I am a neurodivergent individual.
The modern-day term of what it means to be neurodivergent is extremely fluid in nature. Mood disorders, such as PTSD, are appearing under the neurodivergent umbrella, as are brain injuries that cause cognitive impairments or differences.
Neurodiversity is a shape-shifting term as well. Some business leaders use the term neurodiversity to refer to every employee at an organization. Some organizations have neurodiversity-hiring initiatives and neuro-inclusion efforts. Sociologist and advocate who coined the word, Judy Singer, meant neurodiversity to include all brains.
Some might argue, given the cultural transformation of the word, neurodiversity ought not be used loosely to include everyone in the general population, because that action minimizes and invalidates a neurodivergent individual’s life experience. And how can we feasibly create neurodiversity-hiring initiatives or neuro-inclusion programs if neurodiversity means everyone — that would equate to inclusion and diversity, period. But on the other hand, when neurodiversity implies all minds, then it is by nature inclusionary and not exclusive.
Regardless, people aren’t neurodivergent because of diversity, they are neurodivergent because of specific, identifiable brain variances. It’s not precise to say because each person thinks and processes differently that they are therefore neurodivergent. . . .
As a neurodivergent some of my traits overlap, for instance, I experience social anxiety based on my gifted-intellect, being on the autism spectrum, and having dyslexia.
At an early age, I learned to express myself through the arts, specifically writing and poetry, and later in life painting. My art helped me through many hard years, particularly my teen years, and now, as I approach menopause. Art expression assists in relieving my generalized anxiety and helps me to escape from my mind (thought) and self (body). Creating through the arts is also a form of meditation-like prayer, wherein I feel a deep inner connection with my higher power.
Recently, I was thinking about my significant other, David, who is both my personal and professional partner, and reflecting on how grateful I am to have him in my life. A fellow autistic, together, we travel, and teach about neurodiversity, weaving in our personal stories of being autistic professionals, partners, and parents.
Along with my neurodiversity, I also have several chronic pain conditions. Last count, I was up to nine. I laugh now, if a medical professional adds another to the lot! “I’ve lost count!” It’s good to have a sense of humor in life.
Chronic pain and health challenges are not unusual for many individuals who identify with being autistic. Many of my ailments, I suspect, are a culprit of my connective tissue disorder hEDS: Hyper-mobility Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome. In my extensive readings, there are proven connections between the condition and many other pain syndromes, such as endometriosis, IBS, and arthritis.
For me, every day is a challenge, but I continually count my blessings and good fortune in having supportive loved ones and a loving autistic community. As I approach the latter half of life, with hair turning a silver-gray, and needing to lean figuratively and literally a bit more on my friend, I look forward to what is to come. Like many autistic individuals I have met, and corresponded with (upwards of 10,000), I take each day in stride, remaining resilient and hopeful.
Here is the poem I wrote for David and some art work to reflect how I have been as of late. Wherever you are, I wish you and yours well. Best, Sam.
He doesn’t say I’m beautiful.
He helps me up the stairs with a gentle guiding hand.
He hurries to the room, when I call out his name, whatever room I’m in.
He comes home with surprises from the local bakery.
He wheels me through the airport and museum, even as he is uncomfortable with crowds and it hurts his arms.
He doesn’t complain.
When I say I am thinking about growing my hair out grey, he encourages it, and says he likes grey hair. When I say my hair is actually more white than grey, he says he prefers white.
When I put on a bit of makeup, he says I look nice but also look fine without it.
When I look down at my growing tummy, he says, “I like it.”
When we have a spat, he gives me space and then asks to come in, and then apologizes for his part–sometimes with handwritten letters.
He rubs my back and kisses my toes. He holds me close when I cry and have trouble falling asleep — from anxiety, pain, or fear.
He listens to my frequent nightmares, the ones from dreams and the ones from the past. He asks if I am drinking enough water, and then brings me water, in my preferred mug (the clean one that doesn’t smell bad), with water he has collected from the artesian well downtown.
He leaves his office room for ‘object permanence checks,’ as he knows if I can’t see it (him), sometimes I question if it (he) exists.
He never comments on my messy, unbrushed hair or mismatched clothes. He doesn’t readily point out when I’ve made a mistake or error . . . in words or judgment.
He finds my oddities and antics and misuse of words to be charming.
He doesn’t laugh at my ways or mock me, or shake his head in disapproval.
He gives me the space and freedom to be me.
He is proud of my efforts at home and beyond, and tells me so. He stops to look at me, I mean really look at me, and offers a kind, gentle smile.
He makes a point to tell me this is the happiest he has ever been in his life.
He doesn’t objectify me or compare me to other people.
He doesn’t offer ways I can improve myself.
He rides the waves of my hormonal outbursts.
He prays for patience and to love me the best way possible.
And he does.
He tells silly, off the wall jokes and riddles.
He dances with me in the bedroom to ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ and sings out the lyrics in a bashful voice.
He takes me to doctor appointments.
He helps shop for groceries.
He stocks the car and attic with emergency supplies.
He lends his dress shoes to my eldest son for that important interview.
He is silent and full of grace in harder times.
He is resilient and full of spunk in lighter moments.
He has introduced a genre of movies and shows that add spice to our collection. We bird watch together from balcony chairs, the ones he bought cushions for.
He refills the birdbath and worries for our feathered friends, scolding the neighbor’s cat . . . to go some other place. He says he will do something, and then he does it. He speaks the truth.
Means what he says. Says what he means. He says he’d die for me.
His hugs are tight and warm. He is a gentle giant, and my steadfast cheerleader and protector.
He doesn’t say I’m beautiful. He shows me.
Marcelle Ciampi, M.Ed. (aka Samantha Craft)
Marcelle Ciampi, a respected autistic author and community advocate, is best known for her writings found in the well-received blog and book Everyday Aspergers. A professional educator, she has been featured in various literature, including peer-reviewed journals, Autism Parenting Magazine, The Mighty, Project Aspie, The Art of Autism, and Different Brains. Marcelle works as the Senior Recruiter and Outreach Specialist at Ultranauts, a technology company with a neurodiversity-hiring initiative, and is a consultant for Uptimize and Spectrum Fusion. A contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, Marcelle speaks globally on the topic of neurodiversity. She also serves as the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC, the co-founder of the Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, co-executive of NeuroGuides, and a contributor to autism organizations internationally. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages and been shared in counseling offices around the world. She resides in the Pacific Northwest with her sons and life partner.
For more information on Judy Singer see Samantha’s website at http://www.myspectrumsuite.com/meet-judy-singer/
Samantha Craft’s artwork can be found at Belly of a Star blog. https://bellyofastar.wordpress.com/