The word “weird” makes me cringe

Weird … it implies a deviation from the norm, quirky, different – all of which can be good attributes to possess, but so often in the delivery of the word “weird” is a vibe that emits the suggestion that someone is worse or bad. A subtle or not so subtle way to let someone else know that you or your child is different to what they know and they do not like it or they are concerned.

I see clients who have been subjected to this label or I hear people call themselves weird. Often in a tone or during a recall where they have a poor sense of self or a poor self-esteem has developed because they are affected that this is how people see them. It places these self-perceived “weirdos” in a position where they admire and may even envy “normal.” Just for reference in most contexts this word makes me cringe also. Yes there are certainly cases where development is atypical, social or emotional interactions are inhibited or different and that these areas need support BUT and this is a big but … it DOES NOT make them weird. People may be anxious … yes; are they weird? NO. People may have sensory characteristics, which are to the extreme … yes; are they weird? NO. There are a whole host of reasons for behaviours, a whole host that may or may not require support.

I feel that the generic use or popular application of this word generally comes from poor understanding of what is “normal.” As a society all of our perceptions of what is “normal” is so tainted and heavily impacted by looking through the lens of society that what is “normal” cannot be definitively classified in all situations. “Normal” to me may not be “normal” to you and vice versa. Who are we to say our “normal” is better than the next person’s “normal”? And if we cannot determine whose “normal” is fact or reality how can we ever call anyone weird? We can’t! We can certainly determine typical and atypical development as well as other areas but having atypical development places you within the norm for a cluster of others who have atypical development.

So often the use of the word “weird” is a cheap shot at masking what people mean to say and that is “I do not understand you/your child’s behaviour.” Maybe my reaction to the word weird is unfair and that my issue is more so with what it implies. Instead of using this word wouldn’t it be better to speak your thoughts clearly or choose more educated language? Don’t get me wrong, if “weird” could mean wonderfully different, a limited edition or an outlier that means the world spins in a brilliant new direction then let us all shout “weirdo” loudly and proudly to those who walk by.

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