Neurodiversity: A Bold Approach to

Although I am a business professional in mental health, I am not a subscriber to the panoply of neuro-nonsense that abounds in mainstream conversations. Neuro-babble is the unfortunate result of exciting research being appropriated by folks that don’t understand the nuances of research, who then apply shrewd marketing tactics to it for the sake of whatever (profits, etc).

If neuro-manipulation were a thing, I’d be inclined to say that many of those in commerce are guilty of it. 

I lay out this disclaimer because I don’t want to give anyone the idea that we at SoCal Neuropsych are in the business of selling brain fads in the name of profit. While we support a lot of brilliant businesses that harness the power of neuroscience, like Empatica, or up and coming technologies like that of Quasar USA, these are research org’s that have a full understanding of the limits of their craft and have carved out niches in the economy accordingly.

With all of that stated, I come to the concept of neurodiversity. Neurodiversity has been around since the ‘80s and is primarily associated with movements in the Autistic and ADD/ADHD support communities. In a nutshell, arguments for neurodiversity center around the idea that brains come in a variety of ways and that it is short-sighted to treat people of divergent neuronal configurations as “disabled”. 

Dr. Conover recently picked up a book by Dr. Thomas Armstrong entitled The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain. By the third page, I was hooked as Dr. Armstrong echoed all of the sentiments we hold in the office regarding the value of differences amongst human cognitive, emotional, and social profiles. Without untoward platitudes, suffice to say that Dr. Armstrong’s ideas are vital to the understanding of the human and ways we can weave fibers for better societies. 

When I work with my students, I find that it is necessary to walk them through some of the basics of brain functioning and -- more importantly -- where one should start en route to understanding humans. 

Humans are biological machines whose actions are generally life promoting. That is, the purpose of living life as a human is to continue living until your genes or some other malfunction occurs. While computers' sole purpose is processing information via mechanical calculations, human computations are directly related to biology and survival within our ecological niche. Ergo, we process information with much different methods that have been adapted over time via natural selection.

Furthermore, humans are intensely social. It has been posited for quite some time now that our rapid cognitive evolution has been borne upon the wings of our lingual abilities. Communication not only progressed verbal communication, but all communicable signs and symbols (nonverbal etc) discussed in the domain of semiotics. Our brains are constantly updating the internal narratives that promote life sustaining activities and try to communicate those narratives to others in some cohesive fashion. 

Another component of evolution is that diversity is generally good. A widely cast net of traits can mean that surmounting environmental obstacles is much more likely. If every organism does the same exact thing, then an obstacle that they lack the means of negotiating around can increase the likelihood of extinction. 

Enter neurodiversity. If Nature is anything, it is the most relentless engineer. Humans are already the most advanced species on this planet; however, we are still being updated in real time as we negotiate with our surroundings. The idea of neurodiversity adds an interesting element to the conversation as it points to a novel suggestion that while the deepest of our structures are shared as humans, the results that we come to know as mental and behavioral eventualities are variegated attempts at updating and improving our fitness. 

Thus, all brains and their concomitant minds must be seen as valid, even if they fall outside of some “norm”. Especially if they fall outside of the norm.  

Rather than being social aberrations, it is much more likely that all of these brains and minds and their associated traits exist along continuums of combinatoric configuration. Thus, while a schizophrenic is seen as being crazy by virtue of his or her hallucinations, it is widely known in our field that many non-schizophrenics experience hallucinations, but have the wherewithal to understand that these are not a part of “reality”. Thus, how we approach schizophrenia and those suffering from it must evolve accordingly. More specifically, how we discuss schizophrenia and treat those within that population must progress.

Same is true for social or attentional “disorders” like Autism, Aspergers, and ADHD, respectively. 

What does any of this mean to the average Joe off the street? As aforementioned, a HUGE part of the human condition is how we interact with one another. We spend so much of our time marginalizing those who don’t conform to some norm, but that norm is, in and of itself, an illusion of averages. When you take the sum total of all continuums and average them across a population, you get an illusion of normality. When normality is treated in communication as the gold standard, then one finds themselves in a very contentious situation. 

Our minds construct our schemas based on word and concept associations. When we are interacting, the things we associate with some term or some phrase lead directly into behavior. If we are thinking in some marginalizing way, we are directly obstructing someone else’s ability to find a high quality of life. 

What we aim to do at Southern California Neuropsychology Group is change the dialogue by changing the a priori assumptions about humans and our place within the universe. If we can change how people view themselves and their fellow humans, we can change the words they use, and hopefully change the sometimes destructive way we get down. 

Hopefully you will join us on this journey to a better tomorrow.

Bryce Brown
Director of Business Operations and Development
Southern California Neuropsychology Group

The Integrated Learning Annex

The Resource Center Reinvented.

Life is this amazingly awesome thing, replete with sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings, emotions, expectations, praises, criticisms, friends, foes, obligations, allies, competitors, markets, victories, in-laws, stock options, rat races, defeats, surprises, traffic jams and so, so much more. There are social cues, decorums, and implicit rules. There are times and places for everything and not everything is appropriate for now -- but maybe when your authoritative boss, Mary, stands up. There are jobs that need doing, deals that need negotiating, and courses that need passing. There are conversations that need sensitive words and debates that need iron-fisted logic. There are husbands that need uplifting, wives that need to let off some steam, and kids that need to create. 

When you think about it, life can be rather overwhelming. There are just so many things that need attending to at any given moment. The Internet has been monumental at helping connect people to really great information, but even that can be drowning. Can a Meyer-Briggs test really let me know if my child, the ESTP, should really become a content marketer? Are Millennials that tough to train in an office setting? Is my wife depressed? Am I fulfilling my purpose? Is Mindfulness really a thing?

When we first thought of The Integrated Annex over a year ago, we didn’t approach it as clinicians: we approached it as people. People with concerns and neuroses. People with dreams and ideas. People with educations, professions, and families. As we took our time to let this seed grow into a fruit-bearing tree, our ideas were pruned, clipped, and reshaped as we interacted with our friends and family in the clinic.

We are now ready to share our vision for better everything’s with you. 

The Integrated Learning Annex is a place where individuals and their families can come to explore ways of making all life’s information make sense. We have lots of great ideas, approaches, and programs that we hope will be impactful.

We are founded and informed by our parent clinic, Southern California Neuropsychology Group, where we busy ourselves studying the interactions between the brain and observed behavior. Our staff takes this foundation and branches into a number of research and practice interests that make for great conversation and programming. Some of us are fascinated by decisions and how to make the best ones, others are fascinated by achievement and how to bring the best out of kids. We discuss creativity, optimal strategies for raising capital, and how to approach an irritable 16-year old. If it involves people it involves us. 

We start by simply asking...

What do you need?

Join TiLA