Why is neurotypical the default?

Normal is based on societal and cultural norms, rules and protocols; it’s regular, the default. What is normal is defined by people, in situations or certain times, so the definitions of normal and abnormal are always changing.

Typical is based on expected characteristics and behaviors for people, animals or things.

When discussing neurodiversity, neurotypical is considered the default, expected brain while neurodivergence is considered the abnormal, unexpected brain type.

For every seven people you know (including yourself), at least one is neurodivergent. Of course, this isn’t fact. You could be surrounded by neurotypical individuals and be neurotypical yourself. This was just to illustrate the statistic that one in seven people are autistic, which means it’s not as uncommon as you think. Even a one percent statistic is around 7.9 million people.

An estimated 30-40 percent of the global population is neurodivergent. By 2030, that statistic may be closer to 40-50 percent. Once the range hits 50-60 percent, the “typical” will no longer be accurate because neurodivergent people will be closer to dominating the population.

There is no autism epidemic. Autistic people who go undiagnosed are still autistic. The neurodiversity movement thrust forward neurodivergent resources that didn’t exist before. Even diagnosed autistic people find out from other autistic people even more things that are autistic traits, but would never be included in medical journals by non-autistic scientists.

Neurodivergent individuals are defined by neurotypicals through a neurotypical lens, which makes little sense at the end of the day because of the double empathy problem. The study found non-autistic people struggle to empathize with autistic people, and vice versa, due to different perceived life experiences. It is for this reason that non-autistic people struggle to understand autistic people and comprehend how they live their lives, and even go as far as calling autistic people liars. The autistic life experience does not match that of non-autistic people, so they do not empathize with it.

Seeing a world created by and for a neurotypical society, through a neurotypical lens, allows space only for a neurotypical narrative. Unlearning what you’ve been taught, or learning that your reality is only your perception, is uncomfortable.

Yet, in order to begin empathizing with neurodivergent individuals — especially when they may one day be the majority — one question needs to be asked:

What does typical even mean?

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