This article wasoriginally publishedbyMelissa Mooney, EMEA Project Coordinator at Rangam. Melissa is a proud Autistic and Dyspraxic self-advocate, and she likes sharing her lived experiences that provide valuable insights into life and work.
I couldn’t read a clock, tie my laces or wash my hair unassisted until I was 12 or older.
I also graduated top of my faculty at university, have lived independently in 2 different countries and in my mid-twenties, have what is essentially my dream job in an area I’m very passionate about.
These two threads are equally integral parts of my story.
However, I was taught by society to be proud of the latter set of achievements and ashamed of the former.
I used to be very embarrassed about reaching some developmental milestones later than my peers, but now I know that there is no “right” and “wrong” when it comes to your development and absolutely no shame in taking things at your own pace, arriving when you are ready and not a moment sooner.
Unfortunately, I still see the fundamentally undefinable concept of “normal” being used by many as the aspirational yardstick by which to measure a neurodivergent person’s success in life - if I had a cent for every time someone told me, “You’re Autistic? Oh, but you seem so normal!” in a congratulatory tone while I try my hardest not to visibly wince, I’d be a very rich woman!
I say let’s throw this yardstick out the window. It is high time to let go of this absurd idea that doing things differently is worthy of society’s disdain and that such a simplistic (not to mention fictional) binary of “normal/not normal” is a helpful basis by which to operate society or can even possibly exist on this diverse planet of 7.753 billion people, each with our own unique set of values and perspectives.
We’re all on our own journey, so who are we to judge the person who takes the scenic route?