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An aspie’s gratitude

Head spectrum is the cognitive carnival. Your neurons have soared off the rails. So hold on to your everything, ladies and gentlemen. Behold the hidden wonder of the world and watch as thoughts bounce on all the cranium walls. 

Getting the opportunity to (metaphorically) spill ink about my personal experiences and about neurodivergence more broadly has been an immense pleasure. For most of my experience at Notre Dame, I generally didn’t tell anyone I was autistic. This wasn’t necessarily because I felt like I would be discriminated against for doing so. I simply thought that there was no need to, that I could just maintain course, that disclosing my neurodivergence would just make my relationships confusing or complicated. In essence, I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t feel like I needed to talk about it. 

Head spectrum is, “Oh shoot I said that thing to that person and tried to say that thing but what if they thought I meant that other thing and what if I become a thing and not a person but just a thing or an other that tries to pass as a person second third fourth-guessing in case the mask has cracks.” Head spectrum is passing passerby and pondering if passing puts your personhood in some cell submerged beneath the concrete of cultural acceptance.  

Writing the column “NeuroDivergence” has effectively removed the barrier that exists between my inner self and the world around me, and I firmly believe this is for the better. Because I’ve thoroughly described my thoughts, struggles, successes and hopes in my articles, I don’t have to constantly decide whether to tell or not tell a Notre Dame friend about being on the spectrum. Becoming more open about my neurodivergence has also led to many insightful conversations with peers who I previously never knew where also neurodivergent. In sum, this column has fundamentally changed me.

Thus, I thought it would be appropriate to give thanks to all who have made this possible. 

To Hannah and the rest of the Viewpoint staff at The Observer: Thank you for giving me the chance to write paragraphs upon paragraphs about the complicated, quirky world of neurodivergence. 

To all the people who emailed me kind comments after the publication of some of my articles: Thank you for reminding me that none of us are alone in navigating an often-uncooperative society with often-uncooperative institutions. 

To my parents: Thank you for encouraging me in my decision to write this column and for raising me with the moral that I should accept all that I am.

To my sister: Thank you for making me smile every time you pointed out one of my articles and said, “That’s my brother!”

To the Writing Center: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel and meet other neurodivergent individuals with similar academic interests, giving me the chance to discuss the concepts I’ve written about with other like-minded people. 

To my friends from the Lit Choir: Thank you for being one of the first audiences for my columns, and thank you for helping me develop a great soundtrack to ease my nerves as I write. 

To Notre Dame: Thank you for providing me with a fulfilling place where I have learned to navigate some of the most complex social interactions I’ve ever had. While there are still occasional difficulties, you’ve made me confident enough to find myself within the communities I’ve become engaged with.

To all my readers: Thank you for listening to my rants, secrets, poetic tangents and investigations. I hope that my column has been a means for you to dig deeper into the topic of neurdivergence, to recognize that there are myriad neurodivergent people who you’ll encounter in your daily life and that all of them deserve to have their disabilities, differences, challenges, strengths and quirks validated rather than ignored or chastised. 

Head spectrum is grabbing something from the basket on your desk to tail around as you think about entering a brave new world. Head spectrum is the total acceptance of occasionally ordered chaos. Head spectrum is realizing the universal difference of cognitive composition. Head spectrum is me, but not just me. 

Jack Griffiths is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in English with a supplementary major in global affairs. His areas of interest include neurodivergence, migration and the intersections between faith and public policy. When he’s not writing, you can find him singing with the Liturgical Choir, walking around the lakes or playing Super Smash Bros. with folks in his dorm. He can be reached at jgriff22@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.