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Panel challenges notions of normal

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Associate Professor of Education Patricia Taylor and Visiting Professor Niki Elliott, co-directors of the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness, introduce Adam Larsen’s film “Neurotypical: normal is a cycle on a washing machine” Monday in Morgan Auditorium. The film featured autistic people talking about their views on social norms dictated by neurotypical people. / photo by Celeste Drake

Associate Professor of Education Patricia Taylor and Visiting Professor Niki Elliott, co-directors of the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness, introduce Adam Larsen’s film “Neurotypical: normal is a cycle on a washing machine” Monday in Morgan Auditorium. The film featured autistic people talking about their views on social norms dictated by neurotypical people. / photo by Celeste Drake

Hailey Helms
Staff Writer

Members of the ULV community gathered Tuesday in Morgan Auditorium to watch the film, “Neurotypical: normal is a cycle on a washing machine,” by Adam Larsen, presented by the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning, and Wellness, which centers on the experiences of people with autism.

The film included interviews with autistic people who share their perspectives on social norms, experiences at school, dating, and living with sensory processing issues. One interviewee said they did not see the purpose of small talk and defined it as meaningless.

The term neurotypical refers to people who do not have atypical neurological conditions such as developmental disabilities.

The film was followed by a panel discussion involving speakers who are either diagnosed with autism or parents of autistic children.

Within the discussion, the panelists used the term “neurologically diverse” to describe children who have autism or other disabilities.

“They are beautifully made,” panelist and educator Beverly J. Foster said about neurologically diverse children.

“There are no perfect children and all are unique,” she added.

The panelists emphasized that just because someone is diagnosed, they shouldn’t be looked down upon and that they too have so much potential in this world.

“After seeing the video and hearing all of their stories, I see that we really need to conform to them and that is the best medication for them and that is the best way for them to live their best lives,” Sebastian Ayala, senior psychology major, said.

The film and panel discussion encouraged Ayala to question their definition of normal and shift their original view on neurological diversity, he said.

“Before watching this film, what I thought about neurological diversity is that these kids felt different from the rest of the world and that they felt like they had to do a lot more and change who they were, so after I saw this I saw that they’re just like us,” Ana Saldivar, senior psychology and Spanish major, said.

The panelists said that no matter what differences exist, neurologically diverse people are human beings who feel emotions just as much as the neurotypical.

“What I want individuals that have attended to take away is the importance or the idea that there is a human being here with feelings and humor and questions and concerns and that being identified on the spectrum is just an aspect of that person,” Patricia Taylor, chairperson of special education programs and co-director of the Center for Neurodiversity Learning and Wellness, said.

Hailey Helms can be reached at hailey.helms@laverne.edu.

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