I have seen a lot of misconceptions about what the word neurotypical (NT) means. So, I thought I would take some time to explain what NT means by giving examples of what it doesn’t mean.
The first misconception is that neurotypical means not autistic. Nick Walker addresses this misconception:
“Neurotypical is the opposite of neurodivergent, not the opposite of autistic. Autism is only one of many forms of neurodivergence, so there are many, many people who are neither neurotypical nor autistic. Using neurotypical to mean non-autistic is like using ‘white’ to mean ‘not black’.”
– Nick Walker
So, that means that someone can be neurodivergent without being autistic. Technically, if you want to say that someone is not autistic, you can use the word allistic, but generally I say non-autistic because I have a few problems with the word allistic.
Here’s another common example that I see which illustrates a misconception of neurotypical:
“I have one autistic child, and one NT child with ADHD”
Actually, the person who said that has two neurodivergent children. Neurodivergent (ND) is a really broad term which can be used to describe anyone “whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms” (again from Nick Walker’s post).
What about this one:
“They are not autistic, but they do have SPD“
That person is not NT with an add on. They are neurodivergent.
Or another example:
“I’m NT, but I experienced a TBI 15 years ago.”
That person is not NT. That person has an acquired form of neurodivergence.
So, what does neurotypical actually mean?
“Neurotypical, often abbreviated as NT, means having a style of neurocognitive functioning that falls within the dominant societal standards of ‘normal’.”
– Nick Walker
Of course, after this explanation, you may be wondering whether the majority of people are actually neurotypical.
It’s possible that the majority, in terms of numbers, are not neurotypical in which case the majority of people are neurodivergent. I have stats that suggest that that isn’t the case, and that neurotypical people do make up the majority, but those stats are based on the pathology paradigm. So, they may not reflect the true extent of the neurodivergent population.
But, did you notice that I said “in terms of numbers”? I emphasise that because majority in terms of numbers is not always reflective of the majority in terms of axes of oppression. Think about it: White people hold the most privilege in terms of oppression along racial lines. Do white people make up the majority of the global population?
Privilege and oppression has very little to do with actual numbers. It has a lot to do with which groups of people hold the power in terms of controlling and dismissing other groups.
So, now that you know what neurotypical actually means, you might want to explore whether you are NT or ND. You don’t have to be autistic to be neurodivergent, but you do have to have neurocognitive functioning that divergences from the dominant societal standard of “normal.”