By Katelyn Skye Bennett | Editor-in-chief

Last Thursday, Intersected hosted its first live event, streaming on YouTube and Facebook. Glen Homer and Tiffany Witcher discussed neurodivergence and the ways in which socioeconomic status and race relate to accessible healthcare, quality of education, and in adulthood, the workplace.

The event is available to rewatch on both platforms and is summarized below.

Defining Terms

A neurotypical person is someone whose brain functions in the way perceived to be normal. Society is set up to be largely accessible by neurotypicals.

A neurodivergent person’s brain is wired differently, whether they are autistic or have ADHD, dyspraxia, or a number of other conditions. They process things differently than neurotypicals and may need additional supports to thrive in systems not set up for them.

Neurodiversity is a term that encompasses all sorts of neurotypes, whether neurodivergent or neurotypical. It is the sum total.

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

Racial Disparities in Neurodivergent Diagnoses

Historically, schizophrenia has been drastically and overly misdiagnosed in Black people as compared to whites, and delayed treatment of bipolar disorder has stemmed from the false concept that Black people are more tolerant to pain.

Conversely, Black and Latino Americans are underdiagnosed with ADHD, often perceived to be misbehaving rather than neurodivergent. Delayed diagnosis and lack of diagnosis can negatively impact life chances through poorer education, barriers in the workplace, and societal stigma.

In our live event, Tiffany Witcher shared that growing up, they were seen as “dumb” and did not receive appropriate accommodations, when in reality they were a Black student with undiagnosed dyslexia.

Rather than being noticed for their gifts, neurodivergent people are regularly shamed, and they are additionally disadvantaged when racial bias is layered on. Rach Idowu experienced this and created a resource for people seeking to understand those with ADHD.

Other people of color have also stepped into advocacy roles within the neurodivergent movement in an attempt to increase accessibility and rights and combat dehumanization. Nonetheless, the face of neurodivergence in 2022 remains white and male.

“If there’s more people of color and more people with different backgrounds speaking up, there will be more of a growth of people of color coming in the [neurodivergent] community and not being afraid because it’s run by all white people…that’s the hard truth about it.”

Tiffany Witcher
Photo by Jorge Fakhouri Filho on Pexels.com

Affirming Strengths

Neurodiversity as a whole strengthens the pursuit of racial equity and justice, and neurodivergent folks specifically contribute to this.

Autistic people, for example, often have deep recesses of specific knowledge. This allows for increased resource sharing, strengthening the whole community and especially those with less knowledge of how to access those resources independently.

Neurodivergent people, given the many different ways their brains are wired, offer creative solutions to obstacles that may arise in the fight for racial equity.

The inclusive spaces that they create promote both other neurodivergent folks and those who are neurotypical, though they are especially important for the neurodivergent community.

Neurodivergent people are more likely to be part of the LGBTQ community.

Read more here.

Call to Action: Creating Supports

While especially important for neurodivergent folks, increasing accessibility benefits everybody – neurodivergent and neurotypical, disabled and able-bodied.

Providing closed captioning on videos and alternative text on photos both help increase accessibility of online content, for example. It is useful for some neurodivergent users but also helps others when they do not have the capacity to play audio or when their bandwidth is too low to download images.

Conversely, providing audio for written texts – a feature now available on PDFs, for example – can be useful for those who have dyslexia, are multitasking, or are auditory processors. 

Now picture a COVID-safe party. Everyone has been rapid tested prior to entering and is feeling well. The host has put thought into the event so that everyone attending can enjoy themselves.

The openly chaotic spaces created can delight those who have ADHD and are high energy, enthused by the multitudinous activities and hype music permeating the group. However, the intentionally quiet places within the house are welcoming for those who are autistic, introverted and in need of a retreat, or simply fatigued and needing a more low-key environment.

A challenge for neurotypical people as well as white neurodivergent folks: In addition to implementing these things, how else can you foster more inclusive and welcoming spaces in your everyday life – particularly for neurodivergent people of color, who commonly go unheard and unseen?

Where do you need to step back to let others shine, especially when considering whose voices are centered in the pursuit of racial justice?

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Neurodivergent POC to Follow

Glen Homer, a guest speaker on our recent livestream, shared a list of his top three recommended advocates on Twitter. For further practical notes on neurodivergence and racial equity, follow their accounts.

Imani Barbarin initiated the recent hashtag #mydisabledlifematters in response to the ableist rhetoric of the CDC regarding omicron numbers and comorbidities. The hashtag #mydisabledlifeisworthy is also being used in response to this.

Kayla Smith with #blackautisticlivesmatter has stepped away from the mainstream neurodivergent movement because she experienced racism in the r0-anks. She continues to serve as a self-proclaimed disability advocate, however.

Kayla Rodriguez is a neurodivergent Puerto Rican woman who is also fighting stigma on Twitter. She also serves on the executive advisory board for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network.

Glen also recommends following #disabledblacktalk for more info on Black disabled conversations and #actuallyautistic to keep up with autistics’ conversations and advocacy.

Editor’s favorite neurodivergent TikTok star: The White Woman Whisperer.

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