Trigger warning: describes persons without autism as a group; may be detrimental to a NT’s self esteem if it’s highly relying on one’s individual traits etc
To get some background to what I’m about to introduce or define (work in progress, and tongue in cheek, to use a NT expression), follow some autism and aspie related topics e.g. in Twitter or Facebook. #ActuallyAutistic hashtag in Twitter is a good source.
Neurotypical Spectrum Disorder
Persons with Neurotypical brain functioning vary in their degree of functioning. Many are able, and insist, to function independently, without assistance from others. Neurotypical brains occur in a spectrum, so no two neurotypicals are the exact same. An old saying could be modified to if you’ve met a neurotypical, you have met one neurotypical person.
Many neurotypicals have in addition to their neurological and psychological issues of neurotypicalism, many comorbid conditions. Many neurotypicals, NT for short here, have been diagnosed with typical and functional sight, good hearing (including the pathology of using oral speech), age- and gender-typical mobility, and other such typical features.
NTs main problem with interacting with the world is in their communication. They are often just not very good at it.
While most sighted children are prone to looking at things they find interesting, curious, weird, disgusting or just because, NTs maintain the staring behavior well into adulthood. NTs like to look at the people they talk to, and insist on people looking at them (they call this “eye contact“) while also listening. Their justification for this is that they feel they are able to get a clue of the other person’s feelings and emotions doing this. In addition to trying to mindread others based on the presence or absence of other people’s facial muscle spasms, they also use their facial muscles to communicate a range of emotions and feelings to the others, instead of communicating directly. The range, styles, and most of the map of emotions as how they might be presented in typical humans’ face are largely depending on the culture, age, gender etc of the communicators. In the past hundred and some years since the invention of movies and TV, NT culture has found its way in popular culture, so most people exposed to Hollywood movies learn to at least partially decipher the dictionary of NT American facial expressions on light skinned people. In other cultures the actual expressions, and especially the range of expressed or not shown emotion of expressions varies greatly though.
While using the eye contact and facial expression to communicate between the lines is a very NT features, it is not only present in NT cultures. Also many Deaf and hard of hearing people (presented here separately, since while they may present many NT traits, they don’t often present their NT symptoms severely enough for a diagnosis) use them as part of their communication. Many Deaf people use sign language for speaking; this consists of expressions and movements with hands, combined with facial expressions and sometimes even with voice. Typical NTs don’t use sign language in their communication (sign language intepreters etc aside), but they often use a primitive handspeak. Hands move randomly when a person is speaking, to highlight and accentuate the message. This behavior also has many cultural variants. To get a glimpse of some examples of this, look for any local TV ads from USA for some car commercials, and also for some TED Talks from different cultures. Observing people in their natural habitats can also show what they typically look like in a country or a culture. Italian handspeak can be much more expressive, and also contains several gestures commonly used in communication. Northern European handspeak can be rather flat: hands floppily on the sides, or in the pockets (combined with an “expressionless face” facial expression). Hand waving, gesticulating etc usually happens on the same speed, pattern and intensity as the NTs vocal fluctuations (“tone of voice”). While not everyone uses tones to communicate, it is a profound NT behavior, and NTs will find it difficult to understand someone if they perceive the other does not use the same kinds of tones while speaking, or does not have the same accent etc.
NTs use a “tone of voice” when they speak orally to communicate feelings and emotions between the lines. While everybody does not use the tones, many NTs assume everyone does, and they will be uncomfortable if they cannot decipher this tone information in someone’s voice (or for instance with screenreaders, or if someone uses assistive technology to speak). This can create a silly problem that can escalate in environments where the majority of the persons are NT. And the solution would be very simple: if a person with NT disorder is interested in knowing how someone is feeling (or having emotions), they could simply use their words (to speak, to type etc) to enquire about it with direct words.
NTs are prone to making generalizations of other people by their group characteristics. If a random stranger somewhere insists on asking you whereyoureallyfrom or other similar information just because you look and/or sound different, you most likely have just met a NT person. They will get infuriated if they cannot get the information they need in order to “understand” you, typically including such label-information as your nationalities, where you grew up, what religion your parents indoctrinated you with etc etc. This same also happens if your sight/hearing perceivable difference to the local NTs is only by sight. If your ancenstry came from some other continent, or you were adopted from elsewhere, it is still very important for the NT to have the information he or she wants, otherwise their inner stereotyping will not work. This is usually problematic only when a person does not have any features or characteristics the NTs expect them to have based on some group affinities. NTs will often mask the prying behind a light small talk, but they often forget the reciprocity, or just go on with their smalltalk.
NTs are prone to social smalltalk. It is a behavior where empty words and empty pleasantries are exchanged, often when meeting new people, or frequently also within workplaces. Many NTs seem to think that by using smalltalk as a masking behavior, people will not notice if they need to pry for information, or ask for favors etc. A NT coworker rarely goes to the topic when they interrupt you during work hours; they will first try to engage you in smalltalk for several minutes, then start circling around what they really need or want, instead of asking it directly.
NTs have often visual components to enable identifying them faster. They dress and present themselves typical to their culture, social class, profession, gender, and other group affinities. They often like brand clothing, and find owning a motor vehicle to be part of their independence, and the brand of which will apparently communicate to others a significant amount of data about what kind of person they are. The car manufacturers are even better than fashion industry in hooking their NT customer base with car brands that they can be identified with (e.g. BMW for those who want to show off they have a good amount of money, and are not very good drivers). NT women like to wear fashionable clothing, and when in prime reproductive age, may have a tendency to wear footwear that is impractical to impossible to walk, just to attract mates or attention from other NT females. The HR departments often excuse NT women by considering said footwear to look professional, even in environments where clearly it is not. Outlavish fashion garments, loud makeup on face, nail extensions, expensive haircuts and styles – NT persons with femaleness can go quite far, as long as it’s towards the excessive femininity, before anyone starts to question their behaviors of expressing their gender or sexual identity. NT women expect to fish compliments on their new $300 haircuts or lavish shoes. Not praising them for their style, individuality, or asking for wrong kind of questions (“how much did that cost?”) often silently angers them.
Small talk and other empty non-information changing social talk are just one expression of neurotypicals behavior. The same pattern follows often thru all their communication styles. A phone call between NT women may consist of just small talk and prying. Many NTs are also uncomfortable to just directly ask or tell what they need.
There is no known cure for neurottypicalism. NTs could be trained by keeping them either in isolation of age peers or by keeping them in groups of people with different ages and different communication styles and abilities. An NT that has been exposed e.g. to wheelchair users, blind and deaf people and people of other skintones and cultures since childhood will be more natural in different communication styles. A typical untrained NT would find e.g. listening to a speech by Stephen Hawking difficult as they will try to read into the lack of tone expression in the machine voice or the absence of facial muscle expressions, as opposed to actually listen to what he is communicating.
(to be continued)