Graph of a spiky profile with peaks and valleys

Spiky Profile

There is consensus regarding some neurodevelopmental conditions being classed as neurominorities, with a ‘spiky profile’ of executive functions difficulties juxtaposed against neurocognitive strengths as a defining characteristic.

Neurominorities, Spiky Profiles, and the Biopsychosocial Model at Work

One of the primary things I wish people knew about autism is that autistic people tend to have ‘spiky skills profiles:’ we are good at some things, bad at other things, and the difference between the two tends to be much greater than it is for most other people.

Autistic Skill Sets: A Spiky Profile of Peaks and Troughs » NeuroClastic

Splinter Skills and Spiky Profiles

This is what life is like when you have a spiky profile: a phenomenon whereby the disparity between strengths and weaknesses is more pronounced than for the average person. It’s characteristic among neuro-minorities: those who have neurodevelopmental conditions including autism and ADHD. When plotted on a graph, strengths and weaknesses play out in a pattern of high peaks and low troughs, resulting in a spiky appearance. Neurotypical people tend to have a flatter profile because the disparity is less pronounced.

Autism And The Spiky Profile. When you excel at some things and… | Autistic Discovery

Because we are bad at some things, people often expect us to be bad at other things; for example, they see someone failing to conform with social expectations, and assume that person has impaired intelligence. But because we are good at some things, people are often impatient when we’re not as skilled or need support in other areas.

Sometimes people talk about these islands of ability as ‘splinter skills’ — often autistic people are really very good at things we’re good at. Mostly the skills are the result of putting a lot of work in because we’re interested in it, not that we always have much control over where our interest takes us.

Autistic Skill Sets: A Spiky Profile of Peaks and Troughs » NeuroClastic
Spiky Profiles

…the psychological definition refers to the diversity within an individual’s cognitive ability, wherein there are large, statistically-significant disparities between peaks and troughs of the profile (known as a ‘spiky profile’, see Fig. 1). A ‘neurotypical’ is thus someone whose cognitive scores fall within one or two standard deviations of each other, forming a relatively ‘flat’ profile, be those scores average, above or below. Neurotypical is numerically distinct from those whose abilities and skills cross two or more standard deviations within the normal distribution.

Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults | British Medical Bulletin | Oxford Academic
Graph of a spiky cognitive profile with peaks and valleys
Figure 1 is adapted from the British Psychological Society report on Psychology at Work,10 page 44, and depicts scores from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale,11which provides clear guidance on the level of difference between strengths and weaknesses that is typical or of clinical significance.

Spiky Profiles Exist for a Reason

In that same interview, when he was asked about what would happen to society if autism was eliminated, he said, “That goes to the larger issue that we wrestle with all the time around [artificial intelligence]. Part of what makes us human are [sic] the kinks. They’re the mutations, the outliers, the flaws that create art or the new invention, right? We have to assume that if a system is perfect, then it’s static. And part of what makes us who we are, and part of what makes us alive, is that we’re dynamic and we’re surprised.”

We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation (p. 22)
Hard toy of Squigger, a Randimal that combines a Tiger and a Squirrel

ADHD or what I prefer to call Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS) is another good example. (Nick Walker coined this alternative term.) The name ADHD implies that Kinetics like me have a deficit of attention, which could be the case as seen from a certain perspective. On the other hand, a better, more invariantly consistent perspective is that Kinetics distribute their attention differently. New research seems to point out that KCS was present at least as far back as the days in which humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. In a sense, being a Kinetic in the days that humans were nomads would have been a great advantage. As hunters they would have noticed any changes in their surroundings more easily, and they would have been more active and ready for the hunt. In modern society it is seen as a disorder, but this again is more of a value judgment than a scientific fact.

Bias: From Normalization to Neurodiversity – Neurodivergencia Latina

If neurodivergence is essentially disablement, why do we keep replicating the gene pool?

Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults | British Medical Bulletin | Oxford Academic

Human cognitive diversity exists for a reason; our differences are the genius – and the conscience – of our species.

A Thousand Rivers — Carol Black

Further reading,