The Hill We Climb: The rise of neurodiversity

Summary: Amanda Gorman is the voice of the future. She’s represents a new generation of neurodivergent individuals who don’t hide from, but embrace, their differences.


Like everyone else, I sat in awe listening to American poet and activist Amanda Gorman read her poem, The Hill We Climb, at the inaugeration of the Biden adminstration last month. At 22, she is the youngest inaugural poet in American history.

These lines from her poem stayed with me:

“FOR THERE IS ALWAYS LIGHT,
IF ONLY WE’RE BRAVE ENOUGH TO SEE IT.
IF ONLY WE’RE BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE IT.”

Words to live by, especially if you’re growing up with any kind of difference from the “norm.”

Gorman was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder in kindergarten. She also has speech articulation issues that make it difficult for her to pronounce certain words and sounds. Given how inspiring her words are, I wasn’t surprised to find out that she faced her speech and auditory processing issues head on and head up.

“My challenges were always, just for me, something that was reality,” Gorman says. “But I knew I had strengths, too, especially with words and writing,” she said in an interview with Tara Drinks of Understood.

Gorman attended New Roads, a private K-12 school in Santa Monica, which encourages and promotes diversity in its students to the staff. She cites her mom as one of her strongest advocates.

She says that her difficulty with speech didn’t hold her back, it only served to make her even more passionate about expressing herself as a poet.

“I don’t look at my disability as a weakness. It’s made me the performer that I am and the storyteller that I strive to be. When you have to teach yourself how to say sounds, when you have to be highly concerned about pronunciation, it gives you a certain awareness of sonics, of the auditory experience.”

Amanda Gorman (Source: Study International)

Amongst her many accomplishments, Amanda graduated from Harvard University with honours. She is an award-winning author and has three books being published by Penguin Random House.

I’ve said before: this generation of kids idenitifed with “LDs” are way more open and positive about the challenges and opportunities they face.

Nancy Doyle, CEO of Genius Within, is an organizational psychologist specializing in neurodiversity. She wrote a compelling piece after Gorman’s performance at the White House: Neurodivergence And The Spirit Of Progress: The Hill We Climb.

“So with Gorman’s neurodivergent and disabling characteristics, which are shared by many with autism, adhd, dyspraxia, dyslexia and more, we have yet another example of disorder turning into difference turning into dynamism,” writes Doyle at Forbes.com.

Doyle asks: “Why do so many of us go on to be trailblazers, entrepreneurs and innovators in our fields?”

Her response? Growing up “disordered” or “different” — with support — can teach you five very important things:

  1. Perserverance
  2. Focus
  3. Creativity
  4. Flexibility
  5. Motivation

It’s much more likely too that you’ll get to the top of the hill if “you have enough supporters to help you through the dark days.” Going to a good school and having a strong advocate/ally is key.

Gorman embodies the spirit of progress in the neurodiverent community. Climbing that hill is not easy, but I share Doyle’s belief that you should, “Never underestimate the drive of someone who has been told they can’t do something.”

Read Nancy Doyle’s article here: Neurodivergence And The Spirit Of Progress: The Hill We Climb.

Find out more about Amanda at her website.

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