Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Neurotypical is a term coined by members of an early, private list composed of mostly autistic adults and a few parents of autism spectrum children. Autistics.org popularized it years later with the ISNT website. As people from the original list joined other lists the term was used by more autistic spectrum individuals, those who study them, and parents. NT refers to people whose neurological development and state conforms to what most people would perceive as normal. The use of the word typical in place of normal hints at an underlying problem faced by neurology: does common (or most common) define normal, apart from a statistical normal distribution?
The term is used with varying degrees of seriousness. This ranges from a straightforward factual way to refer to non-autistic spectrum people to a more playfully tongue-in-cheek use in contexts which often strongly imply that the "merely typical" are to be pitied for wasting so much of their brain capacity keeping track of uninteresting and irrelevant information such as the thoughts and feelings of other people. Some might see this term as the early stages of a new branch of identity politics.
Neurotypical is frequently abbreviated NT.
Broadness of the term
Although there are people with slightly different cognitive processes (such as those who are dyslexic or ADHD) who are not necessarily in the autistic spectrum, but also not technically "neurologically typical", the term is often used by autistic people to include anyone who is not on the autistic spectrum.
Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical
As a parody in response to the commonly held belief that autism is a disease to be treated and cured (which is considered bigotry by many autistic people) many autistic people speak about neurotypicality as if it were a disease. For example, the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical (ISNT for short) is a parody website of a fake institute devoted to finding a cure for neurotypicality. This website contains papers about NT social skills, NT theory of mind, and DSN descriptions of neurotypical disorder. The ISNT website and its guestbook signers describe neurotypicals as having symptoms such as a persistent need to form irrational and destructive group hierarchies, an inability to accept solitary activities, persistent lying, an inability to use technology and understand computer logic, and a belief that their neurological structure is the correct one.
Most autistic people who speak of neurotypicals in this way do not seriously see neurotypicality as a disease. They do this to vent frustration with the belief that autism is a disorder, to be given a comic relief to what they consider an ugly situation and to make a statement about how they believe autism is perceived. There are some neurotypicals (including some NT parents of autistic children) agree with autistics who say autism is not a disorder and support parodies like ISNT.
Some people have found ISNT offensive. One guestbook signer writes "This site is offensive to normals." Many people have mixed feelings about this. Some see neurodiversity as requiring tolerance towards all neurological structures, including the neurotypical structure. There are some people (such as some of the ISNT guestbook signers) who have the opinion that insulting neurotypicals is wrong, but at the same time have the opinion that ISNT is legitimate humor.
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