HomeconventionPanel Review: Exploring Neurodiversity

One of the absolute coolest thing about neurodiversity and disability panels at CONvergence is how eye-opening they are. At least, that’s the case in my experience.

A photo of a panel listing - black text on white background. It says "Exploring Neurodiversity: The New Frontier. DoubleTree Plaza 3. Fact: Human brains vary widely. Theory: this fact is totally okay. Join us in exploring the variations in the human mind and how "disorders" may just be differences. Emilie Peck (she), Jess Banks (mod,she), Olivia James (she), Richard Wielgosz (he), Sarah Ravely (she)"

I was the only allistic panelist, though I was also the only one with ADHD-I and learning disabilities. I personally would have liked to see more of a diversity of neurodivergence represented, but it wasn’t a problem.

During the conversation between panelists part of the hour, we covered a little bit of our respective experiences, how they shaped our lives and just what neurodiversity is. We also discussed the impact of diagnosis, when we were each diagnosed and the differences it made in our lives.

For me, it strongly reinforced just how similar our experiences are while still being highly individualized. No two people experience life in the same way, even if they happen to share a label, but the societal reactions to the “other” is always stunningly similar.

Our audience was standing room only, which surprised me a little bit, considering there were 8 other panels taking place at the same time and the other things going on elsewhere. The questions they gave us were all great, and I was incredibly happy to have so many different folks attend.

I was especially impressed with the teachers who came and took part. As hard as I can be on teachers, I still greatly admire those who take the plunge. My respect levels skyrocket for those willing to go the extra mile to help their students who struggle the most.

There was one gent, who I kept running into over the course of the weekend, who was moved to tears, because he had felt so alone. This was the first time he was able to openly talk to others who were also autistic in person. That sense of “Hey, I’m not alone!” is a big reason why I enjoy taking part in those types of events and why I run this blog.

Regardless of label, that isolation and sorrow is another thing we hold in common. Sure, there are isolated stories on the news, but LD, Autism and all other forms of neurodivergence just aren’t talked about. Those of us in the neurodivergent neighborhood have faced enough bullying and stigma that we just don’t have the energy to deal with it all the time.

To my surprise, I was approached by a couple of people after the panel. One gent suggested a podcast from the Nerdist that involved dyslexia (or ADHD?) and a lovely young woman wanted a little more information and advice about dyslexia. I still have to look up that podcast, and I hope the stuff I pulled off the top of my head helped her out.

Although I’ve only been on four panels to date, I have been to quite a few more. I have to say, this was one of the best ones I’ve taken part in. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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