Created By: nogard8910 on October 15, 2011 Last Edited By: nogard8910 on November 22, 2011
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Neurodiversity Is Supernatural

People with atypical neurological conditions are that way because of supernatural forces.

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Whenever real world atypical neurological conditions are presented as the result of something supernatural. Strange conditions spark the imaginations of writers, leading them to imagine otherworldly forces behind them. Just as Most Writers Are Male, so are most writers neurotypical, and this trope sometimes extends to the point of Unfortunate Implications.

Can overlap with The Soulless in regard to sociopathy. See also Mad Oracle.


Examples

Literature
  • In Harry Potter, the Dementors are evil creatures connected with depression, and it's implied that they cause it in Muggles, who don't see magical things and attribute it to scientific causes.
  • In the Percy Jackson series, demigodhood causes dyslexia and ADHD.
  • In A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane, Darryl becomes autistic after going on a magical quest to become a wizard.

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel generally portray soullessness as being sociopathy to the extent that an early Angel episode implies normal human sociopaths are people born without souls.
  • In Doctor Who, there appears to be a link between Vincent Van Gogh's madness/depression, and his ability to see invisible aliens. Which one causes which is somewhat unclear, though.
  • In an episode of Eli Stone, the strange actions of an autistic child are a way God communicates with Eli.
  • In Eureka, Kevin's autism is the result of a mysterious supernatural force never quite explained.
  • Heroes presents synesthesia as a superpower. Though the power is later shown to be more of an ability to manipulate sound, its introduction has it as simply sound-to-color synesthesia.
  • The sixth season of Supernatural had Sam missing his soul, which was treated as sociopathy.
  • In The X-Files episode "Fallen Angel", it's implied that aliens are responsible for Max's epilepsy.

Tabletop Games
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: If a human child fails to become a wereraven (because their magical spirit egg was stolen before their first transformation) they tend to become autistic suddenly (despite autism spectrum disorders being congenital in real life).

Real Life
  • Some people involved with the New Age belief system believe children with autism, ADHD, and other disorders are indigo children, children with indigo auras sent to heal the world. This is a purely faith-based belief without scientific evidence to support it.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • October 15, 2011
    joeyjojo
    Neurodiversity? Can't we just call it mental illness?
  • October 15, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Because classifying something like Autism as an "illness" is technically inaccurate and misleading? For an analogy, you wouldn't call blindness an illness either, though it is considered a disability, and can be caused by disease.
  • October 15, 2011
    NetMonster
    The sixth season of Supernatural had Sam missing his soul, which was treated as sociopathy.
  • October 15, 2011
    Micah
    • In the Percy Jackson series, demigodhood causes dyslexia and ADHD.
  • October 15, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    Hmmm, unless this is firmly nailed down to people with actual diagnoses in-universe (and not just in-canon speculation, self-diagnoses, or Word OF God, but from real in-universe doctors) then this will just be a lot of accumulated shoehorning. Someone will need to curate the hell out of it, and its wicks, as well.
  • October 15, 2011
    nogard8910
    I don't know; sometimes things are just implied, especially if they have to do with supernatural forces. Why not Word Of God?
  • October 15, 2011
    ArcadesSabboth
    Agreed that autism and related disabilities are not mental illness, and people on the autism spectrum do NOT appreciate being labled as crazy or diseased.

    Anyway, example from the Classic World of Darkness tabletop RP Gs: in Werewolf: the Apocalypse, if a human child fails to become a wereraven (because their magical spirit egg was stolen before their first transformation) they tend to become autistic suddenly (despite autism spectrum disorders being congenital in real life).
  • October 16, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    In Doctor Who, there appears to be a link between Vincent Van Gogh's madness/depression, and his ability to see invisible aliens. Which one causes which is somewhat unclear, though.
  • October 16, 2011
    fulltimeD
    @Cryptic Mirror: I don't think we have to be that strict, as that would rule out a good many valid examples where an in-world diagnosis would be inappropriate to the setting. Why rule out In-Canon speculation and Word Of God?
  • October 26, 2011
    TBeholder
    @joeyjojo

