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June 21, 2024

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In the intricate tapestry of human cognition, understanding how different minds perceive the world is crucial for fostering empathy and effective communication. Neurodivergent individualsβ€”those whose brain functions differ due to conditions like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD, dyslexia, and othersβ€”often experience and interact with their environments in ways that are distinct from neurotypical individuals. One of the most profound differences lies in how each group processes and values context and excuses in social and behavioral explanations.

The Role of Context in Neurodivergent Thinking

For neurodivergent individuals, context isn’t just background information; it’s a critical component of how they understand and respond to situations. Where neurotypicals might see a behavior and consider it in isolation, neurodivergents often see it in a broader context. This isn’t about making excuses; rather, it’s about seeking a deeper understanding of the factors that influence behaviors and outcomes.

Contextual factors like sensory sensitivities, communication differences, and processing speeds are not peripheral but central to their experiences. For example, a neurodivergent person might struggle with sudden changes in plans not due to inflexibility or stubbornness, as it might appear, but because such changes require rapid adjustment in their mental or emotional processing, which can be particularly challenging.

How Neurotypicals Often View Excuses

Conversely, neurotypical individuals tend to view explanations about behavior that consider external factors as excuses. This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of empathy but rather a different approach to cognition and social norms. In neurotypical cognition, there’s often an implicit expectation that individuals control their reactions and adapt quickly to social cues, regardless of external conditions.

When a neurotypical person hears a neurodivergent individual explain their behavior by referencing environmental factors or internal processes, it might be perceived as avoiding responsibility rather than a legitimate explanation. This discrepancy can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication, further isolating neurodivergent individuals.

Bridging the Gap

To bridge this cognitive and perceptual gap, it’s important for both sides to strive towards understanding and validating the other’s perspective:

  1. Education and Awareness: Increasing awareness about how neurodivergent individuals process information and react to their environment can help neurotypicals understand why context is so critical and not merely an excuse.
  2. Empathy and Open Communication: Encouraging open, empathetic communication where both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals feel safe to express their needs and perspectives can reduce misunderstandings.
  3. Adaptation and Accommodation: Implementing practical adaptations and accommodations, like clear advance communication of changes for neurodivergent individuals, can help mitigate challenges and leverage the strengths of diverse cognitive styles.
  4. Mutual Respect: Both groups should work towards respecting how the other views and interacts with the world, acknowledging that different does not mean less and that all perspectives are valid.


The way neurodivergents prioritize context and neurotypicals perceive excuses highlights a fundamental difference in cognitive processing and social interaction. Recognizing and respecting these differences is key to creating more inclusive environments that value diverse perspectives and approaches. By embracing this diversity, society can not only accommodate but also celebrate the unique contributions of both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals, leading to richer, more compassionate communities.


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