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Neurodivergent representation is important in books; here’s why

Isabella Santoro

Anchor Contributor

Graphic by Kaicie Boeglin

Whether you are on the Autism spectrum, have ADHD like me, or any other type of condition that falls under being neurodivergent, it is always hard to find novels where your condition is represented in a realistic, positive and healthy way. I hardly find novels with neurodivergent characters when I walk into a Barnes and Noble and as someone who is neurodivergent, this always disheartens me. We need to strive to remedy this for several reasons. It’s so important to create this diversity in novels, especially in young adult novels. Kids are not reading as much as they used to, but those who do need to feel included or to have a basic understanding of what being neurodivergent looks like is defined as.

There are so many misconceptions about being autistic, having ADHD, Asperger's, dyslexia, etc. These conditions are often not viewed in a positive light which feels unfair to those with these conditions or to the impressionable youth. It is true that young kids are some of the most impressionable and what they see and read will affect them later in life. The media always depicts these conditions as “harsh,” “hard to deal with,” or some say “I am so sorry” about the diagnosis. This makes a child see these diagnoses in a more negative light because of the world around them saying that they are bad to have, but in truth they aren’t. We need to change these attitudes and literature is a tremendous place to start. If they can read more novels with these characters, they just might be more accepting.

When you read about a character’s experience living with one of these conditions, it is easier to understand them. While fiction is just that, one can learn a lot from reading about experiences. Another crucial factor of inclusion in literature is that it makes people with these conditions feel more accepted. When walking into any bookstore and seeing a character that has ADHD, I know I am instantly full of happiness and joy that I am being represented in a positive way. This would help folks with these conditions branch out and feel more at home with themselves. One should never feel like their neurodivergence is anything but beautiful.

What feels even more important is representing these conditions in the right ways and in ways that do not offend neurodivergent individuals or make readers see them in a negative light. It is particularly important to note that some characters with autism, dyslexia and ADHD are depicted as depressed or unwilling to accept their diagnosis. Not all of us are like this. We do not all hate ourselves because we have a condition; we all do not always only think of this one thing. If in books a character loves themselves and their condition, that would be a step in the right direction for more diverse literature in this subcategory. It would be better to hear “I love myself and my condition” instead of “I love myself despite my condition.” Think about it.


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