significantly above average risk” of autism and ADHD.

Suddenly things made much more sense. But before understanding this, out of sheer necessity, I had already developed a method to better educate myself and refine my communication abilities – by reading and writing.

I struggled with spelling difficulties in school for several years, but I struggled even more with remembering spoken words.

I had to make a choice on which of those struggles I would stand the best chance to overcome. At age 14 I began to write about things I would learn and hear. These writings remained basic for several years but over time my ability to communicate steadily improved. Reading and writing began to bring my confidence and spoken vocabulary to greater heights with each passing year. Progress has been slow, but it has remained steady. Eventually, persistence in writing and reading gave me the ability to better interpret spoken language and retain more auditory memory.

I discovered that writing things down allowed a different part of my brain to do the work that my auditory memory could not always accomplish. Once I read something, even if I’ve never seen the word or information before, it tended to stick.

Today at age 30 – 1 year after discovering my “condition” – I write for the public eye, give speeches and presentations, and have a career as a writer. This was not a choice I made. It was born out of a necessity to understand and to be understood. I worked in nearly a dozen different industries and failed in all of them before making the choice to turn my tool into my source of income.

As hard as it was and sometimes still is, I would not change a thing.

Struggle brings an opportunity to grow. We don’t get to choose what we struggle with, but if we can find a way around it, we can use transmutation to master an alternative skill to all but eliminate a perceived weakness.

How will you take your limitation and turn it into your greatest asset?

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