The Incredible Kaleidoscopic Mind, Adventures in Neurodiversity


On the Spectrum

Michael Shaun Conaway
Publishing Editor
July 4th, 2023

We are in the midst of a self discovery revolution driven by the confluence of precision definitions for neurodiversity, gender, sexual preference, race, genetic ancestry and epigenetic triggers with the keen awareness that seems to be ubiquitous for Gen Z. They have been bravely adopting new ways to self identify and bringing us all along for the ride — although there are more than a few who are going kicking and screaming.

Here at PROOF we believe in the dictum, “Know Thyself” that is carved above the entrance to the Apollo temple in Delphi. Know thyself as an absolute, as in: What I am made of? What am I like in different situations? And what can I be in the future? In this day and age that includes our bodies, our brains and our mental and emotional states. Even if that is confusing to you dear reader, it is a good thing that we know. From knowing comes growth and eventually evolution.

In terms of neurodivergence this dawning has been growing over the past 40 years. We have learned about the numerous types of dyslexia; phonological, visual, rapid automatic naming, double deficit, auditory processing disorder, and my brand — dysgraphia. Yes I am dyslexic, I can’t spell and can’t tell if words are missing in phrases.

When I was young we were “hyperactive” if we couldn’t pay attention (there is so much wrong with that phrase). Then in high school we moved up to ADD. And then eventually today’s ADHD. The spectrum of ADHD includes, inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and combined — and ways that our brain process that have nothing to do with attention or hyperactivity, time blindness, hyperfocus, special interests and fixations. It turns out that although I remain undiagnosed that I am not inattentive, and am no longer hyperactive-impulsive. Looking back, it would have been so much easier on me, my teachers and my parents, especially in parent teacher conferences if everyone had had these distinctions.

Over the past 10 years we have seen a parallel deepening of the understanding of autism. The old Rain-Man stereotype of autism is a crude and unfair depiction of the uniqueness of each autistic brain. There are few models that help us understand the spectrum from Autism Spectrum Disorder. These models track between 5 and 12 areas. A simple one includes a measure of: executive function, sensory processing, repetitive behaviours, motor skills, perseverative thinking, social awareness, verbal & nonverbal communication and information processing.

The image doesn’t come with a guide to the experience of a divergent measure in any one of these areas. What is very important to know is that divergence in any one area means that normal everyday interactions are vastly more taxing on the ASD individual. Looking over these myself, I can clearly see areas where I am likely on the spectrum. In the coming months I am going to have a diagnostic evaluation done on ADHD and ASD to discover and learn more about how my brain functions. When I know more I’ll let you know.

At 57, you might wonder what good it would do to have this kind of diagnosis. Afterall I am a generative futurist, a highly successful entrepreneur, award winning film director and editor, a philosopher and a spiritual teacher — doesn’t that mean that even if I have these things it doesn’t matter. Ironically it may actually be that I have these things that I am successful the exact way that I am. Under the curtain of this success you will find that I didn’t do any of it conventionally. Without knowing exactly what we were doing, my wife and I built a life that works with neurodivergence. I always joked that it was a good thing I was an entrepreneur because I was basically unhirable by a corporation.

Ultimately I am doing the diagnosis so I can better know myself. And so my children can understand their genetic inheritance from my strange brain.

One thing is true about my life. I am fulfilled and happy with my life. I love the crazy directions it has turned and I am excited by my future. While this is affected by my neurodivergence, it is not the whole story. Our brains and our identity are not fixed. My ADHD symptoms started fading once I started meditation and martial arts. My social discomfort and awkwardness shifted when I started to see every social interaction as an opportunity to practice my purpose.

My purpose is to illuminate this human life, giving insights into our true nature, teaching people to freely give their gifts to bring about a thriving future for humanity.

My hyperfixation is now targeted at easing suffering and restoring joy to the center of people’s lives. I’ve put all of these divergent qualities, ones that have caused me pain in the past, to good use for good causes and that has made all of the difference. Yes I suffer just like everyone. I am confused from time to time, but the illumination of my own life and journey puts something wonderful in the center of any discomfort I may be asked to endure.

Getting really practical now, I want you to know how important it is to know yourself. To explore all of your parts and patterns. To understand the instrument that your brain and body are. To see your physical gifts and your limitations.

Then and only then can you truly begin to stretch your wings and learn to fly the self you inherited. You can optimize your life for your strengths and find work-arounds for things that don’t work so well. You can build a life for yourself that works. I know that it may seem hard at times but the edges do wear off and like the stone in the river you soften, round and polish.

Then once you have built a comfortable life you can consciously disrupt it and dare to create a new life for yourself. If you have great fortune, perseverance and heart you can begin to live life as a work of art, a dance in flow, a river rather than a stone. Your identity then softens and wears away like an old sweater, threadbare yet still loved. This I hope for you and I know you have it in you.

We are all different, gradations across many spectrums — no two alike.

We all suffer and have long dark nights of the soul.

There is also love, joy and being moved for no apparent reason.

When you walk through life, please know that for all your uniqueness, for all of your typical traits and your divergent traits, for all of your scars and your laurels, we are all human, worthy of love, compassion and all deserve a chance to have fulfillment and happiness in this life. This is a vision of what we can see when we come to know ourselves and come to know one another. Won’t you please imagine that with me.

And later today when you are feeling that you are not enough, wrap your own wings around yourself and say, “You belong. You are loved. You are love.” Or you see someone struggling, even if you don’t understand, why or what their experience in life is, please wrap your wings around them and say,

“You belong. You are loved. You are love.”

This one is dedicated to all my weird friends.

In the meantime, we’ll be looking for PROOF of a thriving future for humanity.

The Generative Futurist
Editor PROOF

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Proof 54 – The Incredible Kaleidoscopic Mind, Adventures in Neurodiversity

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PROOF is a digital magazine published by NOW and the Generative Futures Initiative.  The mission of the magazine is to shine a light on people, organisations and ideas that stand as Proof of a Thriving Future.