Neurodivergence and Species Equity

By now, it’s widely held in psychology that some people’s brains are simply wired differently. Perhaps it is due to these differences that neurodivergent people often struggle to conform to expectations and understand what typical human societies want from them and why. These same standards being unattainable and unhealthy for these people results in them being thought of as disordered and inferior by some, despite the unique perspectives and experiences they offer. 
The same applies for other species. They have all kinds of fascinating ways of viewing the world and expressing themselves not despite of but because of their differences from neurotypical humans. Communication between people can be difficult if either side is not willing to listen to the other at the best of times, but the expansion of understanding is well worth it. So what if Fido doesn’t understand taxes? He can still teach you a lot about how to care for him and how dogs see the world, if you pay attention to him and don’t dismiss him just because he’s a dog. I don’t understand why people go to theme parks or night clubs, and my perspective still has value. 
Obviously, don’t push people beyond their limits, or that shows that you really *don’t* understand or respect them. You can try to meet them halfway, though. Rather than regale your cat with a book of clever and risqué limericks as they fight tooth and claw to go elsewhere, perhaps you can read the poems to yourself while giving them a well-needed tummy rub or petting session. After staying inside to complete that DAMN ESSAY, you can go on a long walk with your dog and let them stop and smell the fire hydrants and the telephone poles (but *not* the Henderson’s new petunias!). Relationships of all kinds are about communicating your needs and capabilities and listening when people communicate theirs. If you stop to listen to someone and take them into consideration, the notion that they are inferior to you becomes preposterous.
My point is that by striving to understand people with different perspectives and flavors of existence, we humanize them (if “humanize” is the right word here). We stop seeing other groups of people as incomprehensible alien forces or primitive prototypes of ourselves. Instead, we start recognizing them as their own individuals, with equally valid perspectives, experiences, and wishes. Who people are doesn’t just stop at your neighborhood, country, nationality, race, religion, gender, neurotypicalness or species. *Everyone* is included in the subset of “people.
In addition, I think that zooeyness and neurodivergence are more likely to go hand in hand in a lot of people. Being misunderstood due to differences in neurobiology adds another layer to an already present affinity for animals, since they don’t abide by humanity’s often confusing and counter-intuitive social rules and they have their own authentic methods of communication. If you’re neurodivergent, this probably resonates with you (or maybe it’s just me). 
To support my claim, I conducted a small survey using the tiny sample size of however many people in the Zooey Dot Pub discord server decided to respond (this was about 61, though only 56 of those answered the first question). Before you continue, please see for more information about how to think critically about statistics. The questions were as follows:
1. Are you neurodivergent? (Yes, No, Unsure)
2. What is your relationship with humanity? (I'm 100% human, I'm a furry, I'm a therian/otherkin, I feel disconnected from humanity)
3. What are your beliefs on humanity in relation to other species of animal? (Humans are superior, Different species work differently but they all have different strengths, Human advantages should be used to help other species, We're all equal)
4. Are you attracted to humans, nonhumans, or neither? (Humans platonic, Humans non platonic, Nonhumans platonic, Nonhumans non platonic, Idk, None of the Above)
Each person was allowed to give multiple answers per question, and could also request more options if they so wished. After three days, I tallied the results. The first parentheses in each box show what percentage the box is of its row’s total, the second is its column’s total. All percentages are rounded to three significant figures. Please take note that experimental error, on my part and the participants, may have occurred at any number of points in this process.
The elephant in the room is that a majority of respondents are neurodivergent, and they also make up 61.5% of the server’s non-platonic zoos. Similarly, they were two thirds of those who said that members of different species are equal and 71.4% of those who feel disconnected from humanity. However, only 34.4% of respondents felt that disconnection, and that percentage is split roughly evenly between neurodivergent individuals and those who are unsure. My assumption that most zoos felt some pull towards other species due to a feeling that they do not fit best with their own was false.
In contrast, 85.7% of our resident therians are neurodivergent, and none of them are neurotypical. Therianthropy is identification as a species other than human, so my idea about neurodivergent people having a higher likelihood of feeling somewhat closer to other species may have some merit. 60.7% of our furries’ brains have different wiring, and while furries don’t necessarily identify as nonhuman, they do have more of an affinity for other animals than mundanes do. Furthermore, according to surveys done by Furscience, the prevalence of autistic members specifically in the furry fandom ranges between 10-15%, although one study in particular had 47% of respondents as being formally diagnosed, with an additional 26% being self-diagnosed or unsure. The reason they cited was that the furry fandom is more accepting than general society-- a claim which may prove contentious among zoos, but is overall true for non-zoos. Those who feel rejected by human society may feel more at home in a more animalistic community.
Of course, it’s no surprise that those who are comfortable outside the realm of Homo sapiens would spend time in a server intended to be a safe place for zoos and their allies. Rather, what I intend to display using these statistics is that there does appear to be some link between “animal-people” of all varieties and neurodivergence, perhaps because we tend to understand and empathize with members of other species better than most of our peers. Ultimately, we would want to have much more thorough studies done than just an informal one-time poll on Discord before we go saying that this or that is definitely true. But it is enough to get us thinking about these topics and how strongly they might be related, since, it seems like there is at least some bearing-out here. Growing up in a world which forces you to conform to its standards instead of listening to you on your terms means that you grasp the importance of doing so, that you are best equipped to observe and comprehend others who are misunderstood for the dissonance between them and society’s standards. That's how I see it, and that's what my own experiences reflect. 
This is not to say that a difference in neurobiology is necessary to appreciate and love other species in wonderful ways, nor is it to say that said differences make one any less human (whatever that may entail). All it means is that a larger portion of neurodivergent individuals are drawn towards these things, and our experiences lend us interesting perspectives on the nature of humanity. Members of other species and neurodivergent humans both have different perspectives and needs than most humans and are largely misunderstood and mistreated by society as a whole. Consequently, there is a relatively high likelihood that they find solace in each others' company and recognize one anothers' personhood. There is beauty in understanding those who are different from you, as any zoo can surely attest.
Article written by akesi Kuwa (June 2024) 
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