Post-normal childhoods: Neuroqueering education and play
Neuroqueer theory is often discussed in the context of neurodivergent adults. While a helpful tool in the liberation of Neurodivergent people, constraining it to just this section of society limits its potential. Neuroqueer theory, at its root, is a theory that intends to liberate all people rather than just the select few. It does this by teaching us the malleable nature of identity, culture, and the Self.
I personally I have discussed my idea of the Chaotic Self; a Self that is ever shifting and changing. The Self emerges and re-emerges from itself as a factor of our experiences and relationships with the environment and those within it. As we acquire new ways of rationalising and contextualising those experiences, we also learn new ways to subvert our own meanings and understandings, allowing us to fundamentally queer our very existence.
So, how does this apply to childhood education and play?
Current “traditional” education and play is built upon normative standards. Those who provided the knowledge it is built on were unaware of their privilege and acted to uphold systemic oppression, regardless of whether they intended to or not. What we have had in both historical and contemporary contexts is normatively violent and creates a power imbalance between the student and the teacher.
Every aspect of our growth and development is regulated and controlled through the milestones we are supposed to achieve, the times we are expected to achieve them, and the curriculum that a given authority feels is necessary to learn.
The issue with this approach is that it expects all children to adhere to these standards. If one can not achieve under normative standards, we are deemed to be disordered and troubled. We find ourselves undergoing behavioural intervention and medicated treatments in order to achieve what is important to others rather than ourselves.
So, how do we move beyond this cult of normality? Can one be an apostate of normality and still achieve great things? I propose that the starting place is simultaneously a thing of beautiful simplicity, with the potential for profound complexity. We encourage children to experiment with language.
Language defines every aspect of our understanding of the Self. Words we acquire from others move forward to become the words we apply to ourselves. The first thing we must do is gift children language. All language. Access to language is essential to our relationship with ourselves. We then must consider how a child might be empowered to explore and experiment with that language.
Children should not be taught to use descriptive language based on someone else’s view of them. We should allow them to identify themselves in whatever way they please. This can be done as a form of play, and as such, it is a vital part of our development.
Once a child is comfortable with playing through language, we can begin to work with them to consider how they can subvert and reimagine the meaning of language. Once a child is free of objective definition and allowed access to the fluid nature of subjective meaning, they have an infinite number of ways to engage with their Self. It sounds deceptively simple, but the effect of truly unlocking language to a child could be immeasurably life changing.
It teaches us the importance of what we say to children.
This is but one way of applying neurofuturism to childhood, or perhaps more accurately, post-normalism. If we are ever to live in a neurocosmopolitan world, we must explore the ways in which we raise children, and consider them helpfulness of standardising and regulating their development.
In the meantime, let children play with their language and identity. You might be impressed by the way they explore themselves, and it might even teach you a thing or two as well.
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