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Neurodivergence Blog

Posted By Shayne Pattie  
08:20 AM

I have been working in psychology in Townsville since 2016 and feel that I have a unique approach to mental health. This can be partially explained by sharing that I have been diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) known as (neurodivergence). This brain difference allows me to approach the many ideas and presentations in psychology from a different perspective. 

Language around Autism and ADHD has changed in recent years, with many people preferring person focused language such as Autistic person instead of the traditional phrase “person with Autism”. In sessions I will often ask a client if they have a preference to assist in rapport building and to allow the person to feel more comfortable.

I often have a loose plan regarding assisting a person to understand ASD or ADHD. Often, I will discuss the strengths and differences the neurodivergent person may have to lessen the stigmatised language the person may have heard their whole life. Once the basics of neurodivergence are discussed with the client and understood by the client, other important and relevant areas are discussed. These areas will often include Interoception, Alexithymia and Aphantasia.

Interoception is our body’s internal body understanding or awareness. This includes many areas of our internal awareness, however the most commonly discussed areas include internal awareness of toileting, hunger and emotional awareness. Many neurodivergent people have poorer internal emotional awareness which may lead to poorer emotional regulation. This poor emotional awareness is linked to our insula in the brain is known as Alexithymia. Alexithymia does have short term benefits such as not stressing consciously. However, the costs of Alexithymia include missing the emotional warning signs that the person might be struggling, not having a traditional understanding of emotions and therefore having difficulty explaining emotional experiences to other people, having interpersonal difficulties due to not expressing positive emotions the way that people expect and having larger emotional responses when the negative emotions build too much. 

Another area of neurodivergence that is rarely spoken about is known as Aphantasia. This means the person has difficulty visualising (seeing images when their eyes are closed) while fully conscious. The positives of Aphantasia include a faster processing and less conscious memory of negative events. The difficulties associated with Aphantasia include not being able to learn the traditional way such as in school or tertiary education, as many courses assume a basic level of visualisation, having a poorer memory as the processing often happens in a metaphorical ‘black box’, and having difficulty accessing or remembering positive events, people, etc. 

Everyone is different, and every neurodivergent person is also different. However, these differences can be a positive once a person learns to understand and utilise their differences.  If you feel you would benefit from discussing neurodivergence with a psychologist, feel free to speak with our team at Breakfree Psychology Services.