Neurodiversity, Networks, and Narratives: Exploring Intimacy and Expressive Freedom in the Time of Covid‐19

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 26 October 2022

Neurodiversity, Networks, and Narratives: Exploring Intimacy and Expressive Freedom in the Time of Covid‐19


  • Kerri Betts School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds, UK
  • Louise Creechan Department of English Studies, Durham University, UK / Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, UK
  • Rosemarie Cawkwell Independent Researcher, UK
  • Isabelle Finn‐Kelcey Department of Education, University of Winchester, UK
  • C. J. Griffin Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick, UK
  • Alice Hagopian School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews, UK
  • David Hartley Department of Creative Writing, University of Manchester, UK
  • Marie Adrienne R. Manalili Division of Language and Communication Science, University College London, UK
  • Inika Murkumbi Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Sarinah O’Donoghue Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Cassandra Shanahan Department Literature and Creative Writing, Macquarie University, Australia
  • Anna Stenning School of English, University of Leeds, UK
  • Alyssa Hillary Zisk Department of Neuroscience, University of Rhode Island, USA / AssistiveWare, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  The Narratives of Neurodiversity Network (NNN) is a neurodivergent academic, creative, and educator collective that came together with allies during the Covid‐19 pandemic to create a network centred around emerging narratives about neuro-diversity and exploring new ways of learning and socialising. The network focuses on exploring the roles of written, spoken, and visual narratives across cultural locations about neuro‐atypical experiences in generating improved agency and self‐advocacy for those who have been subject to pathologization through neuro‐normativity and intersecting oppression. During the last year, widening access to digital platforms has provided a space to explore these issues outside of traditional academic spaces. We run a monthly “Salon,” our mixed‐media “reading, listening, and watching” group, in an effort to find positive representation within contemporary culture. Discussions have moved beyond mimesis and into a consideration of how narrative and storyworlds can question the supposed naturalness of certain ways of being in and perceiving the world. This article interrogates the network’s core principles of nonhierarchical co‐production, including the roles of creativity, community, identity, and emancipatory research which were animated by the new techno‐social context. We consider the cultural lives of neurodiversity in the West and beyond, including ethical and aesthetic dimensions. We share a faith in the power of storytelling to inform new social identities for neurodivergent people and to inform scientific understandings of atypical cognition. In exploring this, we speak through a porous first‐person plural narrator, to unsettle the idea that there is a hegemonic “we” speaking on behalf of all neurodivergent people.

Keywords:  autism; collaboration; narratives; neurodivergence; neurodiversity; online community; self‐advocacy; social networks

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Disability and Social Inclusion: Lessons from the Pandemic (Forthcoming)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v11i1.5737


© Kerri Betts, Louise Creechan, Rosemarie Cawkwell, Isabelle Finn‐Kelcey, C. J. Griffin, Alice Hagopian, David Hartley, Marie Adrienne R. Manalili, Inika Murkumbi, Sarinah O’Donoghue, Cassandra Shanahan, Anna Stenning, Alyssa Hillary Zisk. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.