On The Importance Of Teaching Neurodivergence

In my view, it would allow us to handle better the friction that occurs when meshing different communication styles.

As I was writing about the sources of friction between my ex-wife and I, it occurred to me that knowing about neurodivergence would have been extremely useful to us. It is unclear whether it would have saved our marriage. Maybe we would have still divorced. However, it would have been one additional tool we could have used to figure out what was going on between us, before calling it quits.

I myself learned about neurodivergence about one year ago, in September 2022. My wife and I were already in the process of divorcing. The details of how I came across it do not matter to the discussion at hand here. What is important is that prior to my discovery that neurodivergence is a thing, I thought all of our brains worked more or less in the same way. For sure, there were illnesses that some people had, but underneath it all it was all the same.

Bloody idiot!

I’m sure my ex-wife thought the same, and she probably still does. It is hard to reconcile her reaction to those characteristics in my communication style that were due to autism, with any awareness that our brains work differently. I cannot fathom her blaming me for not seeing her glares, if she had known that I am unable to see them. I cannot fathom her responding with annoyance at my own reaction when she interrupted me, if she had known that I have no choice over the fact that I’m unable to multitask.

We did have many disputes over these. Mind you, our disputes were not heated, but there were many. These disputes became more frequent when she retired, and I worked from home. Being in each other’s face all the time did increase the opportunity for miscommunications. At any rate, neither she nor I really understood what was going on. She thought I was deliberate in my reactions. I thought she imagined things. This does not make for a good relationship.

If we had at our disposal the notion that perhaps neurodivergence is to blame for our differences, maybe we would have been able to avoid divorce. I now know that I’m autistic, and that my brain, for better or for worse, is wired differently than hers. I recognize this. In recognizing this, I cannot blame her for imagining things that were in fact very real to her. She really did glare at me. I just wasn’t able to see it. Unfortunately, I don’t think my ex-wife has had the same revelation as I did. In a twist of irony, I realized my own autism shortly after our divorce became final. Bad timing!

At any rate, this goose is cooked. What I worry about more right now is what we can do for future generations in order to nurture harmony among individuals. It seems to me that in order to give them all the tools they might need, we need to teach them that neurodiversity is a thing. The way they process sensory input is not normative of how everyone around them process sensory input. This is true at a fundamental level, in how our brains are structured.

And thus, my wife was not to blame for imagining things, and I was not to blame for ignoring her. Neither of us were to blame. We just did not know what was going on, and were doing our best with the tools at our disposal, which, alas, did not include neurodivergence.

I hope we do better for future generations. We need to teach children that neurodiversity exists and shapes the way we process the world.

I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. If you want to have me talk to a class of children (or adults, for that matter) to tell them about neurodivergence and my failed marriage, through some remote meeting platform, you know where to find me.



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