    ...And here we observe the supertrope -- "what happens when someone grabs a flashy piece of some ideological scam and then stands proud". Specifically, the thing eventually goes by and kicks the helper with its smelly rear hooves. Just like this happened with Counter Strike, remember?
  • October 28, 2011
    fulltimeD
    I still think this is a good potential trope, but the description needs to be sensitive regarding the real-world classification of Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
  • October 28, 2011
    nogard8910
    I adjusted the intro. It's worth noting that I am on the spectrum.
  • October 29, 2011
    fulltimeD
    The intro's much better now. And nogard, so am I. Legit, not a self-diagnosis. I also work with children who are, so I see it, every day.
  • October 29, 2011
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    I am also on the spectrum. Another example that should be added is A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane, which has Darryl Mc Allister, who is autistic. I forget how or why Darryl is supposed to be autistic, but from the best that I can remember, he picked up the So You Want to Be a Wizard book, took the Oath, went on his Ordeal, and then became autistic. I read it years ago, so I'll need some help here from someone who has read it more recently than I have or remembers the details more clearly. But I specifically remember that Kit tried to get through to Darryl and then became autistic himself/acquired some autistic traits for a while, which has the Unfortunate Implications that if a neurotypical gets to know an autistic too well, then they'll - OH NOEZ! - become autistic like them! And also that being autistic is an inherently undesirable and horrible thing to be. And also, Darryl is able to get rid of his autism by locking it away with the Lone Power and this is treated as a happy ending. The Unfortunate Implications in that one should be obvious: it assumes that A) autism = bad and that all autistic people agree with this and B) all autistic people would get rid of it if they could.
  • October 29, 2011
    TBeholder
    @ fulltimeD sensitive? :]
  • October 29, 2011
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    OK, I just read the convo on this YKTTW and I've gotta agree with T Beholder above. What do you mean, sensitive?
  • October 30, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Just that a disorder isn't the same thing as illness, that's all I meant. Early in the discussion, it was suggested these are interchangeable. They're not.
  • October 30, 2011
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    I thought you were referring to the fact that autism is considered a mental illness/disorder and inherently malign in the eyes of mainstream society. Given that this proposed trope is based on the premise that neurological disabilities have some underlying supernatural cause or are linked to supernatural powers, I personally don't think it would be relevant to mention the status of any of the neurological disabilities in the DSM or public opinion on them. Just mention that the character(s) is/are officially neurologically disabled in one way or another and that they are linked to supernaturality.
  • October 31, 2011
    SteamGoth
    Would "The Spark" that gives Mad Scientists their skill in Girl Genius comics count?
  • November 2, 2011
    nogard8910
    I don't think just being a "mad" scientist would count unless there's a specific disorder mentioned.

    If the title is too clunky, maybe Indigo Child would work, as that's kind of a real life example (autistic children are assumed by some to be supernatural saviors of mankind).
  • November 2, 2011
    fulltimeD
    @Threefer: agreed.
  • November 10, 2011
    jate88
    I remember reding somewhere that JK Rowling based the symptomsv of lycantrophy off of depression. I don't know if mundane depression exists in the potterverse.

    Does the supernatural ailment have to be the cause of a mental problem or can the supernatural ailment simply be based off a real world mental problem?

  • November 10, 2011
    Bisected8
    @jate88: You're thinking of the effects of Dementors (Word Of God is that they're a physical form of depression; more depression means more demetors and vice versa). Lycanthropy isn't really equated with any mental illnesses (although you can see analogies between it and AIDS or other stigmatised illnesses).
  • November 10, 2011
    nogard8910
    I think the Dementors count because they're implied to be responsible for real depression, while lycanthropy wouldn't count as it's a metaphor.
  • November 12, 2011
    fulltimeD
    You might want to point out the one Real Life example there is explicitly a New Age concept without evidence to back it up.
  • November 13, 2011
    nogard8910
    ^I would have thought it was obvious, but okay.
  • November 14, 2011
    unclerupee
    Don't know if this counts, but in the book Rivers Of London, it is stated that overuse of magic leads to the brain being effected, up to the point where the go-to pathologist always checks the brains during autopsies for signs of "melting" and ergo magic use.
  • November 14, 2011
    nogard8910
    I don't think that would count as that doesn't sound like something in the real world.
  • November 17, 2011
    DeusExBiotica
    • In Night Watch, all supernatural events explicitly affect the emotions of normal people, who cannot perceive them otherwise.
  • November 17, 2011
    TBeholder
    ^^ "neurodiversity"? Yep, it doesn't.

